Only tomorrow's God can deliver us from today's evil

Religion has caused a lot of misery in the world, says Neale Donald Walsch. We need a modern Martin Luther to free us from the tyrannical bonds of our churches. It is time for a new spirituality to emerge on earth.

Neale Donald Walsch| December 2003 issue

For millennia we have looked to religion to lead us from temptation and deliver us from evil. Is it possible that it’s done exactly the opposite?

The list of humanity’s problems is as long today as it has ever been. Perhaps it is longer. There has always been hunger and pestilence, disease and poverty, selfishness and dishonesty, oppression and repression, anger and violence, killing and war. And now we can add to the list the very real threat of our species’ self-destruction. What is causing all of this? Why do we continue on our seemingly inexorable journey into the abyss? I observe that the cause is humanity’s belief systems.

Our belief systems have produced violence and killing, social injustice and raging poverty, and a growing disparity between those who have and those who have not.

Our belief systems have produced ruthless competition, horrible health conditions, starving children, ravaged women, and oppressed races. They have led to more misery than joy, more anger than peace, and more fear than love for more humans than we would like to admit or acknowledge.

I suggest that if we do not alter some of our most fundamental and sacred beliefs, we may find we have irretrievably altered our most fundamental and sacred experiences instead.

We may very well be bringing an end to life as we know it on this planet.

Those who think that I imagine too dark a tomorrow need only look at the darkness of today.

In more than 100 countries over the past 15 years income has dropped. Over 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty, existing on less than a dollar a day. In 1960 the income of the richest 20% of the world’s population was thirty times greater than the income of the poorest 20%. Today it is more than 82 times greater.

In Russia, one-third of the population now lives in dire poverty. One-third of the population. In China, 60 to 100 million people are on the edge of starvation, living on less than 60 cents a day. The poverty is so extreme in Indonesia that doctors at two clinics say the number of patients they see has fallen by half because people can no longer afford to pay the consultation fee – the equivalent of five cents in US currency. Some 78% of Indian homes do not have access to electricity. Worldwide, nearly three billion people (half the people on the planet) use wood, charcoal, straw, or cow dung as their primary source of energy.

The life expectancy in Mozambique is 36.45 years. That’s 36 and a half years. In Swaziland it leaps to 38.62.

Currently more than 35 million people are refugees or internally displaced persons. These men, women, and children have had to flee their homes to save their lives.

Half of the people on earth still rely on agriculture for their main income, and one third of those are subsistence farmers, surviving by eating what they grow. About a billion people depend directly on fishing for a large proportion of their animal protein.

Over 1.2 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.

We have not talked yet about illness and disease (we think we have advanced medically, but an old disease, tuberculosis, has infected 1.75 billion people globally, and kills three million people a year, and we still don’t know what to do about AIDS), and the birth explosion will most certainly produce, within the lifetime of today’s children, a human population at least 25%, and perhaps 100%, larger than it is now.

It does not appear as if the future of those children, if we continue on our present course, is very bright. And any future at all for their children cannot be guaranteed.

These bits and pieces of research come from the writings of Thomas Homer-Dixon, Duane Elgin, and contributors to The Journal of the Conference for Global Transformation, among others. It was Elgin who wrote, in 2000, that ‘by the 2020s billions of people will be living in urban slums without clean water, sanitation, telephones, transportation, health care or a place to grow food – yet most will have access to television that shows them in vivid detail the high-consumption lifestyles that will never be theirs.’ ‘This,’ Elgin says, ‘is a recipe for resentment and revolution.’

Elgin asserts that for these billions, even a small rise in the price of food can be a serious threat to survival. To have a majority of humanity struggle all day to make a meagre living and then view on television a flood of advertisements from the affluent world is, Elgin warned, creating ‘a schizophrenic planet that is divided against itself.’ Then, many months before 9/11, Elgin added these sadly prescient words: ‘Fuelled by hopelessness and desperation, the potential for terrorism will be enormous.’ Will my words in this article be sadly prescient as well? I hope not. I am writing to say to you: We can’t go on like this.

We have now in our possession the tools of our annihilation. We can now end, or desperately alter, the entire Human Experience with one bad decision. We cannot afford any more global temper tantrums. Nor can we entertain the thoughts that sponsor them. We can no longer embrace our ideas of separation and superiority, nor indulge our taste for revenge.

It may not be easy to drop these beliefs, for they are our most sacred and have been given to us by our highest authority: humanity’s wisdom traditions. In other words, religions. Not all religions, to be sure, but, unfortunately, the most powerful and the most pervasive among them. These religions have taught us – and have insisted on continuing to teach us – of an entire system of separation and superiority, at the top of which sits God, and at the bottom of which rest those who do not accept God in the form of which God approves.

These religions have told us, too, of an entire system of revenge that deals with those who do not respect God’s will in these matters. Virtually all of humanity’s exclusivist organised religions speak repeatedly of an angry, jealous, and punitive God who uses, and condones the use of, violence and killing as a means of conflict resolution.

Harsh words? Read the Torah. Or the Bhagavad-Gita. Or the Book of Mormon. Or virtually any of the sacred scriptures of humanity’s largest faiths. The Bible alone lists over one million people said to have been destroyed at the hand or command of God.

But really, can we fairly lay our entire bill of complaint at the doorstep of exclusivist-organised religion? Is religion really responsible for all the raging poverty, all the constant oppression, all the wars and killing?

To me the answer is obvious, and it is yes. Yet not all of us may agree, or, even if we do, many of us are loath to admit or announce it. And if we can’t announce agreement on the cause of humanity’s dysfunction, we will founder in seeking to heal it. Indeed, that is why we continue to treat these problems as if they were political or economic or even military problems. They are not. The problem facing the world today is a spiritual problem.

It must be clear to even the casual observer of human nature that beliefs create behaviours. If what we believe is untrue, incomplete, or inaccurate, we will behave in ways that work against the very goals for which we say we are collectively striving.

The difficulty in our world for many centuries has been (and continues to be) that humanity seeks to alter its experience at the level of behaviour. It cannot be done this way. Not in the long term. A band-aid may be put on our collective reality by prohibiting or temporarily halting certain behaviours through war or political power or economic pressure, but those behaviours will inevitably re-emerge in human societies so long as the beliefs that sponsor them remain in place. Nowhere is this more painfully in evidence than in the Middle East – and particularly in the never-ending struggle between Israel and the people of Palestine. There and elsewhere we have proven over and over again that neither bombs nor votes nor coins ultimately cause or change behaviours. Beliefs do. The way bombs and votes and coins are used is a result of beliefs.

If we can say that ‘what we believe’ is just another set of words meaning ‘our spirituality’, then we see that the problem with the world today is a spiritual problem. Humanity’s present difficulty is found at the roots of the contemporary spiritual experience itself, and in how humans have been introduced to it, told of it, led to it, and conditioned to understand it by the spiritual leaders of our time and of the past.

The profile of God, which has been shaped and moulded by many religious institutions over the centuries, has had a profound influence on us. Yet what if this profile is inaccurate, the poorer version of a people of poorer vision?

Our religious understanding at the present time often veers off into gross misunderstanding. War and other deplorable behaviours are, in too many circumstances, deemed to be acceptable conduct. That is why I assert that unless and until we enlarge humanity’s most basic understanding about God, about life itself, and about living with each other, we will never see an end to the kinds of tragedies we are now seeing in Iraq. And it is today’s organised religions which must assist humanity in enlarging these understandings, for it is exclusivist organised religions from which we have received our limited understandings – and which continue to give them moral authority.

What am I asking of religions today? Am I asking that they disband and fold? No, of course not. There is too much good in them, and too much would be lost, for anyone who really knows about religions to seriously desire this.

Am I asking that they reject all of their own teachings? Never, for the same reason.

I am asking that organised religions simply take another look at what they are teaching to see if some of it – just some of it – may be producing, not peace, but its exact opposite.

Yet I alone cannot ask that. We must all ask it. For few listen to a voice in the wilderness, least of all entrenched institutions.

And so, we must all become very brave. Our political leaders must have the courage to call the problem in the world today what it is: a spiritual problem. Our economists must have the courage to discuss the world’s distribution of wealth and resources, its production capabilities and possibilities, in spiritual terms. Even our militaries must, if they are to be truly victorious in any real sense, have the courage to approach armed conflict as what it is: the result of spiritual misunderstanding. (This is exactly what it is in Iraq, to be sure. Conflicts have raged there for a long time, not just before and during the 2003 War, because of mistaken and false beliefs – not the least of which are the beliefs I mentioned earlier: separation, superiority, revenge.)

Declaring our problems spiritual problems may not be very easy for some. It is easier to say our politicians are wrong. We, and they, are used to it. It is easier to say our economists are wrong. We, and they, are used to it. It is easier to say the military is wrong. We, and they, are used to it. But call our religions to task? Declare that they are, at the very least, a major part of the problem, and not nearly enough a part of the solution? That’s another matter altogether.

Yet the brave among us must do it. We must invite the religious community to join together in creating the space for a New Spirituality to emerge on the earth. A spirituality based on the deep wisdoms in our present Holy Books, but not limited to those sources alone. A spirituality opening itself to the possibility that there is something we do not know about God and about Life, the knowing of which could change everything. A spirituality that allows for the possibility that new revelations, equally as valid as the old, may yet be given to humanity through humanity – even as all spiritual revelations have been brought forth.

In creating the space for this New Spirituality, today’s religions can allow huge new truths to emerge, supporting ways of behaving on our planet that nurture the sacredness of humanity, and of all life. Human beings are moving in this direction whether their religions are or not. The question is, can humanity move fast enough to save itself without the help of religions? Can our exclusivist-organised religions expand, enlarge, and refresh our spiritual understanding with us – or must we do it in spite of them? Can humanity’s religions become inclusive of other faith traditions and nationalities? Can they arise from their deep sleep and focus on connection and unity with God and all of life, rather than separation and superiority?

Will religions do any of this unless requested to by their own members? No. History has shown that unless we do now what Martin Luther did in 1517 when he nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, there will be no adjustment of religion by religion. Modern-day Martin Luthers must do it. We must call for a Second Reformation. We must create a freedom movement, a civil rights movement, for the soul, loosing humanity at last from the bonds of an oppressive God.

Conditions on the earth are creating desperation for too many, and desperation creates terrorist teams ready to give up their lives to end the misery of their brothers and sisters. The soul now cries out for an end to terrorism, and to the terror that causes terrorism. The soul calls out: ‘Who will be on humanity’s team?’

I believe that God is. But not Yesterday’s God. That is the God of fear and rage and intolerance and violence, of exclusivity and rigidity and anger, a God who condones killing. The God who is on humanity’s team is Tomorrow’s God. Will you join the team with Her? Will you help Him help us win the human race? It is a race against time, and one that we cannot afford to lose.

Neale Donald Walsch is the founder of Humanity’s Team ( and the author of 15 books, including five New York Times bestsellers. His latest is ‘The New Revelations: A Conversation with God’ (Atria Books).

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