A friend, aware of my recently published book on God, gave me his copy of Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations with God, Book 2. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he hoped this would expand my knowledge of the “subject matter,” or give me some clues about how to write a New York Times best-seller. In any event, the experience was eye-opening about what large numbers of people are now reading about God.
Starting with Book 2 is not really a problem, since God/Walsch summarizes points from Book 1 at various places. The author claims that these books were written during some difficult times he experienced during the 1990s; he started to write down questions or comments for God, and thoughts would pop into his head.
Walsch has a Catholic background, and brings up things he remembers from catechism classes – original sin, heaven, hell, purgatory, mortal and venial sin, confession, holy days of obligation, etc. God (occasionally referred to as a “she”) listens patiently to this litany, and then reminds him that this is religion. The only important thing, however, is spirituality; and religion is at odds with spirituality: “Religion cannot stand Spirituality. It cannot abide it. For Spirituality may bring you to a different conclusion than a particular religion – and this no known religion can tolerate.”
The “different conclusions” include: There is no such thing as original sin; no devil; no good and evil; no right or wrong; no “Ten Commandments.” Everything is interconnected, and the task of the spiritual person is to overcome any sense of separation and reactivate consciousness of his/her unity with all. (God is a panentheistic God; we all exist as members of His/Her marvelous body, although we may have a nagging sense of separation.)
A major catalyst for development in this “spirituality” is sex. Pages are devoted to the pleasures of masturbation, gay sex, and “kinky sex”; and God recommends the Hindu/Buddhist Tantric methods for achieving spiritual energy through sex. God suggests that Walsch say “I love sex” ten times a day, to overcome any lingering sexual guilt.
Walsch, however, still has doubts about a statement God made in Book 1, about Hitler being in heaven. So God explains for several pages why this is so: First, he says, evil doesn’t exist. Hitler, like all of us, was affected by the prevailing group consciousness (including a lot of German Christians), and merely brought anti-Semitism to a head. But the deaths he brought about were not “evil.”
Why? Death is the most enjoyable experience we can imagine. The men, women, and children put to death in the gas chambers, like all of us at death, were in ecstasy. When I read this, I imagined Hitler’s victims getting together with him in the afterlife. (One strange and unexplained fact is that while Hitler went straight to heaven, Neal Walsch, according to God’s report in Book 1, is presently in his 648th reincarnation. But perhaps this will be clarified in Book 3.)
The latter sections of the book are largely devoted to an extensive discussion of environmental issues, our economic and political evolution to a one-world consciousness, the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, education for global consciousness after the pattern of Waldorf schools (a German theosophical institution), ideas about how universal love can overcome wars and violence, and how the discrepancy between the “haves” and the “have nots” can be overcome through redistribution and limits on excessive wealth. The eventual goal is the complete elimination of money. God admits that some of the advice he is giving reflects positions of the Democratic Party, but assures us that he is divinely bipartisan, and even has kind words for the one-world vision of George W. Bush.
Towards the end, God tells Walsch to “forget about religion,” and ends with a heated tirade against religion for making people lose faith in themselves, for causing fear of God and agnosticism, for giving rise to the notion that we are somehow “less” than God, for teaching that we need intermediaries to approach God, and for instigating shame about natural bodily functions like sex, which should not just be indulged, but celebrated.
Though it wouldn’t be good for sales, this book might be more accurately be titled, My Idea of God. It’s hard to imagine how millions of people in America buy such works thinking they’re illuminating. But it is useful in clarifying just what sort of God new-age and new-consciousness liberals have in mind. And it shows why persons who mention anything that smacks of religious “rules” are now regarded by the “enlightened” as pitiable at best, dangerous at worst.
Real Christians think that the Son of God might be our best source for a truly “objective” idea of such matters. When Phillip asked Jesus (John 14:8) to “show us the Father,” he was admonished by the Lord Himself, because to see Jesus is to see the Father. And Jesus throughout the Gospels describes attributes of the Father – His providence, personal care for each person, willingness to forgive, as well as meting out justice and judgment. In particular, Chapter 6 of Matthew’s Gospel describes in detail the various qualities of God the Father.
While Walsch occasionally cites passages about giving to the poor, about not judging, etc., he skips over the numerous passages in which Jesus refers to hell, or discusses sexuality – e.g., stating that lustful looks are the same as adultery (Mt. 5:28). But Walsch’s invention of an all-inclusive and permissive “liberal” God serves to dispel lingering fears of hell, and to relegate rules about sexuality and other potential sins to some archaic, pre-enlightenment realm.
It’s a self-contradictory, confused, and unsubstantial presentation of what it hopes is spirituality and may also, though quite strange, be exactly what many of our fellows mean now when they talk of their “spiritual” lives.