Here's a right-on illustration by L.K. Hanson. I saw this on a Facebook post yesterday. The person who shared it said that Hanson's work appears in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
When people talk about being a special instrument of the divine will, I'm reminded of Garrison Keillor's description of his fictional Minnesota small town, Lake Wobegon, “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
In the world of fundamentalist religion, all the believers are especially attuned to God's will. Which can't be, given how different religions typically are from each other. But their delusion works for religious believers, since it allows everybody to be above average when it comes to knowing what God wants.
Even crazier, of course, are the smaller number of fundamentalists who go a step further up the above average scale by claiming they actually communicate with God. Or, at the height of grandiosity, purport to actually be one with God in some respects. (Sometimes, in every respect.)
In a blog post called "My strange RSSB initiation story" I related how in my last year of college a bunch of us got involved with a crazed Greek yoga teacher we called Yogiraj who tried to meld East and West by establishing his Christananda Ashram.
After we confronted him about how he'd used his initiation into Radha Soami Satsang Beas by Charan Singh to create his own personal Sant Mat philosophy with him as the guru, he told us that Jesus actually was his best divine friend.
One day, after the store closed, we got up the guts to confront Yogiraj. What a scene it turned out to be. I still remember it well.
We were standing near the back of the store, us six in a semi-circle facing Yogiraj. We told him about our doubts -- that what he was teaching at the ashram had been copied from RSSB and wasn't the real deal.
Yogiraj's reaction was fiercely intense.
Those Greek eyes blazed with anger. "Charan Singh isn't my guru!" he yelled. "Christ is my guru! He talks to me! He tells me what to do!"
That was enough. With those words it all became clear. We knew that Yogiraj went on his own retreats down in his basement, doing god knows what. What it was, we now realized, was him getting face time with Christ.
More accurately, what he imagined to be Christ. (Christians, of course, would disagree with my skepticism.)
Looking back, while we were correct to view Yogiraj as delusional to believe that he was chatting with Jesus Christ, it's strange that we were so unquestioning of the RSSB teaching that the guru was God in Human Form.
Maybe the difference was that Yogiraj flatly stated that Jesus, the supposed Son of God, was telling him what to do, while the RSSB gurus generally have been more reticent to say that they communicate with God -- though they're fine with the RSSB books that say the guru is God's emissary to the world.
Anyway, the Bertrand Russell quote is as apt today as when Russell said it. More so, in fact. These days both Democratic and Republican presidents are fond of ending speeches with "And may God bless these United States of America."
If God exists (a gigantic "if"), wouldn't God bless every country equally? I no longer believe in God, but if I did, I sure wouldn't consider that God is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, or any other religion. It seems clear that religions are made by humans, and God is also, almost certainly.