I find myself amazed and appalled that such strong antipathy exists in this day and age between non-believes and believers--and between diverse groups of believers--that murder and injustice are perpetrated daily on innocent men, women and children.
Whether Christian, Jew, Pagan, Muslim, Hindu, or any other believer or non-believer, we must know that hatred and intolerance are not God's way, no matter how we may conceive the fact of creation: whether as an Old Testament God or Wrath and Mercy or the Big Bang.
The Truth must encompass it all, not just one aspect which taken as the only truth leads inexorably to suffering. The atheist is right; the faithful are right.
How can that be? The believer can not imagine how the world and all that is in it could possibly come to be without a Divine Being as the cause. Atheists, with their absolute faith in science, are just as sure that the universe was not created by some old guy with a long white beard up in the clouds handing down salvation and punishment. The misunderstanding, I believe, lies in the proprietary nature of creation as seen from different perspectives. We must look for consensus if we are to live together in peace and harmony.
A good attempt at an understanding that both sides might accept has been made by some believes who advance the concept of a Divine Plan or Intelligent Design. In this scenario the universe is thought to have evolved naturally in accordance with what science has discovered since biblical times. Proponents point out that from an ancient perspective it is easy to understand that a god could be imagined to rule from a mountain top or above the clouds--or a devil inside the earth. The whole world at the time ranged from the mountains to the north, the desert to the east, the jungle to the south, the sea to the west and only as high as the clouds or as deep as a well.
However, as accepting of natural laws as intelligent design seems to be, science does concur. The reason is the same one my mother gives when someone says that God didn't create the universe it was created by the Big Bang: Well then who created the big bang? Science cannot accept any system where a divine being is held up as the cause of creation. Creation, to science, just happened.
Fundamentalists find intelligent design just as unacceptable for obvious reasons.
The real truth is we don't know how or why the universe came into being, or even if there was such an event as the big bang much less who or what was behind it. Science is the first to admit that all knowledge is fleeting with new theories replacing the old. The perspective from our vantage point thousands of years later is still far too limited, not much bigger in comparison to what is actually exists than what Abraham believed he heard from G_d back in pre-biblical Ur: that which started us on the road to Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Then did Abraham and others like him throughout history and before actually hear God's words or where they just imagining them? Perhaps a little of both, certainly his comprehension and the words he passed down to us and all the words added since can only be a metaphor for the Truth. Surely, our awareness at this point in our evolution is still too limited still to grasp the magnitude of the Ultimate Truth.
Science too needs to admit its ignorance. True, fossils were not place in the earth by the devil to fool the gullible into believing the world is much older than 6,000 years, or whatever number that misguided cleric worked out by counting the ages of people mentioned in the King James Version. But that does not mean that life on earth came into being by a fortuitous accident involving inorganic chemicals in a primordial soup. And while we almost certainly did evolve from simpler life forms that Evolution is only the mechanism, not the reason we evolve.
If there were no driving force behind evolution we would still be bacteria. Nor does Darwinist survival of the fittest come anywhere close to explaining why we would even want to survive so badly to pass on our genes, why should we care as humans or amebas? The purpose of our survival instinct: the spark of life, the will to not only exist but to transcend. That remains unexplained. No, science needs to look a bit further, a bit deeper.
Religion, however, can be even further off the mark. Taking the words of men-even granting divine inspiration-as literal truth is almost criminal. And if that seems blasphemous, take a look around; take a look at history.
Surely, there is no true and compete belief system to date. If there were, truly the Word of God, we would flock to it, all questions would be answered. We would understand completely. There would be no doubt, no debate. Nor is God testing our faith in the way many believe. He doesn't have to. We are his children, if only metaphorically, and he knows exactly what we are about even if we do not.
To find the truth-limited as it is--look to the Bible and the teachings of Christ, Mohamed, Buddha, and Moses (to name but a few of our past spiritual teachers) for their underlying universal truths.
First, that we are here and somehow created in the image of God--or in non-secular terms, a product of the unfolding of the Universe in accordance with physical laws. We don't know why. Anyone who says they do is lying or deluded.
Second, there is no evil being battling with God for the souls of men; no devil, living in hell or some such place. That's just a tale to frighten us into submission before the will of corrupt men now and throughout history.
That's not to say that there is not struggle between good and evil-metaphorically speaking, at least.
It is the struggle between the law of the jungle and the law of justice--that which protects all of us from savagery--and the very forces fundamentalist religion tends to unleash that define our polarities. (In scientific terms it might be thought of simply as the balance between entropy and organization, that which seeks to construct and that which seeks to deconstruct.)
Third, the true words of God at the core of all religions are and have always been: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There is no room for hatred or intolerance in the Word of God. Fail to heed these words and delve into a hell of our own making right here on earth. Hear these words and walk the path of righteousness in the light of the Supreme Creator of the Universe, whatever the specific features of your personal belief. We do not know where we are going. We do not know why. We just know how to get there. That's all that matters.