It is like a finger pointing toward the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. ~Bruce Lee, Enter the Dragon
[This wooden statue of Quan Âm Nghìn Mắt Nghìn Tay (Quan Am with 1000 eyes and 1000 hands) was fashioned in 1656 in Bac Ninh Province, northern Vietnam. It is now located in the History Museum in Hanoi.]
I have heard, and even used, the description of religion being the hand that points to something greater (i.e. God). When I gave this some thought it started to make sense to me. The religions that acknowledge a creator God each have beliefs, traditions, and rituals that helps guide them towards God. Some say their way is straighter, while others say theirs is the only way. If one does view religion as a hand pointing toward the Divine they are essentially saying that God is found in one direction only, but by saying He is best found one way negates all the others. God is found to the left, not the right; he is found up and not down. This is when the attribute of Omnipresence invaded my thoughts.
[Excerpt from Wikipedia]
I believe this is one of the major differences between Western and Eastern religions. Although, in the West, God has the ability to be everywhere but He is only found in certain pockets, hymns, and prayers. God is not found amongst the unbelievers, the sinners nor in the secular and progressive world. God is only found in one direction, the direction that YOU believe in. But, He is not found in this direction just because you believe in it, he is found in this direction because your religion's scripture, traditions, and rituals instruct you into only looking into one direction. Any other direction will fail in leading you towards the Divine, but by limiting oneself, locking your eyes into place, you limit the growth of your spiritual journey. I'm not saying that you must believe in every belief known to Man, but I do not believe that God can be contained to a single interpretation (description). I am not trying to persuade anyone that their beliefs are false but you can enrich your spiritual life when you come to understand what your brother believes.
"Omnipresence is the property of being present everywhere. According to eastern theism, God is present everywhere.
In western theism "Omnipresence" is explained in a bit unclear way with just the ability to be present in every place at any, and/or every, time..."
I've said before that this suffocation/entrapment of God is why I left Christianity, and now I take that statement back. I have not left Christianity but I've chosen to expand my spirituality beyond Christianity to grow and flourish among other religious and non-religious beliefs and practices. It will always be a part of me but I don't think I'll ever hold myself to exclusively one religious tradition. I expose myself to other beliefs so that I may experience and embrace the Spirit. Some may say I'm just "covering the bases" and praying to every god to firmly establish myself a place in Paradise/Afterlife/Heaven/Moksha. I am just opening my eyes so that I may "see in all directions at the same time" (Death Cab for Cutie reference. If you don't get it, don't worry.).
So, at least for me, the hand (representing religion) must point in all directions simultaneously because God can be found in all directions that follows in the spirit of love. Now, am I "limiting" God because I say that God can be found in all directions that promote love towards your fellow man? Some would say yes but I am describing a Creator God, and even that description is pointless! In fact all descriptions, theories (theology), titles, and names are ALL MAN MADE. When we open our mouths and even say the word "God", the word is just a title, a description based on a human language pronounced and spoken with human tongues. A chair is called a chair because WE NAMED IT a chair. It's function, name, and everything associated with the word "chair" have all been assigned by humans.
Religion is the vehicle, the language we use when we speak of the Divine. Religion does not need to be defended because it is just a series of symbols. What those symbols represent to those that use them is what should be sacred and NOT the symbol itself. Let us take care to understand what our brother's symbols represent and what it means to them. I'm not speaking about being politically correct but to try and learn from one another. Even if we argue as to which symbols best represents the Divine we can at least acknowledge the eternal truths that those symbols represent. Love, Compassion, and Justice.
Psalm 139:7-10 (New International Version)
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.