Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bruce recently did a post about God. He is another in a long list of people that are redefining God from the character of our various holy books and folk superstitions to something even atheists believe in. Bruce steers the God question in the direction of goodness.

Clarity is one of my highest values so naturally Bruce's God game won't do for me. But let us not single out Bruce. There are many bloggers that play this game as well.

XGH has tried dealing with God by making that word a reference to Meaning, Morality, and Spirituality.

B. Spinoza
redefines God as Reality.

And other skeptical bloggers struggle with God. Some, like Orthoprax, have "given in" and now are quite willing to answer in the affirmative when asked the question, "Do you believe in God?"

What struck me as intriguing is what appears to be the uncontrollable human need to make something of the idea, belief, or even just the word "God." What is it that is so compelling, that makes the belief in God practically mandatory for normalcy? Why do people go through such great lengths to avoid the taboo that is an atheist? Even I will only hesitantly declare that I am an atheist. I'd much rather say something dishonest like "I believe in Einstein's God," even though I feel that using God in such a way is like calling the atmospheric discharge of electricity, Zeus.

But there are two values that come in to conflict for me, concerning God.

1) Clarity and Honesty
2) Social Cohesion and steering clear of confrontation

Fact of the matter is, many Americans think atheists are immoral scum. Everyone believes in God except people like Stalin and Mao, right? But it certainly won't do any good to continue to sweep the God question under the rug for all eternity, will it? Perhaps it is a good idea to simply allow the God notion to evolve as it has and continues, from the vindictive sky daddy to the unknowable abstract concept promoted by the your average monotheistic theologian. Now panentheism and other abstract and objectively meaningless understandings of God are being copied and spread amongst believers. Surely there is no need for ME to ruffle feathers. But what about clarity and honesty, my other beloved values? Don't they obligate me to ask for a definition? But is that even practical? Everytime I talk about God, must I clarify that and say... oh I don't know... the God that writes books and answers prayers. Even these things are being redefined in abstract and meaningless ways. God didn't actually write the bible per se. God was the inspiration that caused it's authors to strive for meaning, morality and spirituality through it's text. And God doesn't answer prayers or wreak supernatural miracles. Rather we gain insight into ourselves by the glory of nature and speaking out our minds to... well that doesn't really matter. It's the working things out by speaking that is what prayer is all about.

Now of course, some people believe that God is most accurately described in their particular terms, whatever they may be. They honestly don't see themselves as playing word games. I, of course, would rather do without the headache. I don't feel any attachment to God as a being, belief or word. I'd rather just talk about goodness, reality, meaning, morality, spirituality, and inspiration or whatever the next thing for which we use God to be a synonym.