Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On God


By request: SteveMDFP on God

It's occurred to me that when people speak of "God" they mean one or more of at least three different aspects of divinity. The ancient Hebrews had at least three different words for God, to convey this concept.

There's "God the creator." In Genesis, it's "Elohim." We live in a universe; it got here somehow. Yes, certainly forces of some sort, vast and complex beyond human comprehension, are responsible. Whether this is a being who resembles humans in thought or functioning seems doubtful to me. Who could possibly pretend to know anything about the nature of such forces, of such a being? It seems clear to me that nobody could possibly have a clear and meaningful knowledge of such a thing. On this aspect of "God," call me an agnostic.

There's "God the source of miracles." I don't believe in this God. People point to fortunate coincidences or wonderful-but-mysterious phenomena and say it must be from God. But with the unfortunate coincidences or awful-but-mysterious phenomena, they don't give God credit.

It seems to me that if a God created the universe with its laws of nature, rules of probability, he wouldn't go willy-nilly around and suspend those laws here and there to perform miracles. If he set it up right from the beginning, he wouldn't have to. I've never witnessed anything I'd consider a true miracle, and what people say about miracles seems to me to convey more about that person than anything about the universe. Perhaps irreverently, I call this "The God of the Lucky Rabbit's Foot." It's a personification of the magical. It's anthropomorphizing coincidence. For this God, call me an atheist.

Finally, there's the God of spiritual inspiration. In the Bible, this is referred to as "the Holy Spirit." I believe human conceptions of right and wrong, good and evil, virtuous and vain derive from some kind of inspiration or guidance, not just social norms. Else, how can we explain spiritual individuals inspire populations to be better than they have been? The precise nature of this guidance-from-within-that-doesn't-seem-like-self isn't clear to me. I do know, however, that to live a worthwhile life, I have to stay attuned to this guidance. Indeed, the whole conception of some things being "worthwhile" comes from here. For this God, this giver-of-values, call me a firm believer.

Namaste and

best wishes,


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