My Working Definition of God

A discussion started with a friend of mine recently in relation to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on the idea of creationism vs evolution. I’ve held my own thoughts for a long time on what we might call God but until this discussion I hadn’t tried to articulate it all fully. In chatting with him I think I’ve managed to say what mental manipulations it takes for me to embrace the concept, the idea of a God or of holiness. Some will say that my thoughts are anti religious and you’re welcome to that opinion. For me it’s just a theory and it’s one I’m still working on but I’m ready to talk to more people about it.

Emotion matters. Emotion is real, as real as anything we can have in life. It’s a completely direct part of the experience of being human. Our emotions exist for reasons that have to do with our well being. Fire burns and feels bad because it damages our body and food tastes good because it supports us. Our emotions can be complex and even counterproductive but generally they come as a form of guidance built into us for self protection.

It is easily possible for people to create god within our mind to make up for what we can’t otherwise deal with. Death, origin, disrespect, oppression and so many other bad experiences overload us emotionally and dealing with those issues we’ve exchanged many stories and ideas over time. It’s quite possible that such inventions are so old that we’ve adapted to them as part of our way of living and our connection to the divine is a connection to the other people we identify with allowing our mind to reward us with positive emotion. Communal belief feels good because we survive as a communal animal and loneliness hurts because we can’t survive as lone beings.

I cannot disprove god and I don’t really want to but for my sanity after these theories occurred in my mind I have to redefine god as the community of human experience and collective well being. So for me God is another word for collective concern and identity in a community. God is, without us having to process it, a way to care for everyone and put the group first over ourselves. But that, to me, doesn’t make God exist as a thing. It doesn’t necessitate that god is real on it’s own outside of the existence of human thought. The old old question of “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?” is similar to what I have to call into question here.

The most important part of my theory of God is the fact that it doesn’t matter if you think as I do about it. If you accept God at an emotional level then you are still participating in the same social dialog that I am identifying but in a more direct way. Because I have thought this way I can’t undo it. I am forced to go through the extra steps to think about how god is a construct of our collective existence as thinking beings, but the result is the same.

People need community. People are community. In that way I want to go further into my theory of God and holiness to know what we as people need; what satisfies our want of collective worship and how to ensure that that fundamental want is not used to take us in destructive directions.

3 thoughts on “My Working Definition of God

  1. Jordan

    While I don’t disagree that emotions are connected to the betterment of our well-being, they are not the entirety of it. I could go really deep into this one point, but just take for example someone who enjoys killing, raping, or otherwise harming another person. His emotion is real, to him. It, however, is not connected to “the betterment of the community”.

    The problem people have with the belief in a higher power (name ANY (G)god) is that they ultimately would have to submit their independence and self sufficiency to something else, something that more or less owns them, and something they don’t understand fully. We search endlessly to understand the universe around us… COMPLETELY. And to tell someone “Hey man, there’s just some things that are beyond humanity and comprehension”… well, that doesn’t bode well with the human psyche.

    In that same vein, everyone is their own person and they “own themselves”, so to speak; they wouldn’t naturally want it any other way. However, it doesn’t matter if you are an atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, I-dunnoist… everyone has a (G)god(s) and puts their faith into something outside of themselves (or at least wants to), whether they realize it or not. It could be (G)god(s), it could also be family, a job, the betterment of society or some other altruistic ideal. We hear it every day, “This life is all that there is”, “we’re here and then we’re gone”, “there’s nothing more than this”…. we are the entirety of our existence. It is an outright lie to say, at the very least, you don’t live your life in search of something bigger.

  2. Jonathan McCarver Post author

    The something bigger that you’re insisting I find is just what I described above, the connection people have to one another.
    On emotions, the potentially flawed nature of the individual is not in conflict with what I’ve said about emotion. The extremely rare case of being homicidal is an emotional experience but the fact that that person gets wrong what is best to do doesn’t change the way communities of people interact nor the general sense of good in the world that religious emotions bring joy to us for.

    As for understanding all of everything I think you are getting to exactly the point of what I believe. It’s very scary to know that you can’t know everything, but we simply cant. We are tiny in the universe and can’t possibly begin to perceive all of it. You ascribe that people reject the idea of a god as a controller for fear of being controlled or not being in control however I have a different idea basically in reverse of that.
    The fear of not knowing is scary and the fear of a puppetmaster that knows all is pulling the strings is also scary, but the scariest of all is that NO ONE knows everything and No one is in control. So to deal with that fear if we identify a being infinite in power and infinite in knowledge then we can feel more secure. Thinking that a perfect being knows all and knowing that being puts you into the position of thinking that everything is known and under control.

    I put out my idea of god as the community of human thought because it works for me when belief in a real super being does not. The story of how and why people create their gods plays out to clearly in my head to believe that life is on rails and guided by divine will but knowing that the idea of god boils down to the collective will of people caring about each other allows me to coexist with all the faiths I am exposed to and study them better than before I had that tool.

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