The Question of God
This article explores some ideas about God, their implications, & my opinion on the subject. I also put some scientific & linguistic focus on the gender of God to highlight the lack of discipline applied to the construction of belief systems. However, it is a matter of reality that ultimately; God like life, is what you make of Her.
Do I believe in God? Well, as Professor Robert Carter is so fond of saying about global warming, "that depends!" While there are fairly universal assertions about the attributes of God, such as God being omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, Creator of the universe, and perfect in every way; this is where the similarities end. Having said this, the enormously popular image of the nasty old man with the long white or grey beard who throws lightning at those who displease him originates with the Assyrian storm god, and is repeated either literally or implicitly in descriptions of such deities as Zeus, Thor and even Yahweh. However, anthropomorphism of the idea of God ultimately violates all of the universal assertions of God. Infinite power originating from a source of finite instance in space would necessarily vaporise the entire universe. An entity in the form of a person cannot possibly be in all places at all times. Human entities are necessarily finite in knowledge and lack the ability to see beyond line of sight in addition to proneness to the emotional frailties that give human beings the ability to make uninformed decisions when information is lacking.
What is God?
Much as I'd like to dictate to you my favourite early Twentieth Century Baha'i idea that God is the power of attraction as it exists at every level of existence, it is probably more accurate to admit that God is the face we all apply to what is most important to us in life. Far from being right or wrong, our preferred beliefs about the nature of God say something about who we are. As it is natural for us to gravitate towards those who share our priorities and who at least in theory are willing work with us towards common goals, so do we gravitate towards those with a similar idea of God (IE: because the idea of God in itself defines to some degree our priorities). Perhaps this partly explains, the almost universal human need to win converts to a particular doctrine about God.
The idea that beliefs about the nature of God are essentially socionic has fascinating implications for Atheism. What can we say in this respect, of those who claim that there is no God? To be sure, Atheism is quite vocally expressed; enough to suggest the need to win converts as above and maybe even for the same reasons. However, what is the priority when the core belief is that God does not exist? In the texts of the Theravada canon of Buddhism, Indra occupies the station of Supreme Being. However, many Buddhists of the Theravada canon profess the belief that there is no God. Their agenda is clearly that of personal enlightenment, however, Tolle (2004) argues that this sense of enlightenment is simply a total acceptance of reality. This may sound simplistic, but Eckhart Tolle wrote an entire book on the subject, which he suggests may be the point of many religious teachings including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Tolle's path to enlightenment is to step outside our thoughts, feelings and sensations to observe all three not from the perspective of the mind, heart, or body; but from the perspective of the owner of the heart, mind, and body. Rather than "I think", "I feel" or I sense"; a key aspect of Tolle's meditation is the more externalised observation, "my mind thinks, my heart feels, and my body senses" that denies we are meagrely the sum of our thoughts, or the sum of our feelings or the sum of our sensations by acknowledging that we simply exist independently of all of these functions. Atheism and the older forms such as those that exist within Theravada Buddhism, show that people who seek enlightenment in any form are not fond of the assumptions that can obstruct the attainment of enlightenment. Given the subjectivity of the concept of God (perhaps to the priorities of the believer) and the need for the lack of subjective interpretation in the experience of enlightenment, it seems to me that the Atheist and Theravada insistence on "no God" reflects the importance of objectivity to the Atheist and Theravada Buddhist alike. In other words, using a subjective concept such as God to give a face to objectivity as a priority could be far too paradoxical or contradictory to be meaningful. Nonetheless, the pursuit of objectivity without the defilement of subjective labels is a core perspective common to such works as Dawkins (2006) & Hitchens (2007).
To expand on the the early 20th century idea that God is the power of attraction as it occurs at all levels of existence, this idea expressed by Abbas (1912) is itself an extension of a much older idea that happens to be the stated purpose (Kitab-i-Ahd, Ninth Ishraq) of the Baha'i Faith that the point of religion is love and unity. This idea is expressed in a number of ways including the Empathic Principle or Golden Rule, by much older religions including Judaism (Talmud Shabbat 31a), Zoroastrianism (Dadestan-i Denig ['Religious Decisions'] 94:5), and Christianity (Matthew 7:12, Romans 13:8). The evolution of the crux of religion into the definition of God occurs in both Christianity (1John 4:8,16) and the Baha'i Faith (Abdu'l-Baha: Foundations of World Unity; p. 73, 102. Paris Talks; p. 180, 181. Promulgation of Universal Peace; p. 159, 290, 315).
However, the expectation that God is omnipresent raises questions about any definition of God as love. For example, can love exist on the moon where there are no sentient beings? It stands to reason that in response to such a question, one who believes that God is love would broaden this perspective to fill the great void of human beings in uninhabited places such as space with the presence of a suitable analogue. Hence the evolution of the idea that God is the "power of attraction" as it occurs at all levels.
My Idea of Divinity
Going beyond the early Twentieth Century mindset of the Baha'i Faith, I find myself correlating the universal assertions of God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, creativity, and perfection) with the set of forces and processes in physics, geology, chemistry, life, and love. There are components of this set in every part of the universe, the sum of power expenditure resulting from this set is infinite in an infinite universe, and the complexity of interaction of components of this set is both sufficient to encompass all knowledge and sufficiently complex to allow interactions that are implicitly conscious (Eg. The three body problem, Brownian motion). This may be starting to sound like the Jedi Faith of George Lucas' "Star Wars", but the similarities end here. For one, I tend to consider intellectual-emotional feedback to constitute the path to the "Dark Side" and not emotions such as anger and fear whose controlled expression is necessary if they are not to become potentially dangerous repressed elements of personality.
The Divine Gender Bender
I savour the delicious irony in the fact that of those who claim that God has no peer, none are so vocal as those who insist that God must be referred to in the masculine gender or otherwise considered male! It is a matter of biological definition that only a female is capable of creating life. Therefore, to refer to the Creator in the masculine gender implicitly attributes a peer to God because a male simply cannot create life without the partnership of a female.
While some may wish to argue that giving birth is not creation, it is far closer to the creative outpouring of artistic expression than deliberate manufacture and the act of "Creation" was described by Hermes Thusly:
But Mind the Father of all, He who is Life and Light [light can also imply first mind] gave birth to Man, a Being like to Himself. (Libellvs I:12 in; Scott, 1924)
And all things have been and arose from one, by ye meditation of one, so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation. (Emerald Tablet in; Dobbs, 1988)
After all, the attribute of art is creativity - also the attribute of creation. In a linguistic sense, to give birth is to create in every sense that becoming "pregnant with a dream" or idea whose ultimate outcome as a "labour of love" is also creation. Note the substitution of the word, "Birth" for the word "Creation". As you can see, linguistically "giving birth" or "birth" and "creation" are interchangeable and can mean the same thing in languages as complex and advances as English.
So the implications of a male God, so colourfully portrayed in Libellvs I:12, are either that God is an evolved by-product of the universe or a Co-Creator of the universe. In the former, "God" is bested by the forces that drive the process of the universe's evolution and in the latter, His role is inferior to that of the necessary female Peer who does all the hard work of translating the idea of a universe into reality!
Not to take away from the idea of a genderless God, I think that in the interests of correct linguistic application of gender and internally consistent symbolism, a monotheistic deity must necessarily be referred to in the feminine gender to avoid becoming an oxymoron because only a female may create or give birth to life without the assistance of a partner (Eg. bacteria, protozoa, etc.).
Much as I'd like to pontificate my favourite idea of God as the system of attraction expressed as love amongst human beings and whose voice is the empathy that defines human conscience, it is more a matter of reality that God, like life, is what you make of Her.
Abbas, `Abdu'l-Baha, 1886, "A Travellor's Narrative: written to illustrate the episode of the Bab", E. G. Browne [Translation published 1891], Baha'i Publishing Trust, ISBN: 90-6022-316-0, p. 40.
Abbas, `Abdu'l-Baha, 1912, "TALKS ABDU'L-BAHA DELIVERED AT GREEN ACRE: 16 August 1912", Promulgation of Universal Peace (compilation), Baha'i Publishing Trust, pp. 253)
Dawkins, R., 2006, "The God Delusion", ISBN: 0593055489
Dobbs, B. J. T., 1988, "Newton’s Commentary on the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistas: Its Scientific and Theological Significance", E. Merkel, & A. G. Debus (Eds.), Hermeticism and the Renaissance, Associated University Presses, London.
Hitchens, C., 2007, "God is Not Great: how religion poisons everything", ISBN: 978-1-74175-222-9
Kitab-i-Ahd, "The Book of the Covenant", Tablets of Baha'u'llah, Baha'i Publishing Trust, p. 220.
Scott, W. 1924, "Hermetica", Oxford University Press.
Tolle, E., 2004, "The Power of Now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment", ISBN: 978-0-733619-120