Saturday, February 21, 2009

A God Concept I Can Work With

A recent visitor to my blog who goes by the user name Budha left a comment that was actually more of an invitation to view his site and engage in what he hoped would be a substantive discussion about "God concepts." Being curious, I checked out his site and his three latest posts having to do with this enticing subject.

There were a number of comments from thoughtful contributors suggesting various definitions of "God." Some were rather ethereal and defended the popular concept of God as the omnipotent and omniscient presence so many of us were brought up to believe was true. Others were clearly skeptical and mindfully critical of traditional God concepts.

(As a rule, I resist the urge to take part in "commentary wars" on blog sites, but the tone of most of the discourse on this site was very civil. Though many no doubt held strongly to their views, the discussion avoided deteriorating into mindless flaming, which is a prerequisite for my participation.)

But did I have anything of value to contribute? What, in fact, was my understanding of the concept of God? After some initial trepidation, I decided to accept the challenge of quantifying this idea in my mind and leaving a brief comment.

What were the essential components of my understanding of "god?" My nearly life-long process of attempting to construct a concept that both reflected my true feelings on the matter and offered a meaningful convention for others led me to submit (and properly credit) something that was actually not my own original idea. The most meaningful explanation I have come across for so many people's insistence upon God's reality comes from none other than Sigmund Freud.

Freud essentially posited the following: "...owing to feelings of helplessness and guilt, the need for security and forgiveness arises, so man creates for himself an entity that can provide precisely these things." In other words, "religion is seen as childish delusion and atheism as grown up realism." (Sigmund Freud: Religion as Wish Fulfillment) God, therefore, is rightly understood to be a construct of the imagination, and its creation is artfully explained as a 'necessity' arising out of psychological considerations.

I closed my comment to Budha's God Concepts, Part 3 with the following: "So where do I turn in times of need? To my fellow man. If I've developed a 'faith' in anything, it is in our ability as human beings to provide the love, solace and comfort we so often need from one another."

Thank you, Sigmund Freud, for a God concept I can work with.


  1. My own thoughts about god are somewhat ambivalent. On the one hand, I dislike the idea of a god who gives out free will then punishes its use, which is what seems to be happening in the Christian worldview. On the other hand, I'm not sure I like a universe without any guiding principle at all, because what's it all for then, and is it all worthwhile? Are we, as a character in the Science Fiction show, Babylon-5 says, "the universe trying to make sense of itself"? For me, the jury's still out, but definitely deliberating.

  2. Argent: You seem to imply that a world without a god is a world without guiding principles. My contention is that humanity itself offers the kind of principles more than sufficient to guide us properly - even ideally - in a moral sense.

    As far as, "What's it all for?" The betterment of the human condition would be my answer. I live my life the way I do precisely because I want the human condition to improve, and working toward that end gives me plenty of reason for being - and plenty to do.

  3. I think I've confused you when talking about a guiding principle – I meant to talk about some kind of living entity rather than a principle-to-live-by sort of principle (really shouldn't post late at night in a rush :-) ).

    Ill-formed expressions aside, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea that this material universe is all there is to it (as marvellous as it undoubtedly is). Perhaps I'm just an infant crying in the night, wanting some kind of super-parent. I spent many years practising a fairly fundamentalist form of Christianity, so maybe it's just a hang-over from that. I can never go back there, but it has left its mark very deeply.

    As to humanity providing sufficient principles to guide us properly, I can certainly agree with that – we don't need something handed down from "on high", and I can't think of a worthier purpose in life than to try to better others and do try as best I can to do this.

  4. God, well.... Who knows; surely not we, yet we pretend to 'know' because for some, that brings hope that there better be something else besides this damned place.

    Think of all of the mass murders over the ages; what's up with that, god? What of all of the misery, starvation, disease that billions of people incur daily?

    God made us in 'his' image, the book says. Oh, really?

    Thanks for the opportunity to define this elusive figure that masquerades as something omnipotent. Apparently the god of this earth fizzled.

  5. Some time ago I almost unconsciously began to notice, for instance, birds that fly close to my car while in the everyday act of getting from one place to another...Of my own volition, I chose to view these encounters as a friendly reminder to me to...slow down - look around - be careful - heads up...not an alarm - just a little tweak of my senses that had a physical, tangible, measurable effect, ( albeit probably imperceptible to most...). Now, of course, the bird's agenda at that precise moment cannot have anything remotely to do with me or my plan for the day...But how much more real does something have to be if one chooses for it to have cause and effect? The construct of "God" or what have you, need never to reach or live or exist beyond my culturally-constructed imagination - it is as real to me as I make it, and I am grateful to be comfortable and secure in that knowledge - for myself. I have "resigned from the debating society" with nothing left to prove...Respectfully

  6. Anonymous: Outstanding comments! There is no debate to be had with your particular approach. In fact yours is the brand of faith most deserving of respect - the kind that acknowledges no foundation in universally verifiable and objective truths. That's precisely why it is called "faith." And I respect people who possess the kind of faith that demands the most from its believers.

    My debate is with those who claim that their religious belief system is a reality that meets or exceeds the demands of critcal and rational analysis. By definition, religious faith does not meet these criteria - as you seem to recognize.

    I offered a post pretty much on this point, if you care to check it out: There's a Reson It's Called Faith.

    Encounters between you and me need't occur in a "debating society." I believe ours is more appropriately called the "mutual respect society."

  7. Amen. And thank you for your important discussion.