If you care at all about the question of the relationship between God and humanity, you’ve probably spent some time as an atheist. You’ve probably rejected a number of descriptions of God that are incompatible with your ideas of what God should be. You probably care about morality, right and wrong, and heaven and hell. You’ve probably cast judgment against God for something you dislike in your life, or the life of others. All this is true especially if you claim a strong belief or knowledge of God for yourself. If you hold a belief about what God is, you must also believe something about what God isn’t. This is Atheism.
Actually that is wrong. Absolute atheism doesn’t care about the question of God. An absolute atheist would respond to any description of God with confusion. It would have to respond to any statement of God as “I don’t understand, what is this thing, God?”
The fiery anti-theism that goes for popular modern atheism, popularized by the likes of Richard Dawkins is only arguments against a pre-defined God. Dawkins and his kin have a well-defined target that they argue against. In many cases it is the God of one of the many flavors of Christianity, or perhaps a rejection of the God of the Gaps theory of how the world works. Many such arguments against the Christian God put up science as a superior method of finding truth than religion, but the method of truth searching is independent of the question of God.
Consider for a moment those times with you have struggled with the concept of God. What are the issues that may arise?
Does god allow evil in the world?
Does god prefer some people over others?
Does god allow poverty?
Does god allow inequality?
Does god cause earthquakes and other natural disasters?
Does god punish bad people and reward good people?
Does god command people to go to war against another people?
Does god prefer one political ideology over another?
Does god have a list of sins he finds to be an abomination?
Does god require anything from humans as worship?
Does god communicate with humans?
Does god reside in any particular physical location?
Does god have an origin?
Does god die?
Does god grow or learn?
Does god have a family?
Does god look like a human?
Does god have power to do anything it wants?
Does god have any limitations?
Does god control the growing of crops and other food production?
Does god care about sporting events, and your favorite team?
Does god give gifts to some humans and not to others?
Does god curse people?
Does god bless people?
Does god get angry?
Does god get happy?
Does god… ?
There are many similar questions about god. If you have thought at all about the god you believe in, or don’t believe in, you most likely have an answer for many of these questions. Chances are, your answers will vary widely from your neighbor, fellow churchgoer and perhaps even your children, parents or partner. The answers to these questions define little more than what you do or do not believe in regards to the god question.
My own atheism asks the question of WHY God? Why is God so important to mankind? Not in a specific way, but in the general way of why gods tend to be at the center of humankind’s explanation of the world. The Romans and Greeks had their ideas of god and gods. We should consider the Hindu gods, and the whole pantheon of gods of crops and other natural phenomena from the rain to the sun. Sun gods, moon gods, gods of the wind earth and fire are all present in human history. All powerful gods range from simple explanations of a Great Spirit or higher power running through all of humanity to the Hebrew monotheism of the Bible. Throughout history gods have become human and humans have been raised up to become gods. God may be the collective of humankind, or god may be all encompassing of everything we experience. Definitions of god are as varied as humankind itself.
Gods may be manifested in many forms, often humanlike, sometimes like other animals, sometimes multifaceted. Gods may be comprised of individual attributes or a compilation of all attributes. Sometimes a culture’s god represents the perfection of all things, and other gods represent various aspects of human nature or of natural phenomena. Regardless, nearly every culture throughout history has some sort of higher being, power, or natural god that describes something of the world, and humankind’s relationship in this world.
It seems the common thread is that the definition of God is as much descriptive as explanatory. It is difficult to speak of god in generalities because god doesn’t really mean anything until specific attributes are assigned, unless the word god is used as a description of all things simultaneously.
In the end, does it really matter what you believe in God? How does a theism, atheism, or even anti-theism that affect how you approach life?
A good exercise is to describe what god isn’t. This is the rejection of the God you don’t believe in.
Here are a few of mine.
I reject a god that cares what color a person’s skin is.
I reject a god that blesses one nation over another.
I reject a god that blesses people with riches for being good.
I reject a god that causes earthquakes, hurricanes or floods.
I reject a god that hates science.
I reject a god that has a favored political party.
I reject a god that has a favored football team.
I reject a god that has a favored political ideology.
I reject a god that has a favored people.
I reject a god that condones racism.
I reject a god that supports one single religion.
I reject a god that condones torture of another human being.
I reject a god that wants humans to be at war with one another.
I reject a god that condemns people for eternity.
I reject a god that controls everything.
I reject a god that micromanages humankind
I reject a god that creates homosexuals and then condemns them.
I reject a god that condoned slavery
I reject a god that narrowly defines gender roles
As long as humans are on the earth, the question of God, gods and the nature of godhood will never be settled. It will always be argued. This goes to the power of the question. Today’s gods may one day be rejected and relegated to the trash heap of gods now discussed as mythical and make-believe.