08 July, 2011

The God Concept

"God is a concept." - John Lennon

I think my God concept is changing. And I think that's an important sign.

I still don't believe in God objectively, but I maintain that God is a powerful construct of human conception. I sometimes mention God as if he were real, or as if I believed in him, but what I'm talking about is the psychological concept of God - which is tied to a person's search for meaning and purpose in life; and that's important regardless of whether or not there is a bearded man hiding in the clouds. I still think people are misguided for externalizing that concept, projecting it onto some all-powerful cosmic being who demands blind allegiance, but as far as I am concerned, listening to your heart and talking to God are one and the same thing.

For a long time I've had an adversarial relationship with God, believing (superficially, since I don't actually believe in God) that he causes me suffering for the sake of his own sadistic pleasure. Now, if God existed in the form that many religious nuts claim, and if he had the power often attributed to him, then he would have to be a sadistic bastard on account of the suffering he causes, and his lack of concern for, at the very least, sticking his face in and reassuring us all, personally, that things will work out. The God that is commonly meant when that term is invoked can be nothing but, and all this hogwash about omnipotence and benevolence is nothing but horseshit. And that's what I mean when I say that God is a sadist, and that he's working against me to make my life miserable.

But the God concept that I truly believe in isn't a God at all. It's a part of myself. It's my heart. It isn't omnipotent, and it doesn't have the power to influence anyone but myself. I've spent a long time thinking of myself as a helpless victim of cosmic forces outside my control, which is really just an extension of me feeling powerless to help myself. I used to think that God had cursed me with anxiety as a sort of leash, to rein me in, and prevent me from accomplishing anything meaningful in life (because he was against me, and therefore against my goals and principles). Now I have a new hypothesis. That God gave me anxiety as a sort of test, knowing that if I could find the strength to overcome it, then and only then would I have the strength to accomplish the truly great things in life that I am destined to accomplish.

This change in perspective represents a change from looking for God without, to looking for God within. And that is to say - not God at all, but my heart. Listening to my heart. Asking it what it wants. And learning what makes it happy. I was bitter because God had never spoken to me personally, and the reason for that is because God's not out there to do any speaking. But my heart was talking to me, and when I followed it, I discovered there was something in this world, a force powerful enough to give me a driving purpose, and a presence warm enough to soothe my pain. And it turns out that much of the world is against me. Which is why I need great strength to pursue my goals. Because it's not going to be an easy ride. Not that the ride has been smooth so far. But there might finally be something out there worth struggling for. I feel like David standing up to Goliath, and the most likely outcome for me is disaster. But I've still got to fight, and I've got to believe that somehow I can win.

And I hate to sound like one of those religious nuts, because I'm not, and it would make me a hypocrite considering everything I've said about religious nuts in the past. But the critical thing is that, I believe, God is a personal force. As I said, it's your heart. Which means it will appear in different forms to different people. Unfortunately, when somebody says God these days, the first thing you think of is the guy who flooded the Earth and rained fire on the Sodomites, and beat and killed his own son. But that's just one interpretation, and it's far from the best. In my mind, God is a forest meadow filled with frolicking naked faeries. In your mind, it should be something completely different - whatever is most important to you. And finding strength in God means finding what gives you strength, what form God takes, for you. It doesn't mean pledging allegiance to an imaginary superhero that somebody else thought up.

And also, another thing you should remember is that God is not just one force that appears in different forms to different people. Every person is their own unique, independent God. No God has any power over any other God (after all, God is just a psychological concept, not a cosmic being), so don't go thinking you have the jurisdiction to dictate how another person lives, or what they believe. Your freedom to follow your own personal, individual God can be upheld only so long as you grant that freedom to everyone else. The moment you violate someone else's right to their personal God, you've given up the right to your own. And if I'm wrong, and there is an objective God, then he has only to show himself. But I'd be a fool to hold my breath. And so would you.


  1. The way my life is going genuinely makes me want to worship God. I feel like I should be giving back to someone, I am so blessed every day. But then I remember that if it is to God I owe my emotional wealth, then it is also to God we owe the plight of the third world, the rape, the torture, the sadistic serial killers... If God has seen fit to take from them and give to me, tragically I must say that this God who has bestowed me with so much, can be no Lord of mine, for I am not worthy of my bounty, and he is not worthy of my praise.

    I wouldn't say I have a god concept quite like you describe, but I've always believed in something I call the spark of the divine, which to me is basically a euphemism for euphoria (if I'm going to be blunt and objective about it). Those moments of time when life seems larger than life, those moments where you feel like you could lift a million pounds clear above your head, like everyone loves you, like all the stars have aligned, the moments when the beauty of living overflows through your poors... I don't consider myself spiritual but that is the closest thing to a religion I have.

    In any case, your vision of God is strikingly beautiful and I hope you will stick by Him for the rest of your life. It is a powerful step forward, I believe, as long as you don't take that as being condescending at all. By your concept, my God would be, I think.... does God change? Because I think mine must. As I change so much over time. For now (and if I'm lucky, forever) friendship would be my God. That moment of being embraced, accepted, of connecting with an individual who makes you love yourself more simply because they love you.

  2. Certainly God can change. He is not an immutable form, but whatever has meaning to you, and that can certainly change over time. Some people say that God is "all things to all people". Well firstly, that can only be true if God is a psychological concept and not a physical being - unless we're talking about him having some incredible powers, and there's no reason to attribute to him powers that there's no evidence of him having. Furthermore, people who believe in God will argue that he's there, but you just can't see him, or tell that it's him, without simply having faith that it is. Occam's Razor suggests that if seeing or feeling God is no different than if God isn't really there...then God isn't really there. He can affect the mind and only the mind precisely because he only exists in the mind. Anyway, getting back to my point, God may or may not be all things to a person (that depends on what the person believes), but he can certainly be *any*thing to a person.