What is God? Part II
When theologians and philosophers postulate the concept of God, it is important to understand that God is not writing about Himself; he is not explicitly saying, “This is how I created the world” or “This is how I interact with the world.” God is not clearly or demonstrably declaring Himself. This must be understood. What has happened and is still happening is that we—that is, human beings—are speaking about God, describing the qualities of God or telling others how God relates and makes things happen. Human beings have postulated the notion of God and then seek to explain Him. And the “we” in each religion throughout the world has done the same.
In my last column, “What is God? Part I,” I gave the following examples:
- In Judaism people have said that God is ultimately unknowable, created everything, and interacts with creation. It is interesting that He is “unknowable” and yet we know this information.
- Christianity suggests that God is made up of the Father (creator), Son (redeemer), and Holy Spirit (sustainer).
- Islam proclaims that God begetteth not, nor is He begotten.
- Buddhism teaches that the spiritual life seeks to alleviate any pain or distress.
- Hinduism is complex and seeks to incorporate all the above.
Just because a person says something, does not make it a fact. Just because something is written down, does not make it a fact. Just because people believe certain things, does not make them true.
What we really have concerning God are many ideas and opinions concerning who God is and how He relates and interacts with the world. They may be good and interesting ideas, but that does not make them true. People do and say anything they want, but that in itself does not make for facts.
It may be shown that what is said about a supreme being, and what is expressed concerning how the supreme being expects us to behave as human beings, can have a positive effect on any given society. For example, do not kill, steal or tell lies. These edicts may make for a more humane society, but that, in themselves, does not make them true.
Throughout history we have had people declare that God has spoken to them, has appeared in spirit form, has taken them on a miraculous journey, and has told them to declare certain insights to the world. All the religions of the world have men and women telling stories of how and what God said to them. While they are interesting and fascinating stories, that in itself does not make them true.
Let us agree for the sake of argument that God is really speaking to the men and women in this world. Okay. So He is saying different things, creating different creation stories, and different prophecies? This is just an objective observation of the religious world and its history.
The Need to Believe
People sometimes say to me that “Everyone needs to believe in something.” Okay, but that does not in itself make these beliefs true. Some people believe that a snake in the Garden of Eden spoke to Adam and Eve. Some believe that creation was created in six days. Some believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary did not die, but was assumed into Heaven (which in Roman Catholicism is called the Feast of the Assumption). Some believe that Mohammed is the last Prophet.
The reader knows from his or her personal experience that people believe all manner of things, but that does not mean they are facts or true.
“Yes, Leo, but look how many people believe in Jesus. Or in Mohammed. Or follow the teachings of Buddha. Are you saying they are all wrong?”
No! I am not saying they are all wrong, but I am not saying they are right. Numbers are no substitute for facts!
Religion: Good or Bad?
Religion being good or bad is not the real issue for me. I am not questioning what religions are saying. I know what many religions say and what their followers believe. My question is this: Is it true? The question for me is not whether religion exists or not, because I know religion exists. I see them and I know what they say and believe. My question is: Do we know, with any certainty, as a fact, that God exists? Do we know, with any certainty, as a fact, how He wants us to live? Is it possible that what all the different religions say and believe concerning God, can they all be true? Are there indeed “alternative facts”? I do not think so.
Maybe we need to separate a person’s beliefs from facts? A person’s faith from truth? Maybe the concept of God being “unknowable” is true, and we will never know God? Maybe religious agnosticism is the best that we can hope for in this life? Maybe what people believe in says more about them than it does about God?
“I am who I am” is the most we will ever know, and even that is questionable!