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Who is God?

In the Christian religion, God is a supernatural being who is everywhere, knows everything and is all powerful.

He is supernatural, not natural, because he cannot be sensed by humans who cannot see, hear, feel, smell or touch him. Therefore to listen to God, you have two possibilities. One is you must get a 'voice in your head' and you determine that this voice is the voice of God. This path is fraught with danger because irrational people sometimes explain their odd behavior as driven by imaginary voices.

The other is you determine that an action is somehow an action of God. God is thought to cause miracles, where something unexplainable happens. When someone ill prays (praying is the act of begging to a higher being) and their illness is surprising cured. This event is a miracle so it must be an act of God, perhaps an answer to that prayer. Of course the event might have had some other cause but then it must be considered luck (good fortune without a clear cause). A miracle comes from God but luck just happens. Some people believe that you can make your own luck, by taking action when needed for success and by taking precautions to prevent failure.

Western society tends toward linear thinking, where everything that happens has a cause. This cause-effect linkage is followed until there is no cause found, and then it must be caused by God.

In the wizard of Oz, the unexplained vision of Dorothy was found to be orchestrated by the 'man behind the curtain', the wizard.  In the Western religions, God is the 'supernatural being' behind the curtain that obstructs the cause of the unexplained events. God does not exist in the human understanding of our world.

I sometimes wonder what it would have like to live hundreds of years ago. There was little understanding of natural forces. Here in the Midwest, we get severe thunderstorms in the summer and wicked blizzards in the winter. In some parts of the world, earthquakes occur with no warning. When those people survived those natural disasters (having no understanding of meteorology or geology) those events would have been 'acts of God'.

In the Eastern religions, the thinking is not so linear. The cause-effect are seen as two sides of the same coin. You cannot have a head on a coin without there being a tail. If a cloud precedes rain, the rain and cloud go together, not that a cloud causes the rain that follows.

There are many things in our world that are difficult to sense. For example, magnetism can be difficult to describe because its effects can be seen (in an inanimate thing) but it cannot be detected by our senses. Any emotion could be considered beyond our senses. However, these things just noted all have a role in nature. Magnetism or other physical effects are attributes of materials, like weight. Emotions are attributes of people, as our emotions reflect how we interact with people and events within our environment.

Therefore is linear thinking a requirement for understanding nature? At all levels of biology and chemistry, defining the linkages is a requirement for understanding a process. Nature is not a linear process so much as a combination of linkages. Perhaps this is not immediately apparent but consider any physical action, like rain, and then try to linearly describe it without identifying any linkages with other physical attributes or actions.

God has no actual role in nature. All physical effects and events are due to interactions between physical items. The only role of God is to be the 'man behind the curtain' when there something that we do not yet fully understand. As the French philosopher Voltaire once stated, 'If God did not exist, we would have to invent him.' God is seen to be just the requirement for linear thinking when the original cause of all effects is sought. Those cultures that do not allow linear thinking to predominate also do not tend to require God.

I suspect that, for some, God is assumed because someone must have created the universe. That leads to the odd question, if God created the universe then who created God? The assumed answer is that nothing created God because he is 'God' and needs no creator. In other words, the rules of cause and effect ripple all the way to God but then do not apply to God himself. In cultures not dominated by this linear thinking, people can feel part of the universe. There is no separate 'God' because everyone and everything is part of the universal process. Jesus told his disciples that he is everywhere and if you turn over a stone you will find him there. Perhaps (the Bible is always open to interpretation, as a literary work of many hundreds of years ago written by a culture far different than any of today) Jesus was not saying that he hides under every rock but that he is part of the universe. When someone with this understanding declares 'I am God' that is not an expression of declaring he/she is the supreme ruler of the universe but it is an expression of an understanding that everyone is part of the whole.

I recently saw on television the comedian George Carlin's perspective on God. If God created the universe and this is the best he can do, He is incompetent. There is so much suffering, famine, war natural disasters in our existence. I have certainly heard and read the religious response to these points - that God is testing us and only the most worthy are accepted into heaven. George also pointed out the problem with prayer. As God has his divine plan of the universe, when a person prays for something, either it is in the plan or not. If it is not in the plan, then does God change his plan for each person that asks for something not in the plan and has the wish granted. With millions of people involved in prayer, it is certainly a dilemma. It implies that if prayers can be answered then there is not a plan since it would be continually changing. However if God is all knowing (as the Catholic creed prescribes) then he should have known of the prayers ahead of time so then they would have been in the plan. There is always the problem with this supernatural being somehow having an influence on nature, especially when cause and effect are brought into play. If God affects nature and we can affect God, it implies that there is a connection, so how can God be beyond nature and at the same time be part of it? All things must be possible when God is the wondrous 'wizard' that cannot be seen or touched. (While I do not always agree with George Carlin's opinions, it is interesting that it is so easy for someone with an open mind to see the inherent contradictions in the Christian belief system. Religion is sometimes part of his standup act.)

Who is God? God is that 'man behind the curtain' that you need if you believe there must be someone behind every action. The consequence of this belief is that life is orchestrated by an external being and we are just passive participants in the puppet show. The alternative (that there is no 'wizard') enables one to see that life is spontaneous, challenging and unpredictable!

created - Dec. 2001
last change - 11/13/2003

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