This is a post I had written prior to my blog purge. This is one of the posts I actually regret deleting. I thought I had it preserved elsewhere, but I guess I didn’t. One of the issues that come into play when discussing religion are the different ways believers and nonbelievers (regardless of one’s beliefs) actually picture God in their head. From my perspective, I’ve seen four versions of God thrown around in debates with some occasional overlap. While we as believers cannot truly know the nature of God, we cannot assume that we are all talking about the same one. For nonbelievers, please pay attention to the term “hypothetical”. When you level with a Christian and you describe (or criticize) God what idea of God do you have in mind outside of nonexistent (ie: Dawkins referring to God as a bully).
1. Complete physical transcendence:
God exists beyond time, space, and human comprehension/imagination. There is nothing known or understood by us that God has not grasped. Oftentimes people feel this version of God is too distant and alien, but it seems to be the go to for most monotheistic believers in debate settings.
2. Sub-universal level:
God is within human understanding, however God still exists on an immensely broad level that has yet to even be grasped by mankind. Take the size of the observable universe for example: Jupiter’s red spot is the size of the Earth, the sun is vastly larger than Jupiter, and other stars like Betelgeuse make our sun look like a speck. As humanity evolves so will our potential understanding of God.
3. God exists within human nature:
This is the version of God seen in many polytheistic faiths. God is like one of us and is subject to our emotional baggage and weaknesses. God may have power that transcends human ability, but humans have an experience that God does not have and cannot relate to while in the heavenly realm.
4. God as a thought form:
The lowest level of God existing without going into non-belief. At this level God “exists” because people believe in a God. This construct of God is subject to change, interpretation and potentially extinction through the collective will of mankind. While this version of God is imaginary, adherents to this version do not doubt God’s power over people.
The downward trend in these interpretations illustrates the power humanity has over God. This distinction is extremely relevant if God exists as a person’s moral authority. There is overlap between these interpretations. Many monotheists would probably declare that God is somewhere between 1 and 2; here God is beyond our comprehension yet certain small things are revealed to us. Atheists tend rhetorically argue for three, yet their actions reflect a belief 4. Like the Richard Dawkins example above, those who take a number three view repudiate God’s alleged moral shortcomings.
Progressive believers, especially in the university setting, take a sort of amalgamation of 1 and 4. Not much in between in this case; God is both within and beyond our control and comprehension. Humanity has a sort of political relationship to this version of God. God represents the executive branch of a metaphysical government and humanity takes the role of a judicial and legislative branch. We tell God what is morally or philosophically right and God enforces our instruction. If people disagree, they can take it up with God. This view is also taken by the fundamentalists with some “3” mixed in as well.
Once hopefully this post will generate the discussion my previous one had.