People seem to be quite open when you ask them to identify themselves, or their religion, by a name or an affiliation (Christian, Jewish, Protestant, Snake Handler, etc …) …
Some people are self avowed “spiritual” people. My analysis of this is that perhaps those people have actually attempted an introspective effort in understanding who, what or if God exists.
In either case, one of the most recurrent themes that I find is the conclusion that “God Is Love.”
Even if this is true on some level (I don’t know for sure if it is or it isn’t) – it seems to be quite an assumption to make. What’s the assumption based on? Surely it isn’t observation. Surely, those of us who have looked closely at the world around us – seen – experienced life, or who have kept open to daily news, or experiences, understand that not every event that occurs or everything that they see is the reflection of a “Loving God”. Surely, if God is God, it is the same God – not a shifting persona.
What occurs in this world, at this very moment as you read this, includes positive things, negative things, but mostly neutral (banal) things.
It also includes, though, some of the most horrendously violent, painful and unloving acts any person (or God(s)) could ever conceive of.
That brings us to the somewhat cliche question: If God IS love – what does that mean about these events? What conclusions do we draw about the relationship between those events and God? Beheadings, mass genocide (occurring right now on the same globe you’re on), slow – painful torture. Beyond that, though – the death of small children. Horrible sicknesses and genetic mutations. The most horrible scenarios! Pain being overtly inflicted on innocent people – nature reaching into the bedroom of an innocent child, in the form of a natural disaster, and violently snatching it from existence.
Surely THIS is the same universe God lives in and presides over; that they created. Does God sit over this procession and watch it unfold? Well, if this your conception of God – or if you’re even time to create a conception.
The simple reasoning above explains the mass movement of many believing/faithful people into agnosticism or atheism. There has also been a mass movement into Eastern Philosophy and spirituality. Buddhism has been a popular choice amongst many Jewish people. Their experience of the genocide and its explicit violation of most every precept of humanity, on the largest scale in history, supposedly under the auspices of a “loving God” (taking notes, watching).
If something like that could happen – do we really care about how this “entity” reacts? Or, at this point do we simply abandon this word and idea (God). This seems rational to many. Many groups have followed this simple line of reasoning and broken off (particularly in the Jewish faith) but in others as well.
We conjure up our internal perspective of God, cognitively, with a heavy reliance on a “visual” interpretation of what this being must be/look like. As humans it’s nigh impossible to abstract something without a visual representation of said thing. Throughout history, then, God has been depicted visually.
Interestingly enough, as an exception, the Muslim faith prohibits this type of depiction. Is there a relationship going on here?
We create the visual aspect of our most introspective questions and ideas through “visual constructs”. Our visual estimation or imagination of what X might be.
This visual construct relies on informants. Even the most abstract concept is visually informed by what we’ve seen and experienced. Our development, childhood, family life – our day to day life up to right now. Therefore, in this sense, God is a visual construct of the visual mind. This is not to say God can’t/couldn’t exist outside this construct. But, when we as human beings – if we decide to bother to begin to imagine this idea of this word God – we’re obliged to visit our visual representation of it, because it’s the most potent tool we have, aside from language.
While Buddhism has described as being atheist/atheistic, I see no evidence in the Sutra’s denying the existence of God. What I do see, is a short and blunt statement that this “idea” that we should not attempt to understand or construct or to relate to. It could mean nothing – it would do us no good beyond confusion. Others thought this way.
Aside from the visual, language allows us to construct God. Wittgenstein, through his language proofs in the Tractaticus Logicus, makes a point by point proof – or tour – or what exists (in language), what we can speak of, what we can’t. The relationships between words and our ability to see things; how we apply a word to a thing.
Simplistically, this would apply to our understanding of God. We would have created this word “God” (or Allah, or Yahweh), and we must apply meaning to it. When we go to apply meaning to it, we’ve got to externalize the concept … when we eternalise it, we must equate it to something concrete. We create religion – we create forms, we create words. That’s what religion IS, in my view.
In a similar vein, Wittgenstein concludes (in his 7th proof): “When we can’t speak of something, we should pass over it in silence.”
I’d like to think both these individuals were alluding to what I’m saying now about the limitations of what we could ever understand through words or visualisation about what God would be. Further, though, if we could never draw any sort of realistic conclusion about what God COULD be, we can’t ascribe characteristics to it (good or bad).
If we could ever draw any realistic conclusion on what something like “God” (whatever that means now) COULD be, we couldn’t ascribe characteristics to it (good or bad). When we see a baby born we saw … GOOD! When we see it abandoned or killed violently we say … BAD.
I’ll stop here for now; I’ll continue in the next blog for brevity’s sake.