Who (or What) is God?

Recently, Karen Armstrong wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal that seems to say the concept of God is nothing more than a psychological buttress for those unable to help themselves survive in a cruel world. On the one hand she is apparently arguing that there isn’t a god who created everything but on the other hand, we (humans) need an All-powerful Creator just for the comfort factor. Therefore, despite the evidence of science which has challenged the concept of a physical God, we humans should still believe in HIM because we ‘need’ to. This idea led one commenter at PZ’s place to post

It has become obvious that deity has turned into diety, as the gaps are getting slimmer and slimmer all the time.

Ms Armstrong continues to argue for the necessity within society of this All-powerful, All-knowing ‘thing’ that is known, in our English-speaking world as God while simultaneously writing that there ‘really’ isn’t a physical God and that it is the concept which is the most important aspect of deity, not it’s existence within the natural universe.

In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call “God” is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

It is her conclusion that somehow, we all really and truly need this concept within our lives to help us understand just why there is so much suffering in the world!

All the major traditions insist that the faithful meditate on the ubiquitous suffering that is an inescapable part of life; because, if we do not acknowledge this uncomfortable fact, the compassion that lies at the heart of faith is impossible. The almost unbearable spectacle of the myriad species passing painfully into oblivion is not unlike some classic Buddhist meditations on the First Noble Truth (“Existence is suffering”), the indispensable prerequisite for the transcendent enlightenment that some call Nirvana—and others call God.


Is she really saying that there can be no true compassion unless you have faith?

Well, in the same column, Prof Richard Dawkins answers the lady’s nonsense far better than I can. A taste of his words but I recommend you go and read the whole thing for yourself.

…the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. There may be worlds on which superhuman life thrives, superhuman to a level that our imaginations cannot grasp. But superhuman does not mean supernatural.

Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God’s redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: “Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn’t matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism.”

Well, if that’s what floats your canoe, you’ll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world’s peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists.
(c) Wall Street Journal, Sept, 12, 2009


One response to “Who (or What) is God?

  1. hmmmmm , a good question, who God really is…

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