How do you define God?

This question is inspired most directly by this GD thread, as well a a whack of other GD threads debating God’s existence.

In following (and occassionally contributing) to these threads, it has become clear the debate is often derailed when the debaters present arguments for the existence/non-existence of something very different from each other. One person’s “proof” that God exists is met with counter-arguments that miss the point - and vice versa.

So my question here is: How do you define God? Really the question is “When you say ‘God’ what do you mean?” I pose this in IMHO to (hopefully) avoid arguing over whether or God exists, but to compose a catalog of the various definitions.

Don’t hesitate to answer if you’re an athiest: What do you believe does not exist? Further, the definition does not have to be one you believe or endorse. Just, what is your understanding of the meaning of that word?

I have my definition already typed out. It’s longer than I expected, so in the interest of keeping the OP short, I’ll post it later.

Over to you…

My understanding of “God” is that of most theists: A superior (perhaps infinite) intelligence which created the universe and all things in it by design and for a specific purpose only known to itself.

My personal take on “God” is that no such being exists.

  1. There is no Allah, Jesus, Yahweh, Brahman. These facts will eventually be proved.

  2. There is no singular entity that terms itself “God” and takes any interest in human affairs, be it beneficial or detrimental. This may never be proven false, but I certainly believe it. Hence the term “strong” atheist…

I understand the “Supreme Being” God. And I don’t buy it as marketed as an individual seperate from the rest of the universe.

God, to me, is simply everything. As a person is divided into cells, so is God divided into the various components of the universe (or multiverse, if you like). Like cells, those various things (people, trees, rocks, stars…) may or may not be capable of independent or directed action, can not possibly hope to comprehend the true nature and desires of the whole, and are important individually only inasmuch as they affect the overall well-being of the whole. I can do without any single brain cell, for instance, but my very necessary brain is made of individual cells which must work as individuals in their designated role. Also, like a body, God can choose have an influence over the cells on some level, but unless there is a trend toward illness the individuals are left to their fate just as I would leave an individual cell to its fate. And yeah, I think God is a conscious, free-thinking indvidual, but not the meddling creator so much as simply a self-interested surviving organism.

God, to me, is pretty much what you’d expect from a liberal protestant: creator of everything, omnipotent, omniscient, etc. I don’t, however, think God is male or terribly hung up on petty nitpicking of rules.

My thoughts are that the Universe is made out of God, but that there is more to God than just the universe we experience. I believe God is capable to act as a singular entity with inteliigence and will.
I am not sure if the Universe is best described as part of God or as a thought in God’s mind.

God is the sum total of the laws governing the universe, so by studying physics, astronomy, biology and the other sciences, we are getting closer to God. I don’t believe the typical Christian belief of an anthropomorpic God, who looks like an old white man with a beard, who has conversations with people and has human emotions (God is angry, etc.).

To me, that which is God is (descriptively rather than definitionally, see very bottom of post *)

• the source of meaning: the sense in which things can, at least under ideal circumstances, be good;

• and also the origins of intentionality and purpose;

• and also the overall cause of all things.

Such a description of God is also an assertion (is that obvious?): that the universe is benign, that things in the large sense are good, and are purposeful, that they are what they are “on purpose”.

If this reads as awkward wording, it is because our language does not make it easy to describe God as the source of intention and purpose without saying that God is an Entity, and/or to say that God has conscious thoughts and so forth. The usual response to being told that God has neither is to say “Then you’re saying God is an unconscious force”, or to otherwise suggest that this lessens God. It is hard to describe a sense in which mere possession of conscious thoughts is a lesser thing than a higher sense of intentionality!

God is also:

• a valid sense of self. As opposed to being a separate Entity external to oneself, God incorporates the self that you are as an individual, includes it along with the selves that are other individuals.

• That Which Is. As opposed to being an Entity separate from a Creation (or World, or Universe), God incorporates the universe (the conscious parts along with the stones and the stars) as a valid sense of self that is everything, to which nothing is external or foreign.

• That Which Is Being. God as verb. As opposed to the entire history of time being an incredible series of scattered-yet-interconnected events, causes and effects, the entirety of That Which Is, not just as it is “now” but since the dawn of time itself, as one single event. An event which has no prior cause and incorporates all intentionalities and causes within itself as part of the unfolding of that single event.

And you and I are:

• God, in Yet Another of God’s infinite manifestations. Godness unfolding within your specific context, having your experiences, God on the entirely local plane.

• Each other. And our own children’s children living in the world you and I helped create. Not being reincarnated as one solitary individual in 237 years in a small town in France but being simulcarnated as each other and everyone else and experiencing all the other lives as well as this one. The ultimate “what goes around comes around”.

• In process, immersed, most of the time, in the immediate activities of our specific context, individualized and apart and quite often not feeling or comprehending any sense of unity or connectedness, or any participatory involvement in making That Which Is what it is. Which is another way of saying that while God may be a valid sense of self it’s not the sense of self we tend to walk around with most of the time. Which is why the word, the concept, and the activities of spirituality are useful: it’s about (re)discovering all this.

  • and lastly not definable in words, not in the legalistic sense of definition at any rate. Words are communication-tools and even when skillfully used are of limited precision. Putting things into words is an art, never a science, so no string of words can ever be worship-worthy, or infallible, or the final Truth to which we turn.

Atheist here… I venture that if I beleived in him/her… he would be a creator of the universe guy. Not some leftover diety that control Earth as his own domain. These would be gods with small G. Who knows if there are gods… but I don’t beleive in a big creator and universal ruler.

I always figured god was an explanation for the unknown. So back in the day when people saw lightning, they said he was angry, etc, etc.

My take on the big guy is he doesn’t exist

For what it’s worth, my opinion(s) on the definition of God:

When I was younger, my definition of God was a Supreme Being who was definitely a Him, personal, apart from the physical world, omni-everything, fiercely interested in world as a whole, and in me. God was a person who simultaneously damned me to hell and provided a way for me to avoid hell (the whole Christ, salvation thing).

By my early twenties I rejected this mythos and for a short while became a reactionary atheist - God, as I previously defined Him, does not exist.

Eventually the reactionism gave way and atheism morphed to agnosticism, i.e. I just don’t know whether God existed, and if so, what would is proper definition of God. God was undefined both in terms of definition and existence.

There certainly is more than meets the eye to the universe, well expressed by the line in Hamlet “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Then are dreamt of in your philosphy.” This “more”, though, appears to be getting smaller as our knowledge expands.

Before we understood the cyclical nature of seasons, it was commonly believed that God controlled the harvest. At one time the common belief was God intimately created each and every thing that exists as would a craftsman. We then discovered The Big Bang, and better understand the process of events that has been taking place since then. God may have set the Big Bang in motion, but things followed its own course afterwards. There less of a need for God to have intimately fashioned the earth from his own hand. As we push back the boundaries of the unknown, we will require less and less the need for God to explain things.

It was these thoughts, together with a poor understanding of Brahman of Hindu tradition, that led me to my current definition of God: the entirety of existence (oooh, dramatic, no?). Each of us are the fingers and toe jam of God. I like the way Heinlein says it better, “Thou art God.”

Stephen Hawking, speaking of the yet-to-be-discovered grand unified theory, said, “However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should be in time understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, are able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we would know the mind of God.”

So God is the universe. As a part of the universe, if we are seeking the truth, we are seeking “God” If/when ever we fully understand the universe, we will fully understand “God.” If we could catch a glimpse now of what that understanding would be, I’m certain we would be greatly surprised at the form that understanding takes.

I’m with Anaamika in saying “There is no Allah, Jesus, Yahweh, Brahman” inasmuch as literal reality (without detracting from their respective values as frameworks of thought). The most supreme being (lower-case intentional) is the entirety of the universe. Inigo Montoya said it well with the cells analogy. Dewey Finn said it more consicely (and therefore better), “God is the sum total of the laws governing the universe” to which I only add, “plus the rest of existence.”

It may be the entirety of the universe is or may become self-aware as the cells in my body colloaborate to allow me to be self-aware. As we continue to increase our understanding of the universe, we are simultaneously discarding of the need for the label “God” to act as a placeholder for the unknown, and becoming aware of the true nature of God i.e. the universe/nature. We all, as a part of God, are collectively in the process of “waking up.”

You know, in re-reading the above before posting, I can’t help thinking that if I hadn’t written the above myself, I would conclude the author was some new-age whishy-washy bullshit artist. I think part of the problem, in addition to the ambiguity of the defintion(s) of God, is the definition of “belief” There is belief as in “Santa Claus” and there is belief as in “democracy” I prefer the latter, because the former without evidence is folly.

How a dyslexic spells “Dog”.

I’d like to go to your heaven.

I was raised by a pretty old fashioned protestant/agnostic and he didn’t do so good by me with Jesus. I want to think that God is neither male nor female and that He loves me and understands and all that, but most of the time I just think
God is a version of my dad who finds fault and is probably always always right and will never love me because I’m such a shithead. That’s a drag that I’m the only person left on the planet with this hangup.

On my surface I think God is everything that I know is good without reservation. Like, deep down I know that love and compassion and humility are virtues, and that a God who created and loved us wanted us to express those things and live them and feel the joy in them. But deep down, I usually feel like God is looking at me and shaking his giant, beared, friendly-giant head at me and saying, “whoa, woe unto my only son that such a dirty slut was born.”