Adam Snider

What is god?

In God on January 7, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I’m going to get right into it with a big, meaty question. Perhaps the question. What is god?

Obviously, I don’t have the answer to this question. No one does. I do, however, have some thoughts on the matter.

My understanding of god (or, if you prefer a more value-neutral term, the spirit of life) is constantly evolving. I used to believe in an anthropomorphic god in the Abrahamic tradition. Though I often use pronouns and other “humanizing language” when speaking of god, I don’t really think of god as an actual creature/person these days (not most of the time, at least).

How do I think of god, then?

Again, that’s part of what this blog is about—trying to understand just what it is that I believe. But, for the time being, I think it’s safe to say that I think of god as more of an energy, a life-force, than anything else. God is a creative force, but not necessarily a creator.

Did god create the universe? I don’t know. If god isn’t a being, if god is a creative energy, then I don’t think it’s out-of-line with my scientific and rational beliefs to say that god created the universe.

What if we think of god as the energy that caused the Big Bang? Does that mean that the universe was created by an all-powerful, all-knowing creature? Absolutely not. Does it fly in the face of science? I don’t think so, but I suppose that’s partly a matter of opinion.

Is god an external force? This is where it gets tricky. I tend to think that, no, god isn’t an outside force. God is an internal energy. God is what makes us human. God is, I suppose, the soul, whatever that means.

But, then again, god could be an external force. If you think of god as being the energy that binds the universe, then I guess god could be seen as an external force (which, I realize, sounds dangerously close to the Force).

As you can see, it’s hard to explain exactly what god is, once you give up on the notion that “he” is some kind of grandfather in the sky.

I don’t really know what god is. As you can see, my understanding of god is far from fully formed.

What I do know is that I feel an internal energy that I think of as god, when I’m experiencing moments of true inner peace. Sure, it’s probably just body chemistry doing it’s thing, but does that matter? Does it really matter whether what I think of as god is physical or metaphysical, as long as it helps me find my personal truth?

I feel god when I am at peace. When I meditated during Sunday service at the Unitarian Church of Edmonton on the weekend, I felt something like god.

I feel god during and after sex—at least when it is the kind of sex that involves an intimate and spiritual connection with my partner (i.e.: god would likely be absent from a one-night stand).

I feel god when I enjoy very good food, and when I drink good wine (or beer, or scotch, etc.). I feel god when I am driving the lonely highways of the world. And I feel god when I am experiencing the wonder of nature (perhaps especially when I am in the mountains).

Does any of this answer the question, what is god? No, I suppose not. But, then, that was never really my intention. My intention was to explore my current thoughts on the nature of god.

This is my starting point on the journey that Exploring the Spirit will document. Now that the baseline has been established, we can observe the evolution that happens along the way.

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  1. “Does it really matter whether what I think of as god is physical or metaphysical, as long as it helps me find my personal truth?”

    Yes, it does.The signs of God’s creation, are so manifest that any conscientious person with insight can easily see. However, one’s reaching that point, i.e., accepting that one is surrounded with evidence that demonstrates God’s creation of the universe, is not enough. In the Quran, God refers to those people who accept His existence yet are still not on the right way:

    Say: ‘Who provides for you out of heaven and earth? Who controls hearing and sight? Who brings forth the living from the dead and the dead from the living? Who directs the whole affair?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘So will you not have taqwa?’ That is Allah, your Lord, the Truth, and what is there after truth except misguidance? So how have you been distracted? (Surah Yunus: 31-32)

    The type of human mentioned in the verse is quite important: those people answer all the questions they are asked about the existence and attributes of God, and accept that God creates everything. Yet, still God warns them “So will you not have taqwa (conscious of God in all that you do)?” or “So how have you been distracted?”

    • @ummadam – I think you misunderstood my question. What I’m saying is something closer to: If god doesn’t exist, and the feelings that I get when I believe that I am “experiencing god” are actually nothing more than body chemistry “tricking” my conscious mind, does that matter? Does it matter that my belief is wrong, as long as it brings me peace?

      For example, let’s pretend that I am a devout Muslim. Let’s also pretend that Allah does not exist. Does his lack of existence mean that my faith didn’t matter? I would say no, it doesn’t mean that. My faith still mattered. It still brought me peace.

      So, whether or not there is a god, the belief that I am experiencing something I call god is still meaningful in my life.

      I hope that clarifies what I was trying to say.

  2. Gerry, I appreciate the laugh, and the commentary that I assume you’re intending to make about my musings, but it would be nice if you’d actually leave a comment, instead of just linking to a YouTube video.

  3. I’ve toiled a bit in the abrahamic religions myself and spirituality can give you a great big high. But there’s always a comedown.

    And thus I have come down to a somewhat buddhist philosophy… it doesn’t promise to fulfill our spirtuality.
    Instead it says, “You feel unfulfilled? That’s OK. That’s normal. Everybody feels unfulfilled. You will always feel unfulfilled. There is no problem with feeling unfulfilled. In fact, if you learn to see it the right way, that very lack of fulfillment is the greatest thing you can ever experience.”

    That is truth.

  4. J-rod: Undoubtedly, anything that brings a high comes with a comedown. But, I’m not sure about always feeling unfulfilled.

    There will always be moments when we feel unfulfilled, whether in our spirituality or our jobs or whatever. But, that’s not the same as always feeling unfulfilled.

    If we literally always felt unfulfilled in any aspect of our lives, I don’t think we’d be happy. Sure, feelings of un-fulfillment are a natural part of the human experience, but they shouldn’t be constant.

    Then again, I have only the most basic understanding of Buddhist philosophy, so I could be misunderstanding your point.

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