Today a friend asked me "What is God?" Honestly I was completely stumped and the conversation went elsewhere. Later in the day I attempted to answer his question in an e-mail. Here was my answer.
Honestly I was caught off guard and had not myself evaluated the question, What is God? The best answer is I don't know. The closest thing that comes to mind is supernatural. I do not like this definition. By definition it is outside of reality. I do not wish to define something by what it is not or by ignorance. This is simply not intellectually honest. I can be comfortable with my ignorance until such concept can be defined. I do not even know how one would go about the investigation of the unknowable. There are questions we have like what was there before our known universe. We simply must be satisfied with not knowing and be honest enough with ourselves to not make up an answer.
Yes I could have simply said Myth. But in context of the conversation I think he wanted to know what my concept of God was.
So my question is what would your answer have been?
a god is a dummy that serves to carry fantasies, fears and power to bring others to submission.
"Don't know; don't care."
tom, this was my first reaction to the question.
At one time -- a very long time -- this would have been important to me. But as I grew, evolved, examined I realized there's no there there.
But I keep going back to what it once meant to me, and still does to billions.
Maybe I'll grow into your answer as I mature.
God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time goes on.
-- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Really, this says it about as well as it can be said. God is a product of our tendency to look for agency where there either is none or where that agency is purely natural in origin. It's the result of the fear of and desire to avoid death, and the mistaken idea that somehow, consciousness can survive the failure of the physical mechanism which supports consciousness: the human body.
God, and all the products produced by it, are the result of errant thinking. If it persists, it's because the fear which came out of that thinking has so imprisoned the mind that escape not only seems impossible but antithetical to survival. It's one hell of a knot, difficult to untie but by no means Gordian.
Primitive man observed nature, and was frightened and confused.
The sun shone. The rain came. Plants grew. Animals roamed. Great!
Winter came with bone-chilling cold; snow covered everything; plants were dormant or dead; animals were few. Awful!
Why were things so different? What accounted for times of plenty?
Some power greater than ourselves must be looking out for us! It sends plants we can eat, animals we can kill for food. Thanks be to the power!
Then this ends! We must have offended the power in some way.
We make sacrifices to the power. We shout and rend our garments!
And the good times come again.
Praise be to the power! We must give the power a name. We call him god.
My first thought was "god is nothing. It's a concept made-up by idiots."
I think you are right. There is no God proffered by man that can even be considered plausible.
It depends on which god you are referring to.
If there is a God who is responsible for bringing us without invitation into this existence then I would have to say that, God is not good.
I feel your every word here. I view the subject much the same as you do. How do we define the unknowable? The theist will tell you "you have to have faith." If you understand what faith really is this tells you nothing. Now we are at a point where i have to ask myself why I care. Why do I want to believe in this god? In fact, why do I want to believe in any god?
Maybe I can see my sister that died in the hospital a few days after her birth if I believe in god and go to heaven. How would I know her? What would she look like? If she looks like she did then how does she get around?
My concept of god and his domain is the unknowable. If I do not know something and then claim that i do know, I'm just making it all up.
I just love the way Christians claim that God is unknowable in a conversation and the at the drop of a hat tell you all about him. The funny thing is they never realise they do it or recognize they have done it. What I do know is that there is no God proffered by man that passes the bullshit test.
This is a great question when discussing religion with theists. One can't really discuss theism or atheism without a common understanding of what a god concept is (the "theos" in theism). I have had to grapple with this question during my online debates with theists so I can share my thoughts and what I proposed to theists with you.
I have come to the conclusion that since we cannot see or otherwise sense this mystical/mythical god being then there must be another way to define him/her/it. The only other knowledge we have of this being is their acts as defined in some or other old texts eg bible/quran/gospel of FSM/etc.
What is common amongst many if not all god-texts is that this being is a creator being. He/she/it loves to create BIG things. The two biggest of course are the universe itself and life. So I always use the term "creator-god being" when I discuss with theists so as to avoid confusion.