Sunday, 12 August 2012

Conceptions of God

Throughout history, a plethora of civilisations have thought about the existence of beings or a being which is far greater than themselves. These historical religions have had a variety of different approaches to the concept of divinity. For several ancient religions, their religion was pantheistic, with a pantheon of Gods each presiding over different aspects of human life and tethered to some part of the human condition. The most famous examples of these were the religions of ancient Egypt, with their animal headed Gods, and the Gods of Ancient Greece (deities which were later adopted by the Romans) which were portrayed as being highly similar to mortals in that they had very human emotions and personalities. Within Pantheistic religions, the pantheon of Gods are sometimes considered to be distinct fragments of a single, greater God, or sometimes they are just thought of as being entirely separate deities.

Nowadays, certain within the western world, there are few religions which retain pantheistic viewpoints, the most notable being Hinduism. Other “mainstream” religions, by which I mean Islam, Judaism and Christianity, have approached the monotheistic viewpoint, believing in a single, unified God which possessed the traits of omnipotence and omniscience. Essentially, they believe in a single, perfect God. Buddhism is slightly different when it comes to the concepts of God or Gods, with some of its branches taking an atheistic standpoint, whilst others believe that it is possible that human souls can be reincarnated as Gods, though existence as a human is preferable to that of a God (to some extent).

A notable quality of the “Triad” of religions, which consists of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, is the personification of God. God is portrayed as a father figure and is referenced as such throughout the respective scriptures for both Christianity and Judaism. Certainly within Christianity, this line of thinking is implemented in the “Holy Trinity”, in which God is considered as consisting of three distinct (and yet also indistinct) parts, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Islam does not hold the view of God as a father, with the relationship between Mohammed and God being more aptly described as one of master and servant. This is not to say that the “God of Islam” or God as he is portrayed as not having the qualities of a good father, for he is described with many qualities which would make him an excellent father, but it is to say that he is not thought of as a father.

Regardless, in all three of these Triad religions, God is personified, spoken of in human terms, though naturally lengths are taken to ensure that we are reminded as to his Divine Status. However, all three religious scriptures, The Quran, Torah and Bible, all portray God as a speaking, distinct individual. This is the point I wish to highlight. All these religions describe God as an individual.

However, I think we could think of God in a different manner. Rather than thinking of him as a figurehead, as a person, as a father, we could think of God as being a far less personal force that is simply present within the world. Rather than thinking of God as being this heavenly judge which sits upon a throne in some higher reality, we could instead think of God as being this constant presence that envelops the world, acting as a keeper of balance.

The concept is similar to Lovelock’s Gaia Theory, in which he proposed that all living creatures on earth, indeed the very planet itself could be thought of as a single entity. His theory did not consider this entity to be aware, or attribute it with Divine Power, unlike the concept of God which I propose, but the similarity does exist. Simply, what I am asking you to consider is that perhaps God is simply and innate quality, an overarching principle in our world, his will felt through the background manipulations which occur in the world. Such manipulations were also highlighted, in part, by the Gaia theory, which made reference to the fact that the biospheres consistently regulate themselves to ensure conditions remain relative stable. We can also go further and reference Le Chatelier chemical law of equilibrium, in which an equilibrium reaction will attempt to regulate itself and oppose the changes made. The existence of such regulatory laws could be considered as close to “evidence” for such an idea as we could get.

I am not sure whether I prefer to consider God as an individual or as a background force or something in between. Just something to think about.

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