Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Useless and Abstract God Concept

The word “God” is tricky and can cause complications for both theists and atheist. It is an abstract concept without any solid definitions backing it up. It can be used for pantheism like Einstein, as a sense of wonder and immensity in the universe as for Stephen Hawking, or as the personal, loving caring God of monotheists. My concept of “God” is merely an idea, a social concept, but all of us are burdened with the broad inaccurate word, “God,” making our speech clumsy.

 Atheists deny the existence of “God.” But since the concept of God is so broad and abstract, I cannot logically deny all of these versions of God. Some of these new sacred canopies respond to the powerful force of empiricism by creating a God concept that is unfalsifiable.  Useful scientific theories must be falsifiable; there must be some kind of reality check. I cannot deny the existence of Bertrand Russell’s orbiting teapot. I cannot deny Pantheism or Deism and if everyone in our world had a belief like this, I would not be an active atheist. I would still think that some are inconsistent with reality, but these beliefs currently do little harm. But I can logically deny the personal, loving, powerful entity that directly interacts with our reality; the way monotheists define God.

One important step on my way out of religion and theism (I was raised Mormon) was Karen Armstrong’s book The History of God. She describes how people’s perception of God has changed drastically over time. Revision to the God concept was based on popularity, force, and theological debate, but it was never consistent for more than 300 years. Karen Armstrong was once a catholic nun, now she remains a theist; but barely. Her version of God is so diluted, reduced and non-personal that Richard Dawkins remarked that if she would describe god that way to any church congregation, they would call her an Atheist. Dawkins said, “They would be right.”

It is not useful to use these definitions of God. I do not care what a bunch of specialized theologians have come up with about Gods “true” nature. I care about the way average Americans and theists relate to the social concept of God.  I care about the way this harms, emotional abuses, and intellectually crushes average worshipers.

But while I deny the existence of a physical entity in our physical universe, God is real in a social sense. This god has real observable effects in my life and in my world. This concept has become real through social use. I have a few friends who fall into this unfalsifiable abstract god definition category. I complain about fundamental religions by saying that “God” expects this or says that. They will correct me by saying, “No, they think that is God. They think that that is what God is like, but they are wrong. I have the true understanding of God.” I think it is ironic that an atheist has a more useful, and concrete concept of God that has more of a basis for reality and objective evidence.

Don't edit this for your broadcast 
so it looks like I'm yelling, 'I killed
 Earl Milford!'-Gob Bluth 
There is nothing illogical about me and other atheists attacking “God” or being angry at “God.” God is real (I better not see that quote out of context somewhere). God affects my life; this social concept passes laws that affect me and attempt to influence my behavior. The American God is a real objective force, and I will write and be angry to defend myself and others from its harm.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I am currently preparing a Toastmaster's speech on "The Abstract Topic" and was thinking of talking about the apparent contradiction of not believing in (any) god(s), yet still being scared "God". God may be an abstract idea, but ideas are powerful and have real effects. Christians would say that "God can move a mountain", but it is the belief in the abstract idea of God that lets people move that mountain themselves. Moving that mountain doesn't have to be scary and can have positive outcomes, but sometimes it can mean "Let's bring the World Trade Center down!" or "Let's kill that infidel!"