It is always fascinating to watch language develop. 20 years ago, if I included “xoxox” within a letter, people would immediately recognize it as “hugs and kisses.” However, if I included “lol” I would get a puzzled response. Communication would break down. Or if I said, 15 years ago, I “googled” my sister, people would wonder whether to throw me in jail, or what that meant.
We relate with language. With the simple modification of a few letters, a completely different depiction is made between “few” or “many” or “most” or “vast predominance” or “all.” Or the placement of particular words can change the meaning. We understand the contrast between “I love my wife” and “I love chocolate ice cream” despite both being a declaration of love, dependent upon the object of my affections.
A comment has stated the term “God” is meaningless, and I have reflected on that observation with a growing resignation it is correct. When a person states, “I believe in God” this provides so little information as to, in essence, provide none at all. It could be a primal source, or a creator. An absentee landlord or an invasive pest. Good, evil, indifferent—all are possibilities. Monotheistic, polytheistic, or triune. Frankly, stating the word “God” provides no insight whatsoever on what a person means by it.
At one time, I might argue at the least we all recognize a God as something that is “more.” In some way it is larger and greater than what we perceive as humans. But then I am informed of gods who cannot commit immoral acts. We obviously can. By fiddling with the definition of “more” we are left with the puzzle of which is “more”—the inability to be immoral, or the inability to be solely morel? We can wonder about the future. A god who predetermines cannot. Which is “more”?
We are also a society which focuses on people being individuals. We demand our “rights” to believe differently than others. If I want chocolate ice cream, and others want vanilla, we think we should be offered a choice. We want the choice of being Liberal or Conservative. To like plays over movies. Blondes, brunettes, redheads or bald. Our cell phones and iPods come in various colors, just to provide the consumer with choice to be individuals. Only to be covered by individual cell phone and iPod covers, and to download individual ring tones, songs, wallpapers, etc.
This individualism couples with the indistinct definition of God to create a murky soup where anything goes. “I think God is _____.” That blank can be filled with something, anything, or nothing; yet the theist requests we respect it--no one can prove it technically wrong. Everything becomes open for acceptance, since nothing can be proven out of the question. Time and time again, I hear as a defense for some attribute of god, “It is possible…” As if the best we can say is that some attribute of God, while not provable, and not even probable, we could hope it may be possible.
When I first deconverted, I landed on a certain place of the internet, teaming with what are best described as liberal Christians. “Who ARE these people?” I thought. “How are they so easily able to dismiss the Jesus of the Judgment seat, yet embrace the Jesus of ‘Love your neighbor’? How is it they are able to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to accept as divine, and which parts to ignore as man-made?” It was only after many discussions and some enlightenment on my part that I realized anyone who uses the Bible as a basis for their theology must, to some extent, play “pick and choose.” Either they must pick what verses trump others, or what verses no longer apply because of others or what books (*cough, cough* Tanakh) must be interpreted in light of other books.
Due to the make-up of the book—every Christian or Christian group comes to the point of choosing some part to take predominance over another. Liberal Christians are no better or no worse than any other.
And broadening my scope, in relating with other theists and their descriptions of their God, it has become this cosmic salad bar. Where people take their individual plates, with tongs and spoons, going ‘round about the salad bar, choosing which attributes of God they like, which ones they would never accept, and displaying indifference toward others.
Curiously, we then sit together and each theist picks apart the other theist, as to why they chose a particular item off the salad bar! Hello!? If you didn’t like the crunchy noodle things when you are picking out your salad—why is it any surprise you wouldn’t like the salad of your fellow person when they picked out the crunchy noodle things?
In the same way, due to this individualistic ability to define one’s own god, if you didn’t pick the god of hellfire, why is it any surprise you don’t prefer someone else’s god who has it? Yet you both are basically claiming your own preference for what you like on the salad bar, with no ability to prove the other person’s god exists or not. No one can demonstrate what the God salad is supposed to actually be.
I am coming to the conclusion we are uselessly communicating by utilizing the term “God.” It has become an entity molded around each person’s own inclination, with attributes affirmed or discarded as quickly as the individual’s taste changes. We are left with the speculative guess of “I think god is ___” and a blank which can be filled in to each person’s content.
With a complete inability to verify what god is (or is not) we are left with billions of opinions generated from billions of people as to how to define a god. None considered completely correct; none considered completely incorrect.
So how is it we determine our view of God (or lack thereof) is the best we can do with the information we have? What qualifications do we put in place to avoid picking what parts we like to assimilate, and discarding parts we do not like; to instead ascertain what most likely is regardless of our own personal desires?