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Behind the ‘G word’

31 May, 2007

More from Lloyd Geering:

As Don Cupitt has well said, “Language is the medium in which we live and move and have our being. In it we act, we structure the world and order every aspect of our social life. Only Language stands between us and the Void. It shapes everything”.

Human existence is dependent on language. Every human culture is based on a language. Every religious tradition depends on a language for its expression and cognitive understanding. In the monotheistic cultures the most basic word, the one which holds all the rest together, is the word God.

Only recently have we humans been in a position to say that the word “God”, indeed the very concept of God, like all concepts, has …been created by the human mind …

The word “God” performs a very important function in our reflection about the nature of human existence, but the content or meaning of the word needs to be supplied by us. The content with which we invest it is the set of values and aspirations which we find making a moral and spiritual claim on us, or, if one prefers to put it this way, the supreme values and goals to which to which we feel ourselves drawn.

There is no necessity for us to use the word “God”. It is not even essential for us to use it in order to talk about faith. If we do use the word, we open ourselves to misunderstanding and confusion. In spite of that, I am inclined like Buber to keep on using it.

It is my belief that there is no ultimate meaning or purpose permeating this universe, amazing and mysterious though it is. The universe just is as it is. If we want to find any meaning within the short time any of us is here, we have to create that meaning for ourselves. And we create the meaning of our lives by the way we live.

For me “God” is a useful symbol, inherited from the past, to refer to that meaning, to those values I find to be supreme and to those goals I feel myself called to aspire. So when I say “I believe in God”, I mean something like this “God is the symbol which holds together in a unity all my bits of knowledge abut the world and all the virtues I have come to value, such as love, justice, compassion. The more I respond positively to all this and learn to trust my fellow-humans and the world at large, the more I find human existence to be of great worth and meaningful.

God, as I understand this word, is to be found in people, in human relationships, in my own thinking, as well as in the mystery of all living creatures and in the stars and distant nebulae.” So when I say “I believe in God” I mean a whole bundle of things, including such things as: I trust my fellow-humans. I trust the world. I say “Yes!” to life. I look forward to each new day in hope and faith.

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