Quick, without over-thinking it …
Is God male or female?
What color is God?
What is God like in terms of personality?
Have you ever asked anyone who is not your gender, race, or religion what their concept of God is?
If you are like most Christians in the United States, you grew up with this concept of God:
God is the stern, white, old guy on the right, using his finger to spark the life of Adam. Western art typically personifies God as a white male, with his son Jesus, who was born in the Middle East, also appearing as a white male, often with blue eyes and light brown hair. While Biblical stories of Jesus portray him as a kind guy, the Bible contains many stories of a wrathful God, ready to smote humans with horrible punishments for wrong-doing. God sits above all, seeing all and making judgments.
I was raised in the Catholic church and this was the God that was presented to me. (We weren’t allowed to read the Bible ourselves in catechism. This knowledge was presented to us by an adult.)
This concept of God was further reinforced through the strict hierarchy of the church, with women expected to be subservient to men, children subservient to parents, nuns subservient to priests, priests subservient to bishops, and all subservient to the Pope, who is God on earth. Punishment was constantly threatened. Merely for being born, you were considered sinful, a thing of disgust that had to be purified.
That’s not the God I believe in any longer.
If you were to ask me to describe God now …
The operative word in that sentence is “if”. You see, I am agnostic. I don’t know if there is a God or isn’t a God. I have seen no definitive proof that a God exists, but don’t feel sad for me. I’m okay with not knowing. I don’t need some outside force to blame all my woes on, nor someone who gets to take credit for my good deeds. I’ll take full responsibility for my actions, good or bad.
I have no idea what will happen when I die. Where will this organizing force that I call my spirit (a.k.a. consciousness) go upon death? Will it remain intact or scatter as my body is cremated or decomposes?
People think that agnostics or atheists have no faith. Sure, I have faith. I have faith in the basic goodness of humanity and the regenerative processes of nature. I have faith that if we humans cause hell on earth, we can also create heaven on earth. (As an aside, there are Christians who will claim that atheists worship Satan. Sorry to burst that bubble, but Satan can’t be proven any more or less than God can, so atheists don’t believe in the Prince of Darkness either. It’s in the label. They are “a-theists,” without gods.)
Now, as an agnostic, if pressed to describe my concept of God, I imagine it to be an energetic organizing force, not male, not female, having no human form or race, subscribing to no religion. A force that is neither good nor bad, not intent on punishing us or prodding us to do good. This God does not favor humans over the rest of the universe’s teeming life forms. This organizing force is part of us, part of all creation, and we choose how to display this force in the world.
Perhaps I’ve taken the Star Wars’ concept of “The Force” a little too seriously, but our individual concepts of God frame how we see the world and how we act within it. If I take full responsibility for the good and bad I cause, you can bet I’m going to do my best to act on the positive side of this force. I’m not waiting around to see if there is a heaven in order to be and do good. Because I’m living as though an afterlife is no guarantee, right now is all I’ve got and I’m going to make the most of it.
So, then, what is your concept of God?