When capitalized, the supreme being of monotheistic religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Also, any powerful being, usually spiritual in nature, which is worshipped by a group of people.

Finally, a person who is possessed of great--nay, insurmountable--power or skill in a given area of expertise; for example, someone can be a guitar god, a hack god, a sex god, or even a barbecue god. Worship is optional, but recommended.

An entity rosen from the need, dream and question raised by humankind, as answer or as source.

Although the argument of existence, regarding one or more of these entities seems to be an everlasting issue, much evil and good have been performed by humans in the name of gods. Can it argued from this statement that the actions of a god (existing or not) are the actions of its believers? Then a god would be existing as soon as any number of persons acted in its name.

Then humans would be creating the gods which presumably would have created them.

How can gods both be creators of the world and part of it?

If a god created and defined the world we live in, it is impossible to define a god without self being a god. And even then it is given that a god must have some rules defining it, thus having its own gods... (Gödel's incompleteness theorem, sort of.)

Let's just pretend that you or I were sane, compassionate beings. Would you create something (let alone everything) so that it would suffer, sicken, and die? If I were your creator, I would not want you to get a piece of apple skin stuck between your teeth. Let alone itch. Or wither. Or become incontinent. Or create Country music. Any God that is a god could only be inherently evil or insane.

One way of thinking of any God (big G) that may exist is as the initial energy source providing the "Something" that had to exist immediately before the big bang in order that there not be creation ex nihilo. By its very existence, this Something triggers the big bang and the initiation of the laws of physics. However, as the universe cools following the big bang, the triggering Energy itself becomes diminished and powerless due to the fact the once the particles of the universe are set in motion their every action and interaction is predetermined, and they cannot be controlled by God, or by anything that exists within this universe.

Bizzarely enough, this is one way that the Kaballah sometimes thinks of God: When he was at his full "volume" there was no room for any matter to exist, so he had to retract and diminish himself in the process of creation.
Different religious people see their god(s) from a different perspective, which can be roughly categorized into an immanent god or one (or more) that can be described as a transcendent god. I don't want to discuss if this person / thing / entity / presence / being / whatever exists or not, just the perception of it by a large group of human beings.*

A transcendent god
The idea of a transcendent god prevails in so-called Western societies. God is a transcendent masculine authority ruling over everything. It is he who created heaven and earth and all living creatures, of which humans to his own likeness. Key aspects are the creation - the Fallredemption - "eternal heaven" (revelation), and thus with a linear path (I'll come back to that later). God is created in the human mind to explain the things we don't understand; e.g. there is no certainty about how exactly the world started, so the metaphorical world machine is switched on by something that lies beyond human comprehension.
The position of humans is the one of manager or estate agent, and it is their duty to do that as good as possible without gaining own profit from it. Humans may have own will and responsibility, but your destiny is set by god, he determines your future. People have to, or even must use the available sources for that (some call that exploitation). In case you have a bible: Genesis 1:26-29, 2:15-17 and 3:1-24, Psalm 8 and Mathew 26:14-30. It only says that the "necessary preconditions to live" have to be maintained, but what that means isn't specified. The whole lot is strongly anthropocentric: god created the plants and animals especially for humans and gave "us" knowledge with the intention to be used.
Both aspects, being the linear interpretation of history and future and the anthropocentric view remain intact nowadays in Christian ethics (and as far as I understand the Islam, that one too). These aspects are used to "explain" the continuous use of non-renewable sources because god made them for humans to be used, and is even used to justify activities like genetic modification: by altering the genes you sort of acting like god, not creating like he did of course, but very close and working towards the heaven on earth. And after all, it is he who gave us the knowledge to (ab)use that.
The other interpretation is, that the resources are there to be used with measure, and biotechnology is interpreted as unjustifiable arrogance: humans never ever can create a world so marvellous and beautiful as he did, "we" are just simple human beings here to serve him and his will, and definitely not being pretentious to even consider comparing ourselves with him.

An immanent god
The other view of god emphasizes the closeness of the being: god is within the creation, instead of above watching over the world. This idea prevails in the Orthodox Church and e.g. the pacha mama of the Indians. The whole reality is created by god, and a part of god. As well as the living matter as dead matter show proof of the presence of god, and god is still creating. God isn't necessarily a masculine authority, but more like a mother, supervisor and enlighting spirit; caring, nurturing, empathizing - and vital for the carefulness of the creation.
Humans are part of this ongoing creation, to keep on realizing the power of god. An important aspect is the integrity of the creation. It tends to result in a more holistic point of view of the world, and in contrast with the transcendent god, ecocentric. Humans participate in this ongoing process using the given knowledge and technology, almost "helping and improving the creation, next to god", especially when the aim is to eradicate diseases and hunger (but the latter has more to do with fair distribution of the resources I think, and thus shouldn't justify constructing pesticide resistant crops etc.). On the other hand, when this results in implementations devastating for the world, it is interpreted as a disbelief and destruction of the existence of god. Einstein is quoted in this context: "science without religion is paralysed, religion without science is blind."


* I know I've said some aspects quite bluntly, but this is still without the intention to insult groups of people. However, if I would have presented this information very politely, all this would have been extremely woolly, sort of vague and would have become a very long write up.

The above text is a (simplified) translation of a chapter of my thesis applied philosophy called "Acceptance of genetically modified micro-organisms on the basis of different points of view of life", Wageningen Agricultural University in the Netherlands.

KANJI: SHIN JIN kami (god, spirit, soul)

ASCII Art Representation:

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Character Etymology:

A combination of , the Japanese kanji meaning "show," and , a kanji meaning "forceful speech."

A Listing of All On-Yomi and Kun-Yomi Readings:

on-yomi: SHIN JIN
kun-yomi: kami kan- kou- ka kagu kana kamo kuma ko koha dama mi

Nanori Readings:

Nanori: none

English Definitions:

  1. SHIN, JIN: god, spirit, soul
  2. kami: god, spirit, soul
  3. Ka(nagawa): prefecture near Tokyo
  4. kan(nushi): Shinto priest
  5. kou-, -shin: of or relating to Kobe
  6. kagu(ra): ancient Shinto music and dancing
  7. mi(kon): portable shrine carried in festivals

Character Index Numbers:

New Nelson: 4087
Henshall: 324

Unicode Encoded Version:

Unicode Encoded Compound Examples:

(koube): Kobe
(kamikaze): kamikaze
(shinwagaku): mythology
(shingaku): theology
(jinmu): Jimmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan
(megami): goddess
神様 (kamisama): God (monotheistic)

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They say God is dead. For the majority of Western Europeans and the most highly educated around the world, this is true. It is much truer than when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that "God is dead", and even truer than when Hegel wrote the same thing decades earlier. Even evangelical Christians in America have become just another interest group among many to be polled, probed and placated by political candidates, however influential a group they remain.

The death of God has been greeted with delight by generations since World War II, who see in it a liberation of man from other-wordly concerns so that he is free to focus on the improvement of the here and now. The promotion of the secular over the sacred has certainly been one reason for the remarkable success of western civilization and the achievements of natural science. Yet the victory of science over God has been accompanied by an arrogant and self-satisfied smugness which seems entirely inappropriate to what has transpired.

I am entirely a product of the historical circumstances that dealt the deathblow to God, and I can be no other; I cannot maintain a belief in a Supreme Being even if I try. I am not here to convert you. I am here to tell you that in gaining one world, we have lost another, and our thoughts on the situation perhaps ought to extend slightly beyond self-satisfaction. This becomes apparent when you realize that science and religion are not even by definition mutual antagonists or exclusive of one another. It is a misunderstanding to think that we have disproven the idea of God, when in fact all we have done is convince ourselves of His irrelevance.

God was "discovered" by man through the faculty of thought and destroyed by the same method; the question of evidence and proof is wholly irrelevant here, just as it is to our notion of beauty or love. A scientist can no more destroy the validity of God as an idea than he can demonstrate God's existence as a tangible thing in the laboratory. God is an idea, not a thing, whereas science deals in things. As our mastery of things has progressed, we have shed our belief in intangible ideas such as our belief in God because we think we no longer need them. The spiritual realm of the human mind still exists and is still there to be tapped; it still gives comfort to millions.

The question hence arises as to whether we were right to dispose of the idea of God. As is natural in societies that are now animated to the highest degree by science, the answers we hear most commonly are those of the scientist; no, they say, all that matters is what can be proven and the useful technology that this gives us. Has not religion held back science and technology in the past? Did it not lead to millions of lives sacrificed on altars of ignorance and stupidity, in countless wars and oppressions? Does it not encourage us to cease to think and explore the world in positive ways and devote ourselves to mindless worship?

The answer to all of these questions is that yes, the idea of God, systemized into religion, can do these things. But it is a fallacy to think that the idea of God or of gods has been merely a tool of oppression and nothing else, and that it has always and everywhere held back progress and crushed the dignity of man and left only death in its wake. Clearly, it has offered comfort to the most needy, inspiration to the most brilliant artists, and the will to continue to the most oppressed. It has even done this for entire peoples. And it has done it in a way that an understanding of the mechanics of a chemical reaction or a better toaster can clearly never hope to do; by this comparison we see the very absurdity of science's claim to have entirely destroyed the realm of spirituality.

It does not seem irrelevant to point out that the idea of God has arisen in almost every human society that there has ever been and that it is clearly in some way innate in man, even if only as a protection against his ignorance. It is a commonplace of the modern man to say that he has no need of God because he has dispelled his ignorance by science. But this ignores the vast questions on which science is not competent to answer, among which lie the most important facing us - how to construct a just society; how to live sustainably with nature; and what our societies should value and reward.

Previous civilizations found answers to these questions as part of a belief system that contained the idea of God. That our scientific civilization has become the first that has managed to actually create the possibility of wiping out all human life from Earth via a nuclear holocaust or global warming should perhaps give the smug atheist pause for thought about whether his answers are truly more valid than those of the believers.

The typical prescription of the scientist for these problems - more science - entirely misses the point, which is that science itself cannot address the questions of how society is organized. It is a means, not an end; and after the value-system provided by a belief in God was removed, we have been left with a moral black hole. Science and technological development know only how to take the raw material of the world and turn it to man's advantage; they require man to tell them what this advantage is.

If we see the world as merely something to be utilized for our own comfort - for producing objects for our use - and strip it of a higher dignity that might encourage us to pursue other goals rather than just consumption, we will eventually run out of material to consume and room in which to do it; the experience of peak oil and global warming testify to this. The Ancient Greeks did not know about these specific threats but they knew of the theoretical dangers of untrammelled utilitarianism and opposed it as a form of hubris; they and their gods knew this, but we and our science have forgotten it.

The point is that even if it is true that the belief in the existence of God caused hardship, ignorance and pain, belief in His death is not by definition an unqualified good. We have based societies on principles that are entirely novel in human history and very young, and the fact that we have already brought the world so close to extinction should be a warning. Despite science's promise of unlimited progress, no-one can claim that we have eliminated social, economic or moral problems in the western world; we are not perfect and science alone can never make us so.

The spiritual emptiness of modern life is universally remarked upon, and those who claim to have transcended it have usually immersed themselves in an irrational belief in science and "progress" as a value-system, and will be baulking at this write-up as a result. But the modern belief in "progress" inevitably raises the question of "progress towards what?" and reveals itself to have a shaky foundation. Its caricature is the Kardashev scale, which defines how "advanced" a civilization is by how much energy it consumes, as if consumption itself were the measure of our development rather than how humane or just we are.

We know that the tools of science can be turned to evil in wars and dictatorships. Almost like God opened the gates of Hell just before drawing His last breath, almost every regime that has specifically defined itself in opposition to the idea of God - Communism and Nazism being the foremost examples, along with their imitators - have not only proved to be the most brutal and bloody forms of government in all of human history, but have always found it necessary to cloak themselves in a quasi-religious aura to usurp and replace the idea of God. And our liberal societies which merely tolerate God rather than seeking to obliterate Him are left without moral compass.

The environmentalists who are now trying to desperately convince us to seek values other than easy consumption and progress are finding it impossible because without God or a similar concept, they have no means by which to compel us; hence, they are forced to wrap their proposals in "green development", which pretend to merely be a continuation of economic growth as usual by other means, and thereby entirely ignore the root of the problem. Opposition to the idea of God and the value-system that only a God can inspire are so ingrained that we no longer have any concept of higher principles than our own comfort. Technology delivered its promise to provide comfort to the multitude, but in the process it took away our ability to think about or accept as relevant any other goal.

The point is not that God is Great. It is not that we should leap back into our old superstitions or beliefs, and dismiss the enormous progress we have made in many areas in the last century. It is that life is about great choices such as these, monumental questions that underpin our civilization and ultimately determine its fate. The conditions of life might include error, might include things that are not scientific truths that can be demonstrated in a laboratory; in fact, Nietzsche was wrong to even include the word "might" in that sentence. The concept of God was one such possible way of providing an answer to these questions, but we have killed Him. He is not coming back. What bodes worst for our civilization is that after killing Him, we have forgotten how to even think about these questions, or the reason why it is important to think about them at all.

God (?), a. & n.

Good.

[Obs.]

Chaucer.

 

© Webster 1913.


God (?), n. [AS. god; akin to OS. & D. god, OHG. got, G. gott, Icel. gu, go, Sw. & Dan. gud, Goth. gup, prob. orig. a p. p. from a root appearing in Skr. h, p. p. hta, to call upon, invoke, implore. Cf. Goodbye, Gospel, Gossip.]

1.

A being conceived of as possessing supernatural power, and to be propitiated by sacrifice, worship, etc.; a divinity; a deity; an object of worship; an idol.

He maketh a god, and worshipeth it. Is. xliv. 15.

The race of Israel . . . bowing lowly down To bestial gods. Milton.

2.

The Supreme Being; the eternal and infinite Spirit, the Creator, and the Sovereign of the universe; Jehovah.

God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John iv. 24.

3.

A person or thing deified and honored as the chief good; an object of supreme regard.

Whose god is their belly. Phil. iii. 19.

4.

Figuratively applied to one who wields great or despotic power.

[R.]

Shak.

Act of God. Law See under Act. -- Gallery gods, the occupants of the highest and cheapest gallery of a theater. [Colloq.] -- God's acre, God's field, a burial place; a churchyard. See under Acre. -- God's house. (a) An almshouse. [Obs.] (b) A church. -- God's penny, earnest penny. [Obs.] Beau. & Fl. -- God's Sunday, Easter.

 

© Webster 1913.


God, v. t.

To treat as a god; to idolize.

[Obs.]

Shak.

 

© Webster 1913.

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