God and Other Idols


“The Tao that can be understood cannot be the primal, or cosmic, Tao” – Tao Te Ching

Lately, I’m starting to think that every image that we can conceive of God is just another stand-in for whatever ultimate reality is. But that’s okay.

Evangelical Christians, along with other religious fundamentalists are so obsessed about getting their understanding of God correct. Or said another way the form of God correct. Because for them of religious truth, like the Highlander, there can be only one.

On the other hand, in many eastern religions, notably Hinduism, they are very relaxed about the form of God you choose to worship as they believe that the real God or ultimate reality is one and can be known through many forms, both physical and metaphysical.

In my deconstruction process, the main thing that I struggled with was with the idea that there must only be one true form of God. And if evangelicalism wasn’t it, then what was the true form of God?

But I soon realized, that even in Christianity, that belief would mean that millions of other Christians were in deception, and billions of people were off the mark.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a God who created the universe and was personal and loving enough to reveal himself to us lowly human beings, would reveal himself in more ways than just one religion or to just one tribe of people.

In any event, I didn’t know it at the time, but since Vatican II, this has been the position of the Catholic church. They believe that there are rays of truth in every religion, but in the Catholic Church, the fullness of truth is to be found.

But as I thought about it, I realized this idea extended further, to our hominid ancestors or for all we know to other intelligent species like whales. I mean, who are we to say that God doesn’t reveal himself to lower creatures.

Science is showing us that many of the things we thought were unique to us — tool making, language, mourning for the dead, culture — are found in diverse species. So what makes us think that God is only accessible to us?

So it seems to me that whether God is an agent actively revealing his nature, or is simply a reality that can be observed and felt, any species that is capable of self-awareness and abstract thought should be able to perceive of an ultimate reality, and thus of God.

But the problem is, how can our physical brains ever truly comprehend of ultimate reality? So my working ( yet utterly untestable) hypothesis is every conception of God or the ultimate is an idol. Or if you prefer, a symbol. A mirror through which we see darkly.

And maybe one day we will see clearly. Perhaps after a couple million years of evolution. Or after we die. But today, we stand in the shadow and seek after the light at the edge of our understanding.

And that’s okay.

Yet we can never forget that that which we perceive is not the absolute truth of God. And as such we shouldn’t be hyper dogmatic about our faith or claim that we have the only true faith.

In closing, I love how Yahweh introduces himself to Moses — I am that I am. Or as many scholars have said, a valid translation of that is I will be what I will be.

That sounds like a dynamic, mysterious God who invites us to meet Him wherever we are at. To steal a phrase from someone else whose name I can’t recall:

Whatever the boundary is that you are encountering the infinite, it is there you will experience the Infinite

I believe that God, whatever his fullness, is big enough to meet us where we are at. We don’t expect a 1-year-old to pronounce their words right, let alone to get the details of quantum mechanics right.

So how much more would the uncontingent ground of contingency understand that we are stumbling in the dark and be filled with compassion?

And if that being’s core nature is love, how much love and understanding would that being have for us? As Jesus said if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more would God love for us?

So let’s celebrate the divine in whatever form we choose, and trust that by and by we’ll understand it all.

faith