I finally kicked my butt today and went out for a walk/run. As I was cooling down, I started thinking about God and about frames of reference and how that constrains the very definition of God.
One of my biggest hindrances to faith in the God of classical theism is his very orthodox and mainstream definition: the Supreme Spirit, Creator of the Universe, and outside of space and time.
The problem with that definition is that while I live in this universe, I can neither confirm nor disprove that thesis.
Even if we start a colony on Mars and one day colonize our galaxy, we still can’t go to heaven while we live here. Not to mention that heaven used to be considered a very real place above the orbits of the planets in the solar system.
But I live here on the earth. And more than that, I’m 100% convinced that I will spend the rest of my life here, even if I’m rich enough one day to afford an excursion to low earth orbit.
Somehow realizing this brought the whole question of God into sharp focus. It’s no longer a question of does God exist outside of space and time. I refuse to engage with that question because I’ll never know.
But what if I reframe the question as does God exist on planet earth? Or better yet, does God interact with humans? That is a question within my power to investigate.
Now physically speaking, as a discrete ontological entity with mass and energy, I think it safe say to say God does not exist. But before we had explored the earth, we couldn’t ignore this question, and God was envisioned to live on the high mountains, and later in the sky which later became heaven.
But we know the Zeus isn’t hanging out on Mount Olympus, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t physically in the Jewish temple.
No, physically God does not exist on the earth. Rather, he is described as Spirit, which I take to mean anything from breath to mind, to consciousness. That unique quality of being a being with agency.
Going even further, I would say that any sense, thought, feeling, intuition of the divine is spirit.
And when I look at humanity, I see a preoccupation with spirit, be it divine or human, everything we do is mediated through our capacity as sentient, sapient beings.
What I only get now, is that religion — myth, ritual, ceremonies, songs, art, etc — encodes spirit in a form that reifies it.
Just like I can take a string like “Hello World” and encode it in base 64 or sha256, religions take spiritual experiences, encode it, and provide a communal structure so people can deepen their connection with God.
So as an observer looking at the world as it is, I can say that God exists. God exists in you and me and in religious activity. I don’t know if the writer intended this, but this makes my point:
But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3
On the converse, this means that when you stop practicing religion or spiritual disciplines, that for you, God ceases to be real. It’s just that simple. And like or not this is where culture in the West is headed.
Sure, most atheists who used to be believers went through an agonizing process of critique before stopping, but you get my point.
In closing, for me, this revelation actually brings me peace. It doesn’t really matter what is outside the universe if that’s even a thing.
I can focus on the here and now and decide how much I want to be spiritual or religious.