Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is There A Go(o)d?

I've often said that one of the purposes of religions is to help us wrestle with life's Big Questions. (And thanks to A.A. Milne and Pooh for the idea that Very Important Words should always be capitalized!) The Big Questions are things like: Why am I here? What's the meaning of life? What happens when we die? How should I live? Things like that.

It seems to me that one of the biggest Big Questions is, Is There A God? Now, by this I am not meaning is there an anthropomorphized deity, a big daddy or big mama in the sky, or, as a teen once put it, "a buff Santa in a toga" looking down on us from the heavens. That question, it seems to me, is too specific. It's like wondering if there's something called water but asking if there's Perrier.

So let's start at the most general. A philosopher's definition of God might be, "That Than Which No Greater Can Be Conceived," because whatever other specific attributes have been conferred on humanity's various god and goddess images, all religions have held god to be the ultimate, the absolute. So whatever else might be said about something deserving of the name “god” it must be the best, the preeminent, the unsurpassable.

And this, it seems to me, is the foundational Question we need to wrestle with: is there an absolute, preeminent, unsurpassable, ultimate . . . something? Plato called it “The Good,” and for him it was an ideal, a conception, not a tangible thing. Theists, obviously, call their "good" God and give it consciousness and will. Taoists see it as an impersonal flowing movement, the Tao. What all of them have in common is the assumption of an underlying, all-pervading, ultimate.

This question is foundational because if you believe there is a "go(o)d" then that in which you believe can provide order and meaning for life. If there is no "go(o)d" then this is a truly relativistic universe and there is no direction. Answering this Big Question, then, provides a basis to help with answering all of the others.

In Gassho,

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