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An excerpt from a soon-to-be-published book suggests that humans may construct the concept of God out of an innate human tendency to ascribe intentionality or consciousness to whatever we interact with in the world, even when there is clearly no consciousness behind it.

I'm not sure that this is necessarily a novel idea. It is hardly news that religions have often anthropomorphized nature or otherwise assigned divinity to it (remember the Egyptian sun god Ra?) There has been a lot of speculation about a "God gene", and of course the existence of such a gene (or some inborn tendency for humans to believe in a deity) is itself no proof that God doesn't exist; after all, the existence of our inborn ability to conceive of space and time does not mean that those are merely mental constructs, or the fact that our brains are wired to conceive of light doesn't mean that photons don't exist. Nevertheless, it is an interesting thought to ponder--that humans are inclined to believe in some kind of greater spiritual reality.

There is also a flip side to this, though. Just as the atheist might dismiss belief in God as merely the human tendency to assign consciousness to that which is unconscious, I can imagine the Tillichian theologian offering the same criticism, but from the opposite angle. If we think (a la Tillich) that God is not a being, but rather being itself, then giving God the traits of human--like consciousness and a human-style personality might be seen as a huge theological mistake, as a kind of idolatry. This is not because God doesn't exist, but because one is conceiving of God in a limited sense as a being rather than as the ground and depth of being itself.

2 comments:

Cynthia said...

Your last paragraph hits it right on the head of the nail.

Since books like these continue to be published, I would think that thoughts like Tillich also need to be said again and again.

Ever thought of writing a book like this? Or should I say publishing a book - much of that writing has been done here on your blog.

Mystical Seeker said...

It's nice of you to suggest this, Cynthia, but I don't think I have it in me to write a publishable book. :)