This morning, while I was meditating, a thought popped into my mind: What's good about God? After a bit of reflection, an answer came: Nothing.
If you're an atheist or agnostic, that answer won't surprise you. But I hope to convince religious believers that they too should consider that God is good for nothing. In fact, I don't see how someone could come to any other conclusion.
Follow my reasoning...
God isn't evident. People are. Religions are founded by people who supposedly know something about God.
For example, Jesus, Mohammad, Moses.
In addition to these historical figures, there are modern day gurus, masters, sages, and prophets who are believed to have some sort of direct connection with God.
And countless members of the world's religious, spiritual, metaphysical, mystical, and religious faiths consider that God has touched, loved, changed, saved, or otherwise influenced them.
Yet let's imagine a game show: "Who Has Been Made Better by God?"
A dozen people sit in chairs on stage. The contestant -- let's say it's you -- has to figure out which of the individuals, if any, has an intimate relationship with God, and which are godless.
How would you tell? What questions would you ask?
Given the opportunity to conduct background research on these people, what evidence could you gather that would allow you to say, "Person X is better because of God"?
None. If gathering such evidence were possible, it would have been done by now.
And likely the existence of that evidence would have greatly diminished all the debating, wrangling, and arguing about whether God exists, and if so, which religion has the direct line to Him, Her, or It.
In fact, there's no way to tell if a person who claims to have a relationship with God really does. It's all a matter of blind faith.
Does God make someone moral, ethical, upstanding, virtuous, loving? No. There are plenty of good people who are religious believers. There also are plenty of good people who are atheists or agnostics.
Does God make someone wise, intelligent, a knower of things no one else knows? No. There is no verifiable evidence of anyone being privy to knowledge that could only have come from God.
Does God make someone capable of super-human powers, such as ESP, telekinesis, clairvoyance, invisibility, or such? No. There is no documented record of anyone possessing capabilities that aren't part of the normal skill set of Homo sapiens.
I could go on in the vein, but three examples are enough to make my point.
Ardent believers in God, in a God-realized human being, or in their own relationship with God, like to claim that contact with divinity has marvelous effects. Yet when they are asked, "What effects?", the answers are underwhelming.
As noted above, everything that supposedly is good about God also can be had without God. Meaning, a godly person looks no different from an ungodly person.
There's no way to tell them apart.
If you show me a religious believer who is so generous and loving he would surrender his life for another person, I can show you an atheist with the same quality.
If you show me a religious believer who is so wise, personable, and charismatic he elevates the spirits of almost everyone who comes in contact with him, I can show you an atheist with the same quality.
If you show me a religious believer who is willing to undergo arduous disciplines and sacrifices in order to achieve his life's ambition, I can show you an atheist with the same quality.
So I repeat my question: What's good about God? Along with my answer: Nothing.
I welcome comments to this post that attempt to show how it would be possible to win the "Who Has Been Made Better by God?" game. Take a stab at it. Describe how you would distinguish between a godly person, and a non-godly person.
I'm confident you'll find that there's no way to tell the difference.
And that's really good news. Because everything we call "good" is available to us here and now as normal human beings -- no special delivery from God needed.
Looking outside of ourselves for the qualities we want to embody is senseless, since there is no evidence that believing in a divinity adds anything desirable to the human experience.
So rejoice in the thought, "There is nothing good about God." This means that all the good we could ever want or enjoy is ours for the having -- as earthly beings.
all those absolute statements you make are nothing more than your opinion and you have not satisitcal basis for any of it. It's all pure crap and i don't know why you wasted your energy posting it. Except to advance your own political opinions.
Posted by: Cyfer | May 10, 2009 at 08:37 AM
Cyfer, you forgot to answer the big question: What's good about God? What sign is there that person X knows about God, and person Y doesn't?
Unless you can come up with such a sign, there's no way you can tell that I am not God-realized and expressing God's will through the post I wrote last night.
Be careful! You don't want to get on the wrong side of God! I could be divine!
But if you know some way of telling whether I, or anyone else, is God-realized, please share it. That's what I asked people to do in this post. You responded with a personal insult, which is the common response of people who are stuck in a dogmatic corner and don't have any other way to move.
Lastly, what political opinion did I express in this post? I sure wasn't aware of any political thoughts as I was writing it.
Posted by: Brian | May 10, 2009 at 09:12 AM
Good is a realativist concept. Once creatures good is another creatures bad.
For instance, one animal eating another.
My purusal of human history across the planet tends me to believe that a common belief in a "good" god amoungst the people has been instrumental in the development of civilization.
On an individual basis, perhaps some people would be "bad" w/o a belief. For instance alcoholics. Others are naturally moral and eithical but, then the arguments of origins and what not,,,,,
cultural war btwn liberal and conservative in the area of moral.
Posted by: Cyfer | May 10, 2009 at 10:52 AM
Cyfer, I wasn't really speaking about "good" in the sense you use it. My main focus wasn't morality, but reality.
My question is: what good is God, if God doesn't make any difference in people's lives? Yes, people have beliefs about God that make them act in different ways.
Some of these ways are positive -- an alcoholic stops drinking after surrendering to God -- while others are negative, a terrorist kills in the name of God.
But in neither case can it be proved that an actual reality called "God" is at work. It is the person's brain/mind at work, creating thoughts that become beliefs. Do you see the difference?
There's no evidence that God makes any difference in people's lives. Believing in God does. In the same way, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy have effects in the world (kids make money from their teeth, for example), but these entities exist only as concepts, as thoughts.
Posted by: Brian | May 10, 2009 at 11:00 AM
God -- who I don't believe in -- wanted me to tell you that he agrees with your post and he's glad you wrote it. In fact, he added that he's believed in himself since the beginning of time and it hasn't done him any good either!
Posted by: The Rambling Taoist | May 10, 2009 at 12:10 PM
Brian, I see your point now. I didn't at first. I was thinking that its so obvious that lots of people have become better people due to the positive influences of 'God'. But therin is the crux of the matter. Its all due to their BELIEF (and faith, love, etc etc) in God, and not anything that can be proven as attributed to be due to God alone (unless you say that everything is God). These two simple statements of yours finally made it clear:
"There's no evidence that God makes any difference in people's lives."
"Believing in God does."
This is true. It is the fact that people BELIEVE, that is what effects changes in their lives in positive (or negative) ways... and not anything that a "God" itself has caused.
That IS your point, is is not?
Posted by: tAo | May 10, 2009 at 12:33 PM
tAo, yes, that's my point. After I published and re-read the post I figured that some people would fail to see the difference between being affected by a belief in God, and actually being affected by God.
But I decided to leave the post with some question marks in it, hoping that readers would go through the same thought process I did in pondering the issue about how we could ever know that someone has been touched by God.
And now, if they read the comments, the intent of the post should be clearer. I learned quite a bit by writing it. I hadn't pondered the God question in this way before.
Actually, it's liberating to see things more clearly in this fashion. What it means is that if God exists, a relationship with Him/Her/It is going to be super-duper intimate. No one will ever know about it -- not directly. There never will be any proof of it -- not directly.
This is pretty much what "deep" mystics always have said: God is the ultimate mystery (that's why they're called mystics). When we try to make God into something that can be shown to our friends, like a magic trick, that isn't God.
Posted by: Brian | May 10, 2009 at 12:45 PM
Yes I see what you mean. It's not that we are saying that God does not exist, or that God can not or does not affect people's lives. It is possible that God exists, and even may effect changes (beneficial or otherwise) in the lives of human beings. There is just no conclusive evidence that God alone is doing that. The issue here is that it is clear that people's own beliefs in God that ARE indeed effecting changes, positive or otherwise. Some may say that that is still due to God's own influence, but again, there is no proof that that is the case. So at this point, we are left with the only cause being due to beliefs in God, rather than any direct or supernatural effect from God.
That being said, I am now tending toward a sense that God (along the lines of the Islamic or Sufi sense of Allah) is the limitless and omni-present origin and source of manifest existence, and humans are part of this creation/manifestation, but that God/Allah does not intervene in the manifest universe or in the lives of mortal beings.
The mortal beings such as humans have the presence of God/Allah within them, but it is their own beliefs and good (or bad) qualities that effect changes in their lives.
My sense is that God is already omni-present (if you will), and does not operate on a personal level. That God/Allah operates more on a universal level as a silent witness and as univerasal justice. So it is the beliefs and actions and qualities of mortal beings that determine their fate, and not God's intervention.
I hope you can get some sense of what I am saying. It is difficult to express what I mean here. I am not saying that God exists, or does not exist. I am saying that I feel that God is actually way beyond the human capacity to comprehend, at least in the way that humans tend to conceptualize and anthropomorphize God.
It seems to me that there is an origin to the universe and existence and life... but that origin (which I call God for lack of a better term) is not something that can be easily comprehended by human intellect, and has no direct personal intervention in the individual lives of humans.
This God/Allah is more like an inconcieveably infinite, intelligent, and yet formless source or creator, that is prior to the existence of the entire manifest universe/cosmos and all created (mortal) beings.
Thus God represents perfect justice, wisdom, light, compassion, etc... but does not intervene in the affairs of humans on any sort of individual level.
In other words, God does not interact in or affect the lives of humans, but humans can (if they so choose) move closer to knowing God and God's grace, wisdom, and justice... by developing and increasing Godly qualities such as honesty, compassion, tolerance, mercy, respect towards all lives as much as one's own life, and especially patience.
In other words, God is already the origin and sustainer of everything, so it is humans who now must try to become closer or more like unto God, by developing God's qualities.
And that is all in the hands of humans and in their beliefs and actions, etc, and not in anything that God is doing to or for humans.
God has already provided everything for humans, if you will. It is humans who now must become more Godly. In a sense, God has already done His part. It is now up to us humans to generate the necessary conviction, certitude, and determination to develop more Godly or divine qualities. It is not God's job. God has already fed us with the milk of His grace and wisdom. It is now all in the hands of human beings to become more like God.
This particular issue and subject matter requires a certain kind of deep contemplation and open-mindedness and humility in order to truly begin to understand. It is not a matter of having beliefs (although beliefs do affect people's behavior).
It is simply a matter of submitting to and embracing the wonder and mystery that is God & Man, and understanding the true relationship between God & Man, and Man & God. Insh'allah. Alhamdulillah!
Posted by: tAo | May 10, 2009 at 05:14 PM
tAo, that is really beautiful.
I have a couple of questions though.
"...I feel that God is actually way beyond the human capacity to comprehend...."
".....but humans can (if they so choose) move closer to knowing God and God's grace, wisdom, and justice... by developing and increasing Godly qualities such as honesty, compassion, tolerance....."
My questions are
1. Does it mean that humans can move closer
to knowing God but can never know
2. This is almost same as the first
question. Could it be possible that
atleast a couple of human beings in the
entire human history realized God
Posted by: xyz | May 10, 2009 at 09:32 PM
"I have a couple of questions though. My questions are"
"1. Does it mean that humans can move closer to knowing God but can never know
-- Well, I did not intend to portray a discrepancy about this. What I meant to say is this:
That by developing godly qualities, humans can become more godly, and thus develop more divine wisdom and compassion and unity etc.. I did not mean to say that humans can ever really KNOW God "completely", but rather that they can become more like God, or in a sense, grow closer to God and gain more understanding of God. But never actually know God "completely".
"2. This is almost same as the first
question. Could it be possible that
atleast a couple of human beings in the
entire human history realized God
-- I suppose, that anything COULD be possible. However, I have to say that without knowing exactly and precisely what you mean when you say "realized God completely"... all I can say at this point is that I don't feel that "God" is even remotely a matter of a 'something' that can ever be known or "realized", as you seem to conjecture.
As I said above, I think that man is not in any kind of position, nor has the capability to know God "completely".
At the very best, I believe that man can develop and acquire godly or 'more divine' qualities, divine wisdom, and spiritual vision, but never actually KNOW God "completely"... because God is a unique power and mystery that is forever beyond man's ability to comprehend "completely".
I think it may be possible for man to have some sort of glimpse, and even become a better or more perfect human being that has some fair degree of what may be called 'divine qualities', but that man will never actually have "realized God completely" as you say. I consider that sort of notion to be a myth. I think man can know or understand some aspects of what God is like, but not everything about God.
And no matter what, if there is any knowing of God, it will always only be God who can see and know God, and not man.
Thats about all I can offer you.
Posted by: tAo | May 10, 2009 at 11:57 PM
When I said "knowing God completely" I meant it in a general way. If people come up with trillion questions about the nature of God, then you know (through direct experience) the answers for all of them even if the answers can not be expressed in words.
Posted by: xyz | May 11, 2009 at 08:31 PM