When we are dealing with the fundamental questions of existence, we are naturally limited by the possibilities of our language. Our minds are too limited to understand eternity, so in some respects, we need to talk in generalities.
That said, I disagree with people who say that God, faith and other spiritual matters must be felt and cannot be experienced through our thoughts. If God cannot withstand the scrutiny of our human brains, then there really isn’t much to God. Furthermore, if God created us, why would he have given us brains to question his existence if he could not pass this test? Fortunately, I believe God can be understood intellectually as well as emotionally, and I am going to try to address both in this chapter.
With our groundrules in mind, we must start by acknowledging what God is not. God is not some guy in a white beard sitting on a throne on some mountain. There is no place where you can go and see the physical God. God is clearly some spiritual presence that is not something we cannot see or even understand fully with our limited capacities. Thus, any debate over whether God is male or female borders on the ridiculous. Indeed, it minimizes God. God is something more than any of us, and our effort to bring him, her or it down to our level is really quite demeaning.
Interestingly, the problem that all of us face in understanding or describing God speaks to the reality that religions must struggle with. That’s why no religion can be perfect. Indeed, religions are all cultural creations set up to describe the indescribable. Each religion is specific to the culture in which it was created. I would submit that most religions are in fact grappling with the same spiritual reality, but are trying to find a way to enable the human beings within its culture to experience the almighty. That is really what differentiates the religions from each other — not the spiritual underpinning they are trying to get at, but the cultural experience laid over that spiritual reality to explain it.
So God is not a person, God is not a he or a she, and God is not the cultural creation most religions use to explain God. Now that we’ve established what God is not, what exactly is God? Fundamentally, God is a spiritual force that links all living things. As humans, we come from God to achieve the purpose of our lives — learning our lessons — and once our short lives end, we will return to God.
You can see that I’m struggling here to try to explain this concept. But I’m certainly not the first to attempt this struggle. If you think about it, for all the great religious figures of all time, whether they be Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Buddha, or any other of the hundreds and even thousands of people who have struggled to explain God to us, this fundamental concept of God is what they were getting at. It’s only when they try give us tools to experience God, tools such as prayer, meditation, yoga, or any other spiritual practice, that their approaches start to diverge. Ultimately, this fundamental truth is what they were all getting at.
In an effort then to avoid the mistakes of the past, I am not going to try to define God beyond this limited understanding of God as a force that binds all living things. It’s only when we try to define God beyond this point that one groups says “God is on my side and not yours” and the other group naturally says the same thing. This clash becomes the basis of the violence and outrages that have been done in God’s name over time — everything from the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition to 9–11. We need to get away from these culturally-created definitions that become simply an excuse for hatred and discrimination. The truth is that with God, there are no sides. God is simply the force that binds all living things in the universe.
Furthermore, the concept of God as all-powerful is also misplaced. God is both all powerful and not powerful at the same time. God is both actively involved in our lives and not at all actively involved at the same time. How can that be? As living beings, we are bound to all other people — indeed all living creatures everywhere. We have already established that we chose the challenges of our lives as an opportunity to learn our lessons. As a result, we are connected with God, and we are either acting in a way that is consistent with the purposes we set for our lives or we are acting in an inconsistent manner. If we are acting in a consistent manner, we may face difficulties and unpleasant tasks (after all, that’s what it takes to learn, isn’t it?), but ultimately, we will find satisfaction and protection. If we act in an inconsistent way, we may find short-term pleasure, or this path may seem easier in the short term, but ultimately, we will be disappointed and frustrated with our lives. Why? Because we did not achieve the goals set for us by the almighty.
It is incorrect to expect the hand of God to reach down and physically impact our world. Nevertheless, this understanding does not diminish the power of God. Because we are all linked, and because the entire world is acting within the context of God, the entire world is directed to act consistently with the purposes of the almighty. In this way, our lives and everything we interact with is in fact controlled by God. It is in this way that God is all powerful.