More accurately, our conception of God evolves to reflect our understanding of reality. The ancient Hebrews first worshipped multiple gods with various attributes associated with nature or the human condition, as was the norm in the world at the time. God eventually consolidated into one being that reflected a sense of unified Israelite identity and nationalism. This God was still prone to rule like a human king, sometimes indulging in anger and revenge. (Wrong move and I will smite you!)
Jesus enters the picture and the Greco-Roman world was quick to merge bastions of Greek philosophy with emergent Christian theology wrapped in Roman customs. Following many internal fights, papal coups, and holy wars, Christianity lands with a thud on the American continents 1,500 years later. After the self-righteous obliteration of indigenous cultures and religions and the splitting of Christian denominations ad infinitum, American Christianity now leads with a God that builds walls and bullies those who are different and oppressed while commanding that you worship Him. As I said, God reflects a people’s conception of reality.
(For the record, the only time I ever reference God using a gender-specific pronoun is when I am speaking within the context of a particular religion’s conception that God indeed has a gender. I do not hold this belief myself.)
The study of history compiled by legitimate scholars renders the evolution of the human conception of God a fact. Not to mention that basic common sense informs us that there are countless versions of “God” currently in the world spanning religions, denominations, cultures, and individuals.
A modern-day, praise-band, donut-eating, name-it-and-claim-it type of Christian today wouldn’t even recognize the God of the ancient desert monks in early Christendom. This early Christian God of the monastic traditions evoked an ascetic lifestyle whose adherents routinely deprived themselves of food and sleep and prayed non-stop every day, often with some form of self-mutilation in place. Imagine the full-body shock a contemporary churchgoer would have, mouth agape and donut in hand, if he were transported back in time to the caves of the Nitrian desert in Egypt. The stone-washed jeans and ironic beard would suddenly seem gratuitous and anachronistic.
You can also evaluate your own conception of God and how it has evolved over the course of your life. Chances are your God has also morphed if you are willing to take a critical look at it. And if your God hasn’t evolved, it is probably time to check under the hood and see how things are working. For me, God began as a megalomaniac, fire-breathing sadist. Then there was no God but faint intellectual abstractions for about ten years. Next the Supreme Sadist reappeared, and finally I redefined all of it, which I will get to later.
This blog piece is an excerpt from Chapter 1, Confession #1 of Confessions of an American None: A Credo of Sorts.