God is a construct.
You read that correctly. Our collective human, systemic, identification of “God” is nothing more than an idea. This God-idea is constructed by ideology, and as it happens, the planet is filled with myriad conflicting God-ideas.
To qualify, I am not denying the existence of a God-being outside of and/or infused throughout the human experience of time and space. On the contrary, I contend that the being we call “God” is imaginary, as it is a concept to which we ascribe a collection of attributes, assigning the signifier (fancy for word) “God.”
Ultimately, any God-concept is rooted in language. An arbitrary code, language is the vehicle through which ideas find expression. The ideas expressed through language exist outside of language; thus, language is symbolic, and where there are symbols, there is room for interpretation. This is why currently, in the year 2019, there exist 33,000 distinct Christian denominations. Each of these ascribes, to the God-figure, a set of defining characteristics, the consequences of which are conflicting doctrines delineating how to “live” as a Christian, which includes how to worship, what to believe, how to profess belief, required rites, as well as the assignment of souls to one destination (or another) in the afterlife. Likewise, every–single–one of these 33,000 groups thinks it’s interpretation of The Bible is the anointed—the chosen—the correct—interpretation, and those who exist outside of it’s prescribed conditions of Christianity are out of the fold—damned—condemned to eternal suffering. This rationale accounts for religions that operate under the signifier “Christian.” While believers profess there is “one true God” and The Bible is “ultimate truth,” in practice, there are thousands of versions or impressions or conceptualizations of this supposed “true” God and the supposed accuracy of scriptural interpretation.
What are the implications of this reality? The process of defining God and “God’s will” occurs within the Unconscious. As individuals, we enter into a faith system (ideology) and assume it to be ultimate truth—without question. We internalize experiences unique to our existence and frame those experiences within this “faith” allowing no room for opposition.
Cool. That’s all wonderful—if we could co-exist on the planet peacefully and lovingly, as we all adhere to the tenants of our respective faith practices.
But we don’t.
We band together in cliques, casting out the dissidents. We spew hatred and condemnation on those who oppose us. The absence of love and empathy is the sole reason, in my opinion, for us (humans)—each in our own right—to question the systems to which we so rigidly adhere.
The problems of unbending adherence to any ideology are:
- Total disregard of empirical evidence that contradicts tenants of said ideology
- Manifestation of aggressive and destructive behaviors
- Perpetuation of abusive power dynamics within relationships between individuals and people groups AND
- Preclusion of autonomous individual development
The philosopher Kierkegaard, in a revolutionary manner, expressed his own inward inclinations or convictions, proclaiming that faith in the God-being meant seeking truth from within. He acknowledged the threat this thinking posed to members of the faith community, as well as to relationships amid believers. Nevertheless, he is known as the Father of Existentialism and many consider him to be an exemplar of Christian faith.
On my personal journey, I have been deeply conflicted when the tenants of my “faith” compelled me to do things that just felt wrong to me. My worst memory of this occurred when my little boy was three or four years old. He was somehow asking questions about dying, and I felt so torn about how to proceed in the moment. My God-idea (known in psychoanalysis as the Big Other) compelled me to tell him the story of the devil who fell from grace and rules the Underworld, so I could explain the two alternatives for post-earthly existence. It felt so wrong to me as I told the story because within myself, I felt like it wasn’t true. I persisted, however (I am literally cringing as I type this) because my impression of God was based in this form of Christianity–this ideology–that says you have to profess belief in order to attain eternal glory. The worst part is that my little boy became so frightened afterwards. I literally traumatized my son with a myth about this fiend of a devil who burned people for all eternity for not professing belief. At the time, I felt confused. My thoughts strung themselves along these lines: I am supposed to teach my kids about Jesus so they believe and get to heaven. This doesn’t feel right. I am not sure this is actually how it all works. I am a bad Christian if I don’t do this.
I did not include this anecdote to spur a debate about the existence of heaven or hell. My point is that I embraced an ideology. I ignored concrete evidence in my life that pointed to flaws in the construction of the ideology. I performed a destructive behavior. I told my kid a story that still haunts him, and to this day, I labor to assuage his concerns with regularity, knowing I acted in error, initially, by narrating the mythic account to his vulnerable little soul.
Ultimately, my goal is to live a life of love. To love others. To include others. To practice patience, peace, empathy, and vulnerable transparency. Ideology makes no space for these things. The God-construct imposed by doctrinal police makes no space for these things. If there is a God-being, I believe–I have faith–that It exists outside of time, outside of space, and outside of language. With that said, I find language confines the scope of this being’s potential, and ideology is but a prison, within which we enclose the Real.