Do You “Believe in God”? (And What Does That Mean?)

In my last blog, I brought up the subject of “faith” and what it means … and how passionately some people are willing to insist that — in order to be “saved” (or some equivalent) — one MUST pledge allegiance to one “correct” set of beliefs (theirs, of course!). But when most people say, “I believe in God,” can they even describe what they mean?

One of the commenters to my last blog remarked how important “faith in God” is — mentioning God as the universal source of love, etc. (He also weighs in on how “evolution” is a false belief, even though evolution can be (and is) viewed by many Christians as a very elegant example of “intelligent design.”)

Except for his dismissal of science (with regard to evolution), however, I do not disagree with him — depending, of course, upon what he means by “God.” The word means so many different things to different people, in different cultures (on different planets?) … it conjures up a multitude of images and myths. I don’t think the word “God” should ever be used unless one is prepared to define what one means by it. Otherwise, how can anyone reasonably ask people to “believe in” Him (or It, or whatever he has in mind). Believe in what? It’s absurd to assume, in this multicultural world (and country), that everyone knows what you mean.

This only highlights the problem of using one’s “faith” as a good barometer of anything real, and the problem of blindly trusting “faith-based” positions in general. The genius of the American political system, as it was set up by our Founding Fathers, was in freeing all citizens from having to conform to any religious or political belief systems. No dogmatic mind control is allowed in a free society — thus we have separation of church and state, one of the foundations of the American political system.

In response to another comment, by talking about the unreliability of being too sure about one’s beliefs, I am not having a “crisis of faith.” In fact, my faith, as subject to renewal as it is, has never been stronger. For instance, I have a lot of faith in many ideas (including my own concept of “God”) as being true, even if I am committed to allowing my beliefs to be subject to change (aka “learning”).

I don’t think it is infallible, but I have faith in my intuition. I never declare a belief in any concept that doesn’t make sense logically and intuitively. If I make a mistake — as we all do — I chalk it up to a learning experience. If believing in your own “God-given” intelligence is not faith, I don’t know what is!

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