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There are many different types of theism.
Of the many different types of "god concept"
that of the scriptural God is probably
the most common.
It's time to re-evaluate the scriptural God.
What’s wrong with theism? Nothing at all. Like atheism, theism is a belief like any other belief. And anyone can believe what he/she wants.
Atheism is a singular belief. That is, that there is no deity or intelligence involved in the creation, design or operation of the Universe.
Theism, however, is a much more complex bundle of beliefs.
One can believe in a god that is omnipotent, omniscient, both omnipotent and omniscient, or neither.
One can believe in a god that is benevolent, malevolent, indifferent, or even ignorant of humans.
One can believe in a god that is transcendent, immanent, or personal.
One can believe in a god that is the only such being, is one of two or a few, or is one of many.
One can believe in a god that either does or does not desire to be known to humans.
One can believe in a god that is the only supernatural entity, or in one that is accompanied by a “court” of lesser entities such as angels, demons, Satan, etc.
One can believe in a god of peace or a warrior god, or a god that takes on both of these roles, just at different times.
We could continue creating this menu to cover the nature of all the gods that each religion and scripture describes, but you get the idea. [Choose one from each column. Egg rolls are extra.]
The people believing in all these gods are at least as numerous as the gods themselves. The ways in which people become theist are also numerous and highly variable. Among them:
A religious theist (the most usual) believes the precepts of the religion into which he or she was born or converted. That person was taught, in the context of that religion, about a particular God that has particular characteristics and behaves in a certain way. The great majority of theists were born into families that are/were theist, and their home life, their teachers, their religious schools and the books they were encouraged to read (including the scriptures), gave them a theist perspective within their religion. Usually, religious theists think of their God as described in their scriptures: all-powerful and all-knowing, benevolent, and demanding certain standards of behaviour and ethics.
A philosophical theist (rare) is one who deduces that there has to be a god by applying observation and logic, or by reading and understanding what philosophers (ancient and modern) have to say on the subject. Philosophical theism does not necessarily derive from the experience of any formal religion, but it may be expressed in terms of the religion within which that person was brought up. Generally, the god of the philosophical theist will tend to be more cosmic in scope and less specific than the gods described in most religions.
A scientific theist is one who, in studying the scientific evidence, becomes convinced that some agent had to be responsible for the creation of our Universe. No assumptions are necessarily made concerning the nature and capabilities of that agent/god other than at some point it was capable of creating our Universe ex nihilo or from other material in the Kosmos, such as the singularity that would become our Universe. Many people who call themselves deists fall into this category.
An experiential theist is one whose belief arises from personal experience, such as an encounter with a god and/or any other extra-natural being. One example of this type of experience is the “near-death” vision; another might be contact with a person known to be dead; yet another might be a prophetic experience such as Isaiah is described as having in the Book of Isaiah. Experiential theism may lead to a belief in a specific God related to the individual’s experience, or provide reinforcement of the person’s existing religious theism.
An irrational theist
A non-rational theist is one who feels that the hypothesis “God exists” is neither provable nor falsifiable and hence is a matter of faith, rather than science. (In order for the scientific method to be applied in a meaningful way, the hypothesis being tested must be provable and falsifiable. If this is not the case, the hypothesis is not a matter of science.) Comment 1 in Post #6 is an example of a theist who thinks this way. That commenter recognizes that science and belief exist as two occasionally overlapping realities. This is an excellent way to cope with the overlap, or to deal with information that is doubtful, but it removes theism from the realm of rational discussion, which is not something I intend to do.
As we have seen above, we can have a wide variety of gods, but when most theists or, for that matter, most atheists, refer to God, they usually have in mind one of two types of god.
The scriptural God is the God most often referred to, since this is the God that most people grew up with. I call this concept the “pre-third millennial God.” This is also the God of the monotheistic religions. Although the image of this God varies somewhat between religions, particularly between Eastern and Western religions, its main characteristics are that God is good, powerful, personal, all-knowing and involved in the affairs of mankind.
The universal god (what I call yotzer) is the god that created the entire Universe. This is the god that the scientific theist identifies as the agent that created the Universe and the physical laws that govern it.
The scriptural God has been invented many times over by human beings. It is a concept that has allowed our species to progress by providing divine authority for standards of behaviour and rules for working with one another. However, it is quite possible that we no longer need this concept. Does anyone still believe that an individual who is secular or atheist is automatically less moral or contributes less to the wellbeing of the community? Does anyone really believe that if we pray hard enough and sincerely enough, we get what we pray for? Does anyone really believe that evil people get punished by a divine judge? There are too many flaws in the original concept of the relationship between humans and God. The third millennium provides us with an opportunity to grow our god concept from the scriptural God of the planet earth to the universal god yotzer. The only thing missing is the collaboration of science and religion.