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1.10c The mirror that reflects ourselves
This situation arises because the idea of God is so vast and fluid, because there are so many scriptures and because these scriptures (as we will see in more detail in the next section) are so contradictory. There is no simple, easy definition of God that every believer (and every atheist) can accept. The idea of God is so vast and amorphous that it can only make sense when it is reduced to a concept that can be easily understood. In order to grasp the concept of God, each believer can choose - in fact, they have no option but to choose - a specific view of God.
Like children in a candy-shop, believers choose the aspects of God which attract them. They choose the god they feel comfortable with, the god they feel closest to. Each believer takes from scripture what he or she wants, at either a conscious or subconscious level; they choose the God that reflects their personality. In scripture they light on the passages that affect them personally and ignore or belittle the passages that do not meet their needs. In a congregation they seek a preacher and an ethos that reinforces their own point of view. In short, out of all the possible gods offered by scriptures, by churches, mosques and synagogues, and by tradition, sincere believers inevitably choose and worship the god that reflects their own personality - their own fears and desires. (In every congregation there are men and women who attend out of habit or from family or community pressure; their faith, if they have any, is not influenced by those around them.)
We saw in Section One that God and faith are independent of each other. God may or may not exist, but look into any individual's faith and what you see not is not the deity, but no more than that man's or that woman's personality.
Christian preachers whose lives are dominated by anger or insecurity focus on the Old Testament and God's anger and retribution. Muslim preachers with the same emotions hammer insist that Allah condemns all thieves to amputation and infidels to violent death. Christian preachers whose personalities are dominated by love and self-worth turn their attention to the New Testament and Jesus' messages of acceptance and forgiveness. Their Muslim counterparts stress Allah's compassionate nature and the duties of respect and charity. The Archbishop of Canterbury moulds his God from the stories of the New Testament, the Spiritual Leader of Iran does the same from the Quran and Hadith. Liberal and Orthodox Jews make their own selection from the Bible and Torah. Every religious leader, every religious follower creates their own God.
1.10d In their own image
The question as to whether or not we were made in God's image is discussed elsewhere on this website. Whatever the answer to that question, it is clear that the opposite is true, believers create God in their own image.
for a summary of this chapter click here
or move on to
Chapter Two: Problems with God
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If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
Check the answer