What is “God”?

Two weeks ago I had a wonderful program, What Do Rabbis REALLY Believe About God?

To that question let me add: What do Catholics believe about God? What do Zoroastrians believe? What do agnostics or Buddhists believe? What about Catholic priests?  Muslim imams?

When I pose this question to individuals, many are quick and confident as they tell me what someone else, some other religion, believes.  But when I ask them, what do YOU believe about God?  They slow down. That’s a hard one, complicated…  It is easy to say what someone else believes; you’ve boiled it down to something concise. It is much harder to say what you believe. You are in your own head and aware of all the contradictions, confusions, doubts.  Even if you can say, I do believe in God, there is still the question, so, what is it that you believe?

One of my favorite conversations with an interfaith couple involved this question. The Catholic young man told me, “I don’t believe in God. I believe in a cosmic force that guides our lives.” Hm, for ease of conversation let’s call that CFTGOL, or we could shorten it further to God. Many people assume that the word “God” is defined as a bearded man in the sky and they certainly don’t believe in that! I invite you to stop defining God as “not what everyone else believes” and try to figure out what you believe. Once you know what you believe you’ll be more tolerant of others and their personal view of God.

The great Jewish sages, Maimonides and Nachmanides, had dramatically different views of God. An Orthodox rabbi once described them this way -Maimonides was a rationalist and Nachmadnides was more of a mystic. Some modern day historians say that it isn’t clear to them that Maimonides believe there was a God. A local Conservative rabbi teaching a class on God defined the Jewish belief this way, “Jews believe in one God… or fewer.”

Some atheists and agnostics have taken the time to consider the possible proofs that God is real and come to the conclusion that there is not sufficient evidence to make them believe. Other believers and nonbelievers just jump to their own opinion without any substantial exploration and then are belligerent about their chosen opinion. Isn’t life a lot more interesting in part because we have so many different opinions?