One way to think of God is as a ruler, a decider, some sort of higher being that we can appeal to and who makes decisions that affect us. This God performs miracles or causes tragedies, punishes people and rewards people. This is the God of “God damn!” Some people feel especially close to this God and they convey God’s wishes to the rest of us. This is the God of most religions and the religious leaders have special access to this God.
In the Jewish and Christian religions with which I am most familiar, this is the God who wrote the ten commandments and who spoke through Jesus and who decided who got to be king and queen of European nations. This is the God we pray to for mercy and victory. This God is often invoked to compel people to do things, think certain ways, believe certain things. Leaders since the beginning of time have persuaded us that this God is on their side and that’s why we should follow the leader. “Follow me! It’s what God wants!”
Another way to think of God, a reason to believe in God, is to explain stuff we can’t otherwise explain. This is the hand of God, an act of God, natural causes, the nature of things. This God is also responsible for miracles and tragedies but no one has special access to pull the miracle and tragedy strings. In fact, we’re not sure who is pulling the strings. This is the God of “God knows!” This God is a complete mystery, baffling, sometimes infuriating and sometimes thrilling. When we can’t find any other explanation for something we attribute it to this God. “It’s God’s will,” we say.
In both cases, God is the creator of the universe. By Jewish and Christian religions, the first God created the universe in seven days. You can read the details in Genesis. Scientists debate how the second God created the universe. And until there is agreement on a single scientific explanation, even scientists must marvel at the miracle of creation and attribute it to someone or something or somehow.
Both Gods are higher and bigger than us. We are small in the presence of each. The first God commands our respect because if we don’t respect God and God’s teachings we might get punished. The second God commands our respect because we just can’t understand the miraculousness of the thing we’re looking at: a sunrise or a river or a bug.
I do not believe in the first God; that there is some higher being who judges us and makes decisions accordingly. I do believe in the second God; that there is a whole lot I don’t understand and I am in awe of the miracles around me that I don’t understand.
I believe in the power of prayer, but in my view the best prayers are not about asking God to make decisions in my favor but rather the best prayers are expressions of acceptance and gratitude for the miracles I experience. The best prayers are hopes to find and play my right-sized part in the universe.
For me, God is all the stuff I don’t understand. And all the possibilities.
I know there is a God because there’s all this stuff that I don’t understand! All this stuff had to get here somehow. I didn’t make it. I don’t know how it works.
Belief in the second God invokes humility: there’s a lot I don’t understand and I’m fine with that. Belief in the first God invokes arrogance: I know what God wants.
Belief in the first God is nerve-wracking. I am always wondering if I have done the right thing, who is good and who is evil, and what is right and what is wrong; in the eyes of God. Belief in the second God is acceptance. There’s a lot I don’t understand and I’m fine with that.
Any belief in God is a choice. No one can actually prove, as a “fact,” that a certain type of God exists. God knows people have been trying for years! Ha.
I choose to believe in a God that I don’t understand; a God that IS the stuff that I can’t think. I choose an image of God that encourages me to be humble. I am just hoping to find and play my right-sized part in the universe.