God refers to the deity held by monotheists as the supreme reality. God is believed to be the sole creator of the universe. Currently (2007), probably a majority of human beings generally believe in a monotheistic God, usually in some form of the Abrahamic God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The unifying monotheistic conception of Brahman prevailing in the henotheistic belief system of Hinduism is also significant as a representative element in humanity's belief in a supreme God.
Theologians have ascribed certain attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. He has been described as incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable existent. These attributes were all supported to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars, including St Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Maimonides.
All the notable medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, attempting to wrestle with the contradictions God's attributes seem to imply. The last few hundred years of philosophy have seen sustained attacks on some of the arguments for God's existence. The theist response has been either to contend, like Alvin Plantinga, that faith is not a product of reason, but is properly basic; or to pursue, like Richard Swinburne, an approach of rational apologetics.
Etymology and usage of the term God.
The earliest written form of the Germanic word "god" comes from the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus. The English word itself descends from the Old English guþ from the Proto-Germanic *udan. While hotly disputed, most agree on the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form*?hu-tó-m, based on the root , which meant "to call" or "to invoke". Alternatively, "Ghau" may be derived from a posthumously deified chieftain named "Gaut" - a name which sometimes appears for the Norse god Odin or one of his descendants. The Lombardic form of Odin, Godan, may derive from cognate Proto-Germanic *?udánaz.
The capitalized form "God" was first used in Ulfilas' Gothic translation of the New Testament, to represent the Greek Theos, and the Latin Deus (etymology "*Dyeus"). Because the development of English orthography was dominated by Christian texts, the capitalization (hence personalization and personal name) continues to represent a distinction between monotheistic "God" and the "gods" of pagan polytheism.
The name "God" now typically refers to the Abrahamic God of Judaism (El (god) YHVH), Christianity (God), and Islam (Allah). Though there are significant cultural divergences that are implied by these different names, "God" remains the common English translation for all. The name may signify any related or similar monotheistic deities, such as the early monotheism of Akhenaten and Zoroastrianism.
In the context of comparative religion, "God" is also often related to concepts of universal deity in Dharmic religions, in spite of the historical distinctions which separate monotheism from polytheism - a distinction which some, such as Max Müller and Joseph Campbell, have characterised as a bias within Western culture and theology.
Names of God.
The noun God is the proper English name used for the deity of monotheistic faiths. Various English third-person pronouns are used for God, and the correctness of each is disputed.
Different names for God exist within different religious traditions.
Theological approaches to God.
Theologians and philosophers have ascribed a number of attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. He has been described as incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable existent. These attributes were all supported to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars, including St Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Maimonides.
Many medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, while attempting to comprehend the precise implications of God's attributes. Reconciling some of those attributes generated important philosophical problems and debates. For example, God's omniscience implies that God knows how free agents will choose to act. If God does know this, their apparent free will might be illusory, or foreknowledge does not imply predestination; and if God does not know it, God is not omniscient.
The last few hundred years of philosophy have seen sustained attacks on the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for God's existence. Against these, theists (or fideists) argue that faith is not a product of reason, but requires risk. There would be no risk, they say, if the arguments for God's existence were as solid as the laws of logic, a position famously summed up by Pascal as: "The heart has reasons which reason knows not of."
Theologians attempt to explicate (and in some cases systematize) beliefs; some express their own experience of the divine. Theologians ask questions such as, "What is the nature of God?" "What does it mean for God to be singular?" "If people believe in God as a duality or trinity, what do these terms signify?" "Is God transcendent, immanent, or some mix of the two?" "What is the relationship between God and the universe, and God and humankind?"
Most major religions hold God not as a metaphor, but a being that influences our day-to-day existences. This is to say that people who have rejected the teachings of such religions typically view God as a metaphor or stand-in for the common aspirations and beliefs all humans share, rather than a sentient part of life; whereas organized religion tends to believe the opposite. Many believers allow for the existence of other, less powerful spiritual beings, and give them names such as angels, saints, djinni, demons, and devas. Marxist writers see the idea of God as rooted in the powerlessness experienced by men and women in oppressive societies. This however is an argument from motive.
God: Theism and Deism.
Theism holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal, and is personal, interested and answers prayer. It holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and in some way present in the affairs of the world. Catholic theology holds that God is infinitely simple and is not involuntarily subject to time. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, although this belief raises questions about God's responsibility for evil and suffering in the world. Some theists ascribe to God a self-conscious or purposeful limiting of omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence. Open Theism, by contrast, asserts that, due to the nature of time, God's omniscience does not mean the deity can predict the future. "Theism" is sometimes used to refer in general to any belief in a god or gods, i.e., monotheism or polytheism.
deism holds that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world beyond what was necessary to create it. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and does not literally answer prayers or cause miracles to occur. Common in Deism is a belief that God has no interest in humanity and may not even be aware of humanity. Pandeism and Panendeism, respectively, combine Deism with the Pantheistic or Panentheistic beliefs discussed below.
History of monotheism and God.
Many historians of religion hold that monotheism may be of relatively recent historical origins - although comparison is difficult as many religions claim to be ancient. Native religions of China and India have concepts of panentheistic views of God that are difficult to classify along Western notions of monotheism vs. polytheism.
In the Ancient Orient, many cities had their own local god, although this henotheistic worship of a single god did not imply denial of the existence of other gods. The Hebrew Ark of the Covenant is supposed (by some scholars) to have adapted this practice to a nomadic lifestyle, paving their way for a singular God. Yet, many scholars now believe that it may have been the Zoroastrian religion of the Persian Empire that was the first monotheistic religion, and the Jews were influenced by such notions (this controversy is still being debated).
The innovative cult of the Egyptian solar god Aten was promoted by the pharaoh Akhenaten (Amenophis IV), who ruled between 1358 and 1340 BC. The Aten cult is often cited as the earliest known example of monotheism, and is sometimes claimed to have been a formative influence on early Judaism, due to the presence of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. But even though Akhenaten's hymn to Aten offers strong evidence that Akhenaten considered Aten to be the sole, omnipotent creator, Akhenaten's program to enforce this monotheistic world-view ended with his death; the worship of other gods beside Aten never ceased outside his court, and the older polytheistic religions soon regained precedence.
Other early examples of monotheism include two late rigvedic hymns (10.129,130) to a Panentheistic creator god, Shri Rudram, a Vedic hymn to Rudra, an earlier aspect of Shiva often referred to by the ancient Brahmans as Stiva, a masculine fertility god, which expressed monistic theism, and is still chanted today; the Zoroastrian Ahuramazda and Chinese Shang Ti. The worship of polytheistic gods, on the other hand, is seen by many to predate monotheism, reaching back as far as the Paleolithic. Today, monotheistic religions are dominant in the many parts of the world, though other systems of belief continue to be prevalent.
God: Monotheism and pantheism
monotheism holds that there is only one God, and/or that the one true God is worshiped in different religions under different names. The view that all religions are actually worshiping the same God, whether they know it or not, is especially emphasized in Hinduism. Adherents of different religion, however, generally disagree as to how to best worship God and what is God's plan for mankind. There are different approaches to reconciling the contradictory claims of monotheistic religions. The more extreme approach is taken by exclusivists, who believe they are the chosen people or have exclusive access to absolute truth, while adherents of other religions are misguided or damned. A more moderate and common view is religious pluralism. A pluralist typically believes that his religion is the right one, but but does not deny the partial truth of other religions. The most common pluralist view is that of supersessionism, i.e., the belief the one's religion is the fulfillment of previous religions. At the other extreme, we have relativistic inclusivism, where everybody is seen as equally right; a more nuanced variation of which is universalism: the doctrine that salvation is eventually available for everyone. Finally, one may also adopt a syncretic approach, typical of the New Age movement.
pantheism holds that God is the universe and the universe is God. panentheism holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe. The distinctions between the two are subtle, and some consider them unhelpful. It is also the view of the Liberal Catholic Church, Theosophy, Hinduism, some divisions of Buddhism, and Taoism, along with many varying denominations and individuals within denominations. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, paints a pantheistic/panentheistic view of God - which has wide acceptance in Hasidic Judaism, particularly from their founder The Baal Shem Tov - but only as an addition to the Jewish view of a personal god, not in the original pantheistic sense that denies or limits persona to God.
Speculative dilemmas about God.
Dystheism is a form of theism which holds that God is malevolent as a consequence of the problem of evil. There is no known community of practicing dystheists. See also Satanism.
Nontheism holds that the universe can be explained without any reference to the supernatural, or to a supernatural being. Some non-theists avoid the concept of God, whilst accepting that it is significant to many; other non-theists understand God as a symbol of human values and aspirations. Many schools of Buddhism may be considered non-theistic.
God the existence question?
Many arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed and rejected by philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers. In philosophical terminology, existence of God arguments concern schools of thought on the epistemology of the ontology of God.
There are many philosophical issues concerning the existence of God. Some definitions of God's existence are so nonspecific that it is certain that something exists that meets the definition; while other definitions are apparently self-contradictory. Arguments for the existence of God typically include metaphysical, empirical, inductive, and subjective types. Arguments against the existence of God typically include empirical, deductive, and inductive types. Conclusions reached include: "God exists and this can be proven"; "God exists, but this cannot be proven or disproven" (theism in both cases); "God does not exist" (atheism); and "no one knows whether God exists" (agnosticism). There are numerous variations on these positions.
Scientific perspective of God.
There is a lack of consensus as to the appropriate scientific treatment of religious questions, such as those of the existence and nature of God. A major point of debate has been whether God's existence or attributes can be empirically tested or gauged.
A common view divides the world into what Stephen Jay Gould called "non-overlapping magisteria" which is a concept often referred to by the acronym NOMA. In this view, questions of the supernatural, such as those relating to the existence and nature of God, are non-empirical and are the proper domain of theology. The methods of science should then be used to answer any empirical question about the natural world. The opposing view, advanced by Richard Dawkins, is that the existence of God is an empirical question, on the grounds that "a universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference." A third view is that of scientism: any question which cannot be answered by science is either nonsensical or is not worth asking, because there is no empirical answer.
God opinion statistics.
List of religious populations and Demographics of atheism
As of 2005, approximately 54% of the world's population identifies with one of the three monotheistic Abrahamic religions. 15% identified as non-religious. A 1995 survey showed similar numbers for the non-religious, though on the specific question of belief in God, only 3.8% identified as atheist.
God in popular culture.
God, as a humanized figure, usually taking the form of a man, has often appeared as a character in various works of fiction such as movies, books, and television shows. Though depictions vary, he is usually portrayed as sage, wise, and old, with a patient and calm personality. In cartoons God is usually depicted as a caricature of Michelangelo's classic painting.
God from the anthology...
Incomplete Anthology by PM Crowley. The Anthology is one man's thoughts; thinking aloud and should not be seen as anything other than opening a debate on an interesting subject. Read it with an open mind, nothing else! It is not science.
References to God.