God is a concept, a construct of the human imagination. Animals have no god. To your dog, you are God. There are two basic reasons that human beings feel the need for this concept. The first is our almost primeval need to make order out of chaos. Secondly, God is man’s attempt to fill our lives with meaning and purpose. It is our answer to the age-old question – “Is that all there is?”  Our rooms are filed with elephants and the largest of all is our mortality and the truth of the time we live between birth and death. We are but one single grain of sand on a small beach on a vast ocean.

In order to be able to ignore that elephant we have invented a scenario that provides an invisible higher being with whom we have a very personal and very special relationship. This person loves us unconditionally, rewards us for our good deeds, and who will not only be there for us while we are alive, but will provide a wonderfully peaceful and fulfilling life after death. We will be reunited with our loved ones, who will appear at an undefined age but perfect state of health.

And God inexplicably has a human gender, male. So we refer to God as a “him”. But for God to exist, it seems we felt the need to invent an anti-God. We refer to it also as a male. He is known as “the devil” and in many cases even gives him a name, Satan. He resides in “Hell”, a dark fiery pit filled with people whom God has rejected. God, on the other hand, resides somewhere above the clouds in a place called “Heaven”. These places are, of course, also concepts.

To contravene one of God’s laws is a “sin”, and those who do so are called sinners.  Sinners who don’t repent (I am unfortunately unable to clearly define what this entails) are unable to enter Heaven upon their demise. They go to Hell. God’s rules are apparently fluid, open to interpretation and analysis. So, God’s rules are not set in stone – unless of course you believe the story of Moses to be fact. Moses, it is written, had a real-life encounter with God on Mount Sinai and was given either two or three tablets of stone carrying God’s ten basic rules (better known as “commandments”).  The mount was said to be covered in cloud and Moses is alleged to have stayed there for forty days and forty nights awaiting God’s presence (coincidentally, the time it is said that was the imperative in Noah building an Ark as a result of continuous rain some time long ago).

Communication with God is called “prayer”. People pray silently, vocally, and in song and chant. The purpose of prayer is to acknowledge God, but, far more, to seek his favour. We pray in times of adversity, that those times may change, and we pray in thanks in times of fortune. Some pray daily in thanks for their very existence, something for which we should all be thankful in some way. Others pray daily in “reverence” of their god. Most pray only when they are in despair.

Over the centuries of human existence, the definition of God, his rules and his relevance have varied in interpretation. Most of these variances have been largely pragmatic. Apart from man’s inherent need for order is man’s need to belong. Belonging is steeped in acceptance, and that is a basic human need. It’s why we belong to clubs, groups, teams, and organisations. The commonality of belief and purpose binds us like nothing else, except of course family which is the most rewarding of associations in the human experience. This led to what is known as “religions”.  There became a division in beliefs, the definition and identification of God, and the relevance of the commandments. New rules were invented and imposed upon those who identified themselves with a particular religion. Then it became a competition, and righteousness based not only resentment, but violence. Religious differences have cost more lives than any other purpose in human history.

This should be a work of fiction, but sadly it is not. This is the truth of our world, and the more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems. To believe in the existence of God is called “faith”. In many countries it is perceived as absolutely necessary to existence. So, non-believers are the silent majority.  And yes, I am a non-believer. But the simple truth is that I may well be wrong. There may be a big picture, a God who rules our world. But the greater intellectual probability is that there isn’t. The only real truth is that we simply don’t know. If you believe the believers, we will know all one day. But, then again, maybe not.

Geoff Mooney