I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the word God. I generally consider myself agnostic, but I think sometimes that word evokes something noncommittal. (Does God exist? I don’t know – I’m hedging my bets.)
Now, to be sure, I’m a hopelessly noncommittal person about a great many things. However, with respect to the nature of the universe, I’m actually passionately invested in not knowing. One of my favorite things about life and the universe is that it is fundamentally a mystery. I love science, not because it solves the mystery, but because it deepens it.
Now as for the word God: I’ve attended various liberal religious services over the years, and often there are songs or chants that use the word God. These places are plenty liberal enough that I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I mentally translated “God” to “the mystery of the universe”, and yet I’m still reluctant to say the word.
The other night, I finally realized why. Most religious notions of God are prescientific responses to the mystery of the world. They are anthropocentric: even if they don’t describe “God” as some big man in the sky, they still use the language of God “knowing” or “doing” or “willing”. But what does it mean to “know” something in the absence of a physical brain attached to a physical body?
Before science became a thing, it was only natural that people interpreted the movements of the sun or the changing of the seasons as the will of some sort of consciousness. But nowadays we know so much more, and what we know suggests (to me at least) a vast and, frankly, impersonal universe. So why would the mystery of reality boil down to anything remotely resembling a human being, or even a consciousness as we traditionally conceive of it?
That’s my issue with the word “God” – even if I interpret it as “mystery”, it has so much prescientific baggage. I prefer the new and evolving mystery brought to us by scientific investigation.