EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul discusses how the concept of “god” varies from one religion to another with the focus on Christianity, Judaism, and Taoism.
THE CRITICS EXCLAIM! “It is absolutely certain that Paul Sunstone will someday come to a rich and full understanding of God. That is sure to be the day Our Altogether Righteous and Just Lord mercifully condemns Paul Sunstone to being eternally chained to Justin Bieber’s buttocks in the hottest regions of hell. Until that day, his opinions and views of deity cannot possibly rise above the ignorant, thoughtless slime that is his post, ‘About Your Gods’.” — Merriweather Sterling, Blogs of the Day, “The Daily Burtie”, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, UK.
(About a 4 minute read)
A while back, I got into it with a genuinely bright friend of mine. My friend — bright as he is — is nevertheless much like so many of us these days. That is, he’s never had much time for an impractical education. A rounded education that includes substantial delving into the pure sciences, fine arts, and humanities. Quite unlucky for him, he’s merely a successful, well to do, happy, and very bright engineer.
To give him credit, he is intellectually honest and open-minded. Yet we got into it about “God” mainly — I think — because Jeff is more or less familiar only with the most popular American notions of deity — plus (and this is the key part) he’s not been taught all the impressively impractical and alarmingly esoteric tricks of textural analysis.
You know, the useless but harmless tricks you learn by studying, say, how Wittgenstein analyzes a philosophical problem or challenge. Or perhaps learn by being guided through an analysis of the shifting morals and values of British authors from 1720 to 1920 as shaped by their literary point of views. Fun stuff! Quite fun stuff!
But who has the time for such fun in an age when corporations demand you work twice as hard as your parents for less chance at the senior ranks than your grandfather had?
When I was in corporate sales, I discovered — with mixed feelings — that the further up the corporate ladder I was selling to, the more likely the executive was to be taking night courses in the arts and humanities.
As one senior executive told me, “The problem with the arts and humanities is you only really need them in business once you reach my level or above. Then you need them to be confident you can figure out the bigger pictures, develop lethal competitive strategies, create and foster a corporate culture, and so on. Before that, they’re usually a liability.”
It’s possible I even shocked bright Jeff a wee bit when I suggested there was more to the god concept than the most popular notions of Zeus, Yahweh, and Christ. He was pretty much “Huh?” about it.
Perhaps you yourself have noticed it though. Now and then you come across some Jewish thinker — he or she might or might not be religious — who uses the word “God” in a rather peculiar and strange way.
I’m not certain how prevalent they are, but you come across one now and then. They use “God” more in the sense of “The Way of Nature” or “The Way of the Cosmos” than in the sense of “A Supreme and Sentient Being”. Einstein seems to have been pretty much in that camp, and Spinoza certainly was.
But some Jewish thinkers even go a bit further than them. I’m under the impression a few might even approach the Chinese concept of “The Tao” when speaking of “God”.
Of course, the conventional translation of “Tao” is “The Way of Things”. But what’s often lost in the most common Western understandings of it is that it’s non-sentient, non-dual, and elder to the gods. That is, even the gods themselves are governed by the Tao.
Put differently, the Tao occupies in the Taoist mind the “position” occupied by the Trinity in Christianity. There is a sense in which the Tao can be thought of as the Taoist concept of god.
Only the Tao is entirely different from the Trinity in almost every way except for its holding the same importance as the Trinity.
Last I spoke with Jeff, he was still reeling a wee bit from the implication that Pat Robinson might not have a monopoly on notions of deity. I don’t blame him a bit. I really don’t. I came from a very small town and grew up without a clue there was more to even Jesus Christ than what folks sometimes said about him at lunch on Sundays after their final slice of apple pie.
Perhaps you can imagine how disorienting my university courses in Comparative Religious Studies were to me at first.
That was bad enough, but then came mysticism.
Oh lordy! Then came mysticism!