By Robert Wheeler
It is fairly-well accepted now that space and nature extend beyond what is observed and perceived. There is something “out there” beyond our knowledge. Because of our uniquely human thinking ability, we formulate ideas about that unknown. But it is largely speculation, beyond the reach of science. There must be a “first cause” so it must be out there somewhere. There must be a moral authority out there that is more just than human judgments. There must be out there somewhere an object worthy of our devotion and worship that loves us unconditionally. There must be a source for the creative force that develops and advances us individually and collectively in civilization.
Wonder and desire for knowledge about this mysterious unknown is built into us, and societies throughout known history have been dominated by assumptions of its nature that became social belief structures. Because our knowledge and thinking are limited, we usually accept the assumptions already accepted in our social environment. These assumptions evolved because they have ameliorated concerns about ultimate reality, have met needs, and have improved society. But these assumptions and beliefs are difficult to conceptualize because they are about something beyond our immediate experience, nebulous, and mysterious. God has become a popular term in Western culture to provide an explanation, however more appropriate would be Great unknown, Master Spirit, Great I Am, or Creative Force. To be more meaningful, symbols and other representations are adopted. Anthropomorphic is a term applied to representing the Great Unknown with human characteristics that we can more easily understand. God incarnate in Jesus is more meaningful than God as the Great I Am. Jesus, Mohammad, or Buddha is more effective as objects of worship than an abstract Spirit.
So, it is not surprising that symbols and icons take on divine powers that conflict with new scientific findings and current experiences. Which is better: belief in an ultimate reality that can be conceptualized and fill needs but conflict with objective knowledge, or belief in an ultimate reality that is currently evolving and compatible with current experiences and knowledge but fraught with uncertainty and fluctuating judgments in human thinking? There are trade-offs. Wouldn’t our world be better if our media, leaders, educators, and politicians emphasized pursuit of this topic rather than the current emphasis on wealth, power, conflict, and consumerism?