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Visitor essay donated by Allen Earle

"The God in Your Head is Real" 

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The God in Your Head is Real

The vast majority of people on earth believe in the existence of God. But what sort of “god” is it? What characteristics does it have? How should this “god” be defined and how should it be known? What sort of claim to a separate reality can we find?

The answer to this is very difficult for atheists like myself, and probably for agnostics, too, although I won’t claim to speak for them.

What if I were to ask someone if “fratchly” exists? I think that the first answer I would get would not be either “yes, fratchly exists” or “no, fratchly does not exist,” but rather, “what do you mean by ‘fratchly?’ ” In fact, until I was prepared to provide some sort of definition for “fratchly,” I am unlikely ever to get a response as to whether it exists or not. Is it animal, vegetable or mineral, or perhaps spirit? Is it big or small? Is it here on earth, in the sky, in space, etc.

It has been estimated that humans have created over 100,000 religions in the last 10,000 years. Some of our religions have had multiple gods with their own specific responsibilities; some religions have had only a few or even just one god. Some of our gods have been palpably real: they’ve lived on mountains, under the seas, in caves, or in the sky. Other gods have been intangible spirit only, some coherent spirits, others amorphous, everywhere at once. Some have been omnipotent, some had their powers limited and could be beaten. Some were loving, some cruel, some indifferent. The variety is endless.

Every single one of them, without any exceptions whatsoever, have had – in the minds of their believers – human-like characteristics, whether those were physical, psychological, or both.

And almost every single one of them has since passed out of favor, and thus out of existence. They are all dead and buried in the crypt that we call “mythology.”

But for every human believer, there is, I think, a “god” fitting some sort of description, known only to the believer, existing in the believer’s mind. And inasmuch as this “God-in-the-Head” is perceived as having wishes, desires and needs, and inasmuch as it seems to issue commandments to lead the believer to satisfy those wishes, desires and needs, and inasmuch as the believer feels compelled to act on those wishes and commandments, then this “God-in-the-Head” is very real, and very potent.

Some of those wishes are benevolent, and to the extent that they are acted upon can be of great benefit to humanity. Not always, though, as can be seen through the very benevolent desire of missionaries to “bring the heathen savages to God.” For the sake of their immortal souls, of course! This has frequently resulted in a few saved “souls,” and many, many merely dead ones.

Some of the commandments of the “God-in-the-Head” are not so benevolent. The perceived “command” to kill witches, heretics and apostates has resulted in endless misery around the world for millennia. The perceived antipathy of the “God-in-the-Head” to those who are not quite like the rest of us has cast thousands into prison, or death. The perceived unwillingness of this "God-in-the-Head" to countenance independent thought, leading to differing world-views, has too often led to legitimate inquirers after truth being excommunicated or disfellowshipped or shunned by their communities. This has all too often come at terrible cost to individuals and their innocent families.

Yes, as I think about it, because this “God-in-the-Head” has such power to act in the world through its host, it is very, very real. And it frightens me.

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