From where do our concepts of God or the divine originate? I ask this because I have been thinking through the connection between what we perceive and our conceptions which are developed at least partly from what we have perceived. It seems to me that our ideas of God possibly come from multiple sources: holy writ, familial and cultural influence and our experiences and perceptions of our world, which culminate and aid in our formation of concepts about that which we consider holy or divine.
However since none of us can probably claim first hand or personal perception of deity, there must be other sources for ideas by which one arrives at the”concept” of the sacred or divine. As I ponder these thoughts I have come to the place where I believe that there probably is a “reality” of some sort that does exist quite beyond the ability of humans to completely or accurately perceive, but of which we have some awareness. And as we attempt to understand that which eludes our perception, we use language to frame ideas about this “absolute reality”, which despite our efforts, remains distinct from us and our ideas. We develop ideas out of the interpretations of what we perceive around us, coupled with ideas that we’ve received from others, from our understanding of history and our personal experiences. The product of such a coalescing, whether that be a belief in a divine being or a universal ordering principle, or some kind of collective to which we all belong, are the larger than ourselves concepts by which we bring meaning to our world. They are fundamental and important and from this place springs our understanding of human identity and our place in the world.
My understanding of God, his grace, goodness and love are important and meaningful to me and I believe in them. They form the basis of all that I value and my conceptions of how I should live. I am not discounting these beliefs which we hold. But what I do wish we could overcome is the human tendency to believe that our conceptions are more accurate and more important than those of another, whose concepts vary, sometimes greatly, from my own.
That is why I appreciate the “coexist” stickers where the word “coexist” is spelled with the religious symbols of the worlds main religious perspectives. I appreciate these advertisements because I think at this place in human history, our next step of growth probably has more to do with the ethics of coexisting together and even working together, than in attempting to prove who is epistemologically right or wrong. I long for the day where we value the religious perspectives of others, believing that they are working for their growth as our beliefs are growing us. After all our concepts about God are constructed out of similar material…