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Ludwik Kowalski

Multiple Mental Images of One God

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What is God? According to our ancestors, who recorded their beliefs in the Bible, God is an all-powerful and all-knowing entity, living somewhere outside of our world, who created the world and controls what happens in it. My definition of God is slightly different; I tend to think that God is not an entity outside nature, but nature itself, as postulated by a 17th century Jewish theologian, Baruch Spinoza, in Holland.


Our very distant ancestors were polytheists; they invented the idea of multiple gods. Our less distant ancestors replaced this idea with the mental image of a personal--omnipotent and omniscient--ruler. Most people on earth still believe in a personal God, but some try to develop a more recent mental image of the ruler, formulated by Spinoza. All three descriptions refer to the same everlasting entity, no matter how it is called. It is not a sin to think that laws of Nature are equivalent to God's laws, while praying. Do you agree?


An interesting article about Spinoza appeared in The New York Times, written by a professor of philosophy, Steven Nadler:

http://opinionator blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/25/judging-spinoza/

It generated many interesting online comments. A reader, RMC, wrote: "I know many Christians and Jews who practice their religious traditions although their own beliefs are secular. They make no secret of their sentiments. Spinoza was excommunicated during a time of religious orthodoxy and in that respect his experience is much like Galileo's. When the Catholic Church repudiated its treatment of Galileo, it was not merely saying that the earth revolves around the sun. It was saying that punishing the members of its congregation for thinking for themselves, including about church dogma, was parochial and destructive." With regard to independent thinking, several readers emphasized that traditional religious ceremonies, and respect for legends, do help to keep social groups together, even when people know that biblical legends do not represent historical truth.


Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia)

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