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Thursday, June 4, 2015

What Makes A God?

  I'm going to start out by saying clearly, I don't have any answers to this question and I don't think there is an answer. It's a question that inevitably leads to more questions. And I think that's a good thing - we should question this, we should ask ourselves the hard things like this. Without the hard questions there will never be any real growth or deep theology.
  This may - or may not - surprise people but this particular question is one I contemplate regularly. My spiritual practice includes not only beings from acknowledged pantheons who are, generally, agreed to be Gods by  most people's definitions but also beings who I term the liminal Gods who may or may not fit that definition and a wide array of spirits that I consider powerful and influential but not divine. And here is where we hit the crux of this question - how do we define a God?
  According to the dictionary* a god is a being with supernatural powers that controls an aspect of reality and can be worshiped. This presents a problem, however, for animists and those of us who work with diverse spirits because that definition could apply to many spirits who I would not necessarily call Gods. My house spirit is essential to many things and influential over my home, but I wouldn't call him a God. In the same way the Fair Folk can be very powerful and able to influence our world, but I wouldn't call them Gods, even though I offer to them and petition them for luck and blessings.
   Does worship alone make something a God? Certainly Gods are offered to, prayed to, and given acknowledgement for their worth**. Human ancestors and the Other Crowd are also offered to and given respect, and prayed to yet they aren't usually seen as Gods. This also invites the line of thought that it is humans who create and maintain Gods, putting humans, ultimately, at the top of the cosmic food chain. It also opens the questions of what happens to Gods without worshipers, and whether the God with the most followers would be the most powerful.
   Does historic precedent make something a God? That of course immediately leads to the chicken-egg dilemma as we must establish how long something has to exist or be worshiped to be a God, however it can also be helpful to look at whether something was previously considered a divinity. Also this creates a catch-22 with deified humans like Imhotep who clearly weren't Gods originally but clearly were later. And this line of thought would entirely eliminate the possibility of new Gods in our time by arguing that only pre-existing acknowledged Gods were actually divine.
   Does power make something a God? This tends to be my own measuring stick, but even this has its flaws as there are far more blurred lines than clear cut ones. What can something influence and to what degree? What are the beings limits? Of course even Gods have limits, but the power of a God should be greater than that of a ghost or a house spirit, in my opinion.
   Does area of influence make something a God? Or in other words does it have geographic limitations? Is it stationary? Some people will argue this one, because some people do see Gods as tied to locations. Even in my own belief there's a grey area here as the liminal Gods can vary by location, but they are not bound by their environment or preferred area. One measure of a God may be how far its influence extends and how much the being themselves can go. Is it a local spirit or does its influence extend or shift? Can it only manifest or effect things in one place? Or does its influence extend anywhere it chooses to go?
   These are only a few questions that come to my mind when we ask what makes something a God. There are many more that we could ask as well, and its up to each of us to decide how we feel about each question. Because in the end there is no simple answer for the question of what makes something a God.
   Ask yourself these questions, and find your own answers. I know what I think, but you don't need me to tell you how I define a God. You need to find the Truth that speaks to you, find your own understanding of this. Because my God may be your Good Neighbor, and your God may be my fictional character, and that other God over there may be someone else's archetype. Ultimately no one can tell any of us what to believe about this. We must find our own answers.

* Merriam Webster
** worship: Middle English worshipe worthiness, respect, reverence paid to a divine being, from Old English weorthscipe worthiness, respect, from weorthworthy, worth + -scipe -ship

Copyright Morgan Daimler

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