Chapter 3 - The Standard Model of God|
Who is this being that billions of people believe in? Who is God? If you consult the dictionary, here is the first definition of God that you will find:
"A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions." [ref]
Most believers would agree with this definition because they share a remarkably clear and consistent view of God. Yes, there are thousands of minor quibbles about religion. Believers express those quibbles in dozens of denominations -- Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists and such. But at the heart of it all, the belief in God aligns on a set of core ideas that everyone accepts.
If you were to make a list of the fundamental beliefs, it would look like this:
- People believe that God is the almighty ruler of the universe. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect.
- People believe that God is the creator of everything. He created the universe and the earth.
- People believe that God is the creator of life and human beings. Many people believe that God created the first man (Adam) and woman (Eve) in his own image, and we are all Adam and Eve's descendents. Others are not that literal, and believe that God played a central role in the creation of the human species and our consciousness.
- People believe that God instills in each of us a unique and everlasting soul.
- People believe that we have eternal life after death. When we die, people believe that our souls return to God in Heaven for eternity if we have accepted Jesus as our savior.
- People believe that God wrote or inspired the Bible. The Bible is God's word. There is a sentence that summarizes the Bible for many people: The Bible is infallible, inspired and inerrant. [ref] Others are not that literal, but do believe that God played a central role in the Bible's creation.
- People believe that God sent Jesus to earth as God incarnate. Jesus performed many miracles while he was alive, and after his death Jesus was resurrected, appeared to hundreds of people, and then ascended into heaven, proving that he is God.
- People believe that God is a benevolent and loving ruler. God is good and God is love.
- People believe that God is a living being who knows and loves each one of us. Each of us can speak to God and have a personal relationship with him. The way that we speak to God is through prayer.
- People believe that God has a plan for each of us. We each have a distinct and unique purpose in God's universe. (For details on God's plan, see Chapter 8)
We can call this the Standard Model of God. If you ask any believer about any of these ten core concepts, you will get confirmation. There might be a quibble (for example, some do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, some are not certain that God wrote everything in the Bible, etc.), but billions of people believe in the Standard Model. These core beliefs are solid across the denominations. Approximately two billion human beings believe in these fundamentals.
By the numbers
Some polls estimate the number of Americans who believe in God as high as 90%.
More than 200 million U.S. citizens, and approximately 2 billion people worldwide, count themselves as God's believers. (Another one billion people around the world count themselves as Muslims).
According to Time magazine, more than 50% of Americans believe in the Bible's account of creation as described in the book of Genesis.
59% of Americans believe that the Bible's Book of Revelation will come true. [ref]
In a recent survey of 1,087 American doctors, 72 percent reported that they believe that miracles can occur today. [ref] The dictionary defines miracle as, "an event that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God." [ref] In other words, 72 percent of doctors believe that God is reaching down from heaven and interacting with our bodies supernaturally to bring about cures that are otherwise inexplicable.
Prayer is extremely important. People believe that we can pray to God (or Jesus) (sometimes even Mary and certain saints) and God hears our prayers. People believe that God reaches down into our world and uses his infinite power and love to answer our prayers. God will intervene to cure diseases. God can save our lives in emergency situations. God will protect us from danger. God can solve a wide range of personal problems and make our lives better through prayer. Hundreds of millions of people pray to God daily, and they believe that God hears their prayers. According to many people, God is answering millions of prayers on earth every day.
This summary makes one thing clear. When you ask, "Who is God?", the answer is: "God is an utterly amazing being." This is the conventional wisdom, and a large majority of the people in the United States believe it.
There is something that is remarkably comforting about the thought of an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful being watching over us, answering our prayers, protecting us and welcoming us into heaven when we die. He sees us in our struggles and pain on this planet. He lends us his strength and compassion, and helps each of us to find our way. We would all like to believe in, and put our faith in, such an amazing being.
And yet, you have to wonder. You realize that the standard model of God sharpens the paradox. Given this definition of God, the violent murder of Neva Rogers is uncomfortable. The reason why it can be uncomfortable is because it does not seem to fit with what we believe about God. There is something about the death of Neva Rogers that is not quite right.
Let me give you another example to bring the paradox into focus...
<<< Go to Chapter 2 |
Go to Chapter 4 >>>
New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.
Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."