My previous post, “Spackle God“, was in preparation for this post. There I rhetorically wondered out-loud how science-friendly Christians were able to keep their “God” intact while their “Spackle god” shrinks. In that post I showed how a simple model did not seem to explain the phenomena. Above is the expanded model I was hinting at. It is the model I use to explain not only the persistence of “God” in science-friendly believers but also the nature of “God”. I call this model “The Modular God”.
Theistic believers of all faiths use some word like “God” to capture these helpful functions or purposes in their lives. The Spackle god is just one of the modules. And as this improved model shows, there are many more purposes served by the concept of “God” for the believer than just the Spackle god. In fact, it is all these other god modules that are ready to take up the slack when their Spackle god shrinks. For as the Spackle god shrinks, these Christians re-interpret new parts of their Bible metaphorically in order to accommodate scientific findings. But additionally, to avoid shrinkage of “God”, their other god modules are strengthened or arranged differently to allow for the absence of the Spackle god. So that though their Spackle god is weaker, their Tribal god or their Morality god (for instance) may be strengthened or repositioned to bear the weight of the gray octagon as it tries to collapse in the absence of the Spackle god’s previous support. In each believer the sizes and specific functions of the compensating modular gods vary depending on how the believer uses the concept of “God” in their lives.
To keep this post short, I will end by briefly describing each of the modular functions inside the believers term “God”:
- Wishing god: offers hope for answered prayers: requests for health, prosperity, safety, happiness and more
- Morality god: offers guidelines/rules of behavior, deters immoral behavior, motivates virtues, offers reasons for morality
- Tribal god: offers identity, group unity to cooperate and compete, patriotism, denomination unity, meaning, stories, specialness, common enemies
- Afterlife god: offers comfort for dead loved ones and a measure of security from the fear of their own death
- Companion god: offers someone to talk to, acceptance, forgiveness, support and relief from loneliness
- Spackle god: offers supernatural explanations for the unknown gaps of their knowledge
- How to Make a Christian: How the normal mind is transformed into a religious mind
- The Tribal Mind: The mind module regulating how we treat others
- Many-Selves, No-Self : Readers may recognize that the above model uses the modular theory of mind
- Your Inner Theist: Even Atheists can have a Theist side. An example of the complexity of the modular mind.
- Religion: A syndrome definition. This model uses similar ideas.
Possible future posts using this model:
- How religious people de-convert
- Why de-converted atheists have diverse viewpoints
- How atheists can also have a religious flavor
13 responses to “Your Modular God”
I can definitely appreciate this… there are quite a few more false gods that true One. 😉
Thanks for keeping it real, Sabio!
Ah, yeah, that’s exactly what the modules do. You explained it so well that I almost re-converted, to experience all those benefits all over again 😉
Wow, and I thought 3-into-1 was a crowded “theism”!
This is a great description, S. So nicely done. In terms of how human rationalizing works, and how the octagon can still be whatever is needed for the situation, this ‘covers’ a lot of troublesome issues for believers.
I’ve always had this personal insecurity about the topic, you know…. but now I am so glad you have explained to the world, and to Christians, the embarrassing problem of ‘shrinkage’! (a little nod to Seinfeld, of course…)
Thanx for dropping in. I wrote this hoping it could be seen that many religious believers of diverse faiths have these sorts of god modules in their minds. I am trying to imagine how you see the model. Here are two guesses for how you may answer. But I would love to hear corrections or improvements.
(a) True for everyone except for us who believe in the true God because he is actually present in all those roles
(b) Indeed, wanting a god for these purposes and making him up to serve you is the down fall of even those who call themselves Christians. This model represents the gods of mistaken Christians too. It take discipline to keep our eyes on the true God.
@ Lorena For you Lassie, it might be a wee bit late to try to turn on that switch again. 🙂
@ Andrew I am very glad you like it. Thanks for the humor. Did it help you put a handle on something that has happened to you or others? Isn’t your father a preacher?
I would certainly add a “transcendent”/”numinous”/”awe”/”mysticism” God to that list.
I enjoy this model, but I think believers often have something like it in mind when e.g. preachers exhort us not to have wrong/weak views of God.
I am using the model to show the modules that serve common human emotional needs. Thus showing how people invent abstractions and functions to serve themselves. And trying to keep it flexible for most theist religions.
Perhaps the Spackle god accounts for the sensation of awe. In other words, the believer say, “Gee, I wonder what that feeling is? Must be God.”
The warm fuzzies aka sense of the numinous, though calling that sense warm fuzzies is surely inadequate, are rather addictive and are part of what keeps people coming back for more. I agree with Leon, I think it’s significant enough to become a separate modular function.
I have a hugely mystical temperament, as you know from other posts. We’d have to come to terms with what “mystical” means (discussed here), but I use it in a sense very different from the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you have a wish-fulfilling, tribe-bonding, after-life-guaranteeing, meaning-augmenting, constantly-loving companion God that my modules already offer. I think the modules I gave captured most of what is makes for warm and fuzzies feelings in the vast majority of believers.
Also, I personally don’t feel most Christians are into their religion (though you may have been) for more than the superficial satisfaction that each of these modular gods gives. What percent of Christians do you really feel are into their faith for some deeply mystical sense?
Is that clear?
Concerning my papa, ‘ex-minister’ might be the best descriptor, and by no means was he ever ‘thumping’, if you read me. (Btw, he was really impressed with the Sam Harris TED talk on how science can study morality, and thinks ‘Saint- Sam’ is on a great path.)
And the rest of the comment, well, was just a build-up to the shrinkage joke…
When I looked back on Haidt’s Five Foundations of Morality, I got to wondering if there was a correlation between them and your different modules.
Tribal god – ingroup/loyalty
Companion god – harm/care
Wishing god – authority/respect
Morality god – fairness/reciprocity
Afterlife god – purity/sanctity
Spackle – numinous / mysticism
It’s not a perfect relation. Some mixes and blends might be better. Or, is this just barking up two trees with no cat to be seen?
“What percent of Christians do you really feel are into their faith for some deeply mystical sense?”
It varies from denomination to denomination, but I’d say anyone with a charismatic flair, Ie. speaking in tongues, etc. Several of my Christian friends frequently mention worship and how important it it is to them and how much they look forward to it. Personally, I had more profound experiences in private than I ever had in corporate worship, something about being on display always bothered me.
I was looking for the mystical, and that is what ended up destroying my faith as I wanted to truly experience God.
On a complete side note, your pseudonym reminds me of Rollo Tomasi from the film L.A. Confidential for some reason, it did so even before I knew it was a pseudonym.
A friend posted yesterday on Facebook “In the afterglow of worship I am truely at rest…”
@ Mike & Leon,
I have been thinking about it. I think an “Ecstasy god” or a “Euphoria god” may do the trick. I will keep considering and update the model.
I’m guessing the Roman Lares would fall into the tribal god category…
Sabio I feel I finally have a description of my own faith. It is indeed the Modular God, heavy on the Spackle. I call upon the various modules to serve me in my life when they are needed.
I question the need for a Euphoria/Ecstasy god, these seem to me to be nebulous things that are actually not desired by many people. I have experienced the ecstasy of intense belief, which was transient and I don’t really feel much need to go back there. I suggest the euphoria/ecstasy is a sensation or side-effect of sorts related to intense immersion in one module or another, and not a module in and of itself. But that may be my utilitarian bias talking!