“God” is an abstraction. Well, theists don’t think so, of course, but I do. Theists use the word “God” to cluster together feelings of identity, purpose, belongingness, hope, safety and more. “God” is a package. “God” is a tool to speak fast to others about their agreed package of preferences or to manipulate others into new preferences. When speakers basically agree on their use of “God”, the conversation is very effective — for the better or the worse.
When a person wants to escape that abstract God-package, one technique is to change the god — change the theology, alter the revelation, revamp the hermeneutics, call for return-to-the-source and more. These are the moves of reformers, people who like the “God” tool and want to keep it. But another technique, the atheist move, is to see through the illusion of the “God” abstraction, “look behind the curtain” and expose the manipulation.
Using abstractions to speed up conversation is a valuable language tool. Though atheists may see behind the “God” abstraction, they often don’t fully see behind the phenomena of “abstraction” itself. Many Atheists, acting just like theists, continue to use the same manipulation tool that theists used to create their “God”. Atheists, buying into the illusions of abstractions, then create their own “gods” — their secular gods.
Some of these secular gods include abstractions like “Nature”, “the World”, “Justice”, “Religion”, “Patriotism”, “Equality”, “Freedom”, “Love”, “Reason”, “Me”. Depending on the Atheist, any one of these or more become their “god(s)”.
Abstractions are needed for many of the games we play. Games are best played when we take the rules seriously and forget their arbitrary nature. However, the harmful aspect of games is best kept in check when we keep in mind that it is arbitrary. Many of the complexities of our lives involve this tension: simultaneously holding in mind the seriousness and arbitrariness of our games, of our abstractions, of our gods.
See my other posts on: The Limits of Abstractions