To the right is the illustration I used in “Your Modular God“(2010) to show how people use the word “God” as a neat, singular package to contain diverse functional modules which themselves contain concepts, feelings, preferences, behaviors and more.
Though theists contend that their “God” is an invisible being (be that God called Yahweh, Allah, Krishna or other) my model above shows that what is really happening is that their “God” is a way for theists to hold together certain valued modules easily so they can comfort themselves, bond with like-minded people and/or manipulate others into their values.
Theists use “God” as a reification of their hopes, fears, desires and loves. “God” is an abstraction that they concretized. Concretizing an abstraction is called “reification” – it is a great word. “Reification” comes from the Latin stem of “res” meaning “a thing” plus “fication” meaning “making or causing”: Causing something to become a thing. In fact, reification is a common logical manipulative fallacy. But even if a god exists, it is certain that “God” is a tool for most, if not all believers to capture their desires.
Of course the believer does not do this intentionally. Objectifying the abstract term “God” is done unconsciously by a believer in order to talk quickly and easily about their hopes, fears, desires and loves. And as I explained in my post, “Secular Gods“, even though atheists may reject religious reifications of “God”, they themselves also create reifications — we all do it.
We largely don’t understand reification in general — our minds blind us to its mechanisms. Atheists also incarnate their desires, hopes, fears and loves — by creating secular gods.
Below I have created a diagram to try to illustrate my point. On the right you see a particular Christian’s reification of “God” while on the left you see an atheist doing it with the word “Patriotism” (as an example). The atheist, like the theist, could then go around with his/her Patriot myth telling folks what a “real” Patriot is and what “real” Patriots should do. He may never see behind his own term. He may never understand all the cool feelings he gets when he thinks about “Patriotism”, because it is real to him (reified) — perhaps as real as an theist’s god.
If you don’t like my example, pick another, add or subtract your own modules — either way, I hope you get my point.
Some rightly attack religion by pointing out its contradictions, but I feel pointing out the process of reification gives us deeper insights and make the accusation less personal because it is something we all do.
For atheists, nothing should be sacred. Nothing should be immune from doubt, questioning or demands for evidence.
Question to readers: Can you give another example of reification?