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Summary of World Views about God

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Is there anyone up there?
Is God the right word to describe what I believe in?
Why doesn’t God intervene to stop all the pain?
Is God male or female?
Where is God – inside me, all around me?
Religion causes more trouble than it’s worth?
What is it all about?                
Why do we need any idea of God?
Is God or are Gods male by nature: are there Goddesses too?

This is obviously a key theme for religion, and for understanding between faiths, and part of the problem over definitions arises from the fact that the world’s religions derive from and exist in radically different cultures and many different languages.  But in fact there is a lot of agreement across the team’s contributions - including:
•    The impossibility of defining Allah, God, Yahweh, One-ness, Brahman, Atma, Parmatma, etc. because of the limitations of human language
•    There are as many varieties of belief about God within religions as between them
•    ‘Western’ or Abrahamic religions tend to emphasise one all-powerful God, creator and sustainer of the world
•    ‘Eastern’ religions tend to emphasise an ultimate reality, the one-ness of all things
•    There are liberal/conservative, nationalist/universalist, progressive/fundamentalist tendencies within most religions
•    For most religions, what precisely your beliefs about God are has little significance in comparison with what sort of life you lead

The Muslim contribution was clear and concise:
•    The one-ness or unity of Allah (God) is central to Islam
•    God has revealed himself through the Qur’an and the scriptures
•    There are many (ninety-nine) names for Allah - creator, omnipotent, just, first and last
•    Other necessary beliefs relate to God’s (Allah’s) Books, Prophets, Angels, Judgement Day, Predestination

The Sikh description of God appears on the first page of the Guru Granth Sahib:
•    God is the One True Universal Creator, eternal, self-existent and beyond death
•    God Akal Purakh or Parmatma often called Husband
•    Other key themes are no fear, no hatred: from dark to light, spiritual teacher
•    Humanity is made in God, as is nature to support us in our life’s aim of union with God
•    Sikhs serve God through engaging in the world, serving others, supporting families and honouring the three pillars of faith

The Buddhist contribution begins by reminding us that the Buddha would never answer questions about God or belief:

•    Traditionally Buddhists have been seen as not believing in a personal God
•    Rather, Buddhists reflect on reality, what is around us
•    Buddhists are happy to share worship and interaction with theist God religions
•    Suffering and conflict arise from wanting things (dividing the world into subject and object)

The Christian contribution focused on the baggage associated with the concept of God for modern discourse and society, but found that:
•    The ‘mainstream’ churches unite around a creed which starts with belief in God as a Trinity
•    Key concepts are God the Father, Almighty, Creator of all things; God the Son, Jesus Christ, who became God in human form, and the Holy Spirit who supports and sustains us
•    God is primarily a God of love, mercy, peace, forgiveness, compassion and grace
•    In Jesus, and his crucifixion, God allowed men to do their worst, but his love overcame death through the resurrection
•    The difficulty of these concepts demonstrates the mystery of God and the limits of rational explanation

The Hindu contribution emphasises:
•    Hinduism offers two broad approaches to God (or Ultimate reality), either as a super-personality (Ishwar) or as a cosmic principle (Brahman)
•    Both approaches are accepted because they fulfil different needs.
•    The same Ultimate reality can be viewed in different ways; just as ice and water are the same thing in different forms
•    A personal God is more accessible for lay Hindus while God as a principle is philosophically more satisfying

The Humanist contribution emphasises:
•    Humanists do not believe in an all-powerful benevolent God
•    Epicurus said that God cannot be omnipotent and loving if he allows evil
•    Science has eliminated almost all the good reasons for belief by showing how the world works and explaining natural phenomena
•    Humanists make their own meaning and purpose in their lives without any supernatural reference

The Jewish contribution emphasises:
•    God cannot be limited by our definitions (gender him/her)
•    God is both the Creator and the God of History, involved with the world
•    The existence of evil (eg Holocaust, Tsunami) is a challenge to belief
•    God limited his freedom by giving human beings free will
•    God is love: our job as humans is not to focus on belief, but to work out how to love others in practice
•    You can be Jewish without believing in God