Little Gods, Big Gods

Trump is a God

Early humans inherited from their prelinguistic hominid ancestors a promiscuous tendency to attribute agency to nearly everything—not only predators (whose threat to eat us was real) and prey (whose threat to be eaten by us was real), but also entities and forces that only seemed hostile or benevolent, like the weather, the ground beneath us, the ocean and other bodies of water, the sun, the moon, and everything else in the sky.

With language, those agents of nature either became a god or were believed to be governed by one. It took a while for the notion of a single God who governs everything to materialize.

The Book of Genesis speaks of God, who created the universe (as it was understood at the time). But the very next book, Exodus, reveals that this creator God isn't the only one.
When he hands down the Ten Commandments, he enjoins the Israelites to refrain from worshiping any of those other gods that are mentioned throughout the Bible: national gods, household gods, gods of the natural forces, and many, many others.

The biblical creation myth reflects the knowledge and concerns of a particular group of people three or four thousand years ago. Their God is not only anthropocentric (concerned exclusively with human affairs and behavior—especially sexual behavior) but also anthropomorphic.

He breathes, he has human senses of vision and hearing. He also has language (among his first acts of creation are to name things), emotions (primarily jealousy and anger but also, to a greater extent in the New Testament, love), and other mental faculties such as memory.

Except for his minor superpowers of omniscience and omnipotence, the biblical God is a recognizable person.

As long as humans saw the world as the center of the universe and believed its age to be only a few millennia or even just a few centuries old, the notion of a geocentric, anthropocentric, and anthropo- morphic God was plausible.

After all, our world does seem to be at the center, with everything else revolving around it. And humans did seem to be the pinnacle of creation as Earth’s dominant life form.

The history of modern science is the story of these geocentric and anthropocentric views being progressively displaced. With each increased understanding of the age of the earth and the size of the universe, humankind’s position and significance became further diminished and peripheral.

By the early 20thcentury, things were complicated enough, even with the universe still understood to consist only of our own Milky Way galaxy and the age of the Earth determined to be only about a hundred million years.

Today, we know humans have existed for about one or two hundred thousand years on a planet over four billion years old, under a sun that is only one in about 200 billion stars in the Milky Way, which is just one of at least two trillion galaxies in a universe well over ten billion years old.

The notion that the Earth enjoys a special place in the universe and humankind's special status is now untenable.


The God of the Bible is like a child playing in a sandbox: entirely preoccupied with the trivial and oblivious to all the rest.


In the light of the ill fit between the God of the bible and scientific knowledge, believers in that god have three choices on how to accommodate this contradiction: compart-mentalization, disputation, or conceptualization.

Compartmentalization is a natural and automatic human tendency. For the vast majority of believers in God, no reconciliation is necessary. The conflicts are simply overlooked because science and religion reside in separate mental realms.

Disputation is what organizations such as the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, and the Creation Museum employs.

It is essentially the attempt to use science (especially biology, geology, and cosmology—but any science will do) against itself.

The strategy is to subvert, divert, and pervert the methods and findings of science to prove the literal truth of the Hebrew Bible (via such pseudosciences as intelligent design and young-earth creationism).

Such apologetics and special pleadings are mostly regarded as an embarrassment by the rest of established religion and are largely ignored, except in regard to science textbooks, where these issues are continually disputed in some parts of the country.


Disputation is the strategy to subvert, divert, and pervert the methods and findings of science to prove the literal truth of the Hebrew Bible.


Reconceptualization is the most sophisticated response. Although similar ideas may have always co-existed with monotheistic religion, a major rethinking of God arose in the 17th century and flowered in the 18th in direct reaction to the development of science. 

That reconceptualization is known as deism. As with any system of thought ungrounded by empirical evidence and unconstrained by the central authority, deism has several varieties.

In its early forms, deism consisted of two core tenets: God created the entire universe and thereafter let it alone, and a “revealed” religion must be repudiated.

Contemporary Christians consider deism to be almost indistinguishable from atheism—which is essentially true.

Whether you hold God or the Big Bang responsible for the origin of the universe, everything that follows does so in the same way: without a director.

But unlike atheism, contemporary deism espouses a variety of other beliefs, such as the universe being perfect and imbued with a collective intelligence or mind or spirit or cosmic consciousness, which requires that we all be nice to one another.

Some of these beliefs are indistinguishable from pan-theism or panpsychism. How such beliefs follow from the central dogmas of deism is unclear.

And, although what distinguishes deism from other religions are the notions that God doesn’t intervene in the affairs of the universe and doesn’t speak to anyone, some modern adherents claim it to be consistent with Christianity.

This is known technically as having your cake and eating it too. Like all religions, deism is impervious to incursion by scientific evidence, but—by definition if not by fiat—its God is at least equal to the task of creation, however ancient and enormous and complex the universe proves to be.

Thus, contemporary deism reconciles the cramped focus of the God of the Bible with the larger universe that science has revealed to exist. Little God, big God.


Shoaib Rahman

Founder, Fadewblogs

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