God is a Being sensed by many people, and in numerous disparate religious settings. People report the following things about God:
- God is always around. God is everywhere. God is in everything.
- You can talk to God. God listens to prayers. God answers prayers. All sorts of things in the world can change in response to prayers.
- God knows everything.
- We have no way to measure God’s wisdom, other than to admit that God is smarter and wiser than we are.
- God is a loving God. God is forgiving.
- At times God wants you to do certain things. This can be called God’s work.
- You are more likely to be able to sense God, to talk to God effectively, and to sense God’s Will when you’re in a meditative state.
Not everyone senses God. Those that do have widely different ways of sensing God.
Monotheism and Polytheism
A number of religions around the world sense the existence of multiple gods. I’m not sure how this works for them so I can’t comment extensively.
The Old Testament shows a wavering of the ancient Jews between monotheism and polytheism. People would go build their own gods out of wood or gold. The writers of the Old Testament took the position that these wooden or golden idols contained no particular power, and could be recycled safely.
Certain Roman emperors set themselves up as gods. Every planet-god had his or her own month, so Julius Caesar grabbed July and Caesar Augustus appropriated August. The New Testament frowns on worshipping tyrants as gods.
A somewhat active but archaic Friends tradition substitutes numeric month names, “first month”, ”second month”, … for traditional month names which refer to polytheistic gods and godlike roman emperors. Also, weekdays are referred to as “first day”, “second day”…
Most Christian religions have developed a “Trinitarian” view, which says that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all the same. Liberal and Conservative Friends don’t have a position on the Trinity. Evangelical Friends tend to side with the Protestants on the Trinity.
That of God in everyone
Quakers have a sense that an essence of God, a spark of God, is in every person. Friends may have gotten this sense because they meet in worship circles without a minister leading them, and everyone can speak. The idea of “that of God in everyone” led Friends to a number of conclusions:
- The Friend on the bench next to you needs a livelihood as much as you do. Especially from 1650 through 1800, Friends were constantly setting each other up in businesses.
- You can’t cheat other people. Friends were uniformly honest in doing business, when dealing with each other and with their non-Friend customers also. The general trustworthiness of Friends made them wildly successful in banking, in international trade, and in other fields.
- There is that of God equally in women and in men. From the beginning of Quakerism, women and men had equal rights to be called to ministerial tasks. This was considered scandalous 350 years ago. Generations of Quaker women were in the forefront of the women’s rights movements in Britain and in the United States.
- There is that of God equally in people of different skin colors. Wealthy Friends struggled among themselves especially between 1700 and 1800 to realize that they couldn’t hold black slaves. In the early 1800s Friends struggled among themselves between active abolitionism and quietism, a philosophy of non-interference in outside politics.
- There is that of God in our enemies too. Friends couldn’t bring themselves to fight the English king's wars against the French, recognizing that the French worshipped the same God. Early on, Friends extended this philosophy to all wars. Friends were persecuted for generation after generation for their refusal to take sides in wars.
- State-sanctioned executions of human beings are wrong. Occasional felons who eventually have a change of heart and turn other felons from their criminal ways are useful to society. We should find and strengthen that of God within such people. By the way, there is statistical evidence that our killing people teaches new people to solve their various problems by even more killing.