We're familiar with the daily news stories about some person or group taking issue with public displays of religion such as the Ten Commandments or nativity scenes. It seems that every person in America wants to crow about their "right" not to have to endure religious symbols or statements that do not align with their personal views of God. But what exactly is God to those people? The arguments and discussions on the nightly news all seem to be about whether or not people can publicly display or talk about God, rather than about what the concept of God is to different people.
The early concepts of God were often oriented in natural phenomena, with people naming and worshiping constellations, the sun and moon, fire, water, and a wide variety of animals. The Hindu religion worships a variety of gods, and the ancient Greeks had gods of nature such as Neptune, Zeus, and Mercury. The ancient gods, no matter what their perceived physical form, carried with them the common traits and attributes of mortal men. Native Americans worshiped an all-powerful warrior God to whom they were subservient in order to avoid his wrath. Many philosophers and religious scholars through the ages have considered God to be a father image-necessary to some people, but not important to others-and therefore praying to God is akin to a child trying to bribe his father into give him a cookie if he cleans his room.
For thousands of years mankind has been wrestling with the definition of God, and religious scholars have not shied away from putting pen to paper to share their views and innermost thoughts. Philosopher Karl Marx, a communist, wrote that God and religion in general are just placebos that hold people back from fulfilling their true destiny by promising them a nebulous reward in heaven if they behave well on earth. Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher, claimed that the world is not big enough for both God and man. Friedrich Nietzsche held that we are all in the twilight of the gods, meaning that man no longer needs the psychological crutch afforded by worshiping a higher power, so gods are no longer important.
Many people believe that if God can prevent evil but does not, then he isn't the loving, caring father figure people believe him to be. The concept of God changes not only from person to person and religion to religion, but also from generation to generation, believing that people have different needs at different times and they adapt their image of God to fit whatever they need him to be. Gerald Kreyche, a former philosophy professor who is now the American Thought Editor of USA Today, believes that we must turn around the question of God and remember that God is in the details. "Rather than asking whether God exists," Kreyche says, "We might wonder, 'What is the problem to which God is a solution?'"
The constant debate about whether man was created by evolution or intelligent design makes a regular appearance in public debates, but nowhere do you hear anyone postulating about the possibility that both concepts can be true. The Bible says that God created the Earth in seven days, but the Old Testament is filled with allegorical stories; perhaps the seven days actually represent seven billion years. Perhaps the process of evolution, which has a solid basis in scientific fact, is itself the process of intelligent design described in the Bible. But in order for both ideas to be universally accepted, God has to be perceived with a much more open mind than most philosophers and debaters are willing to consider.
Without agreement about the definition of God, it is illogical to postulate what he did or did not create. Maybe before ruling definitively on whether or not God created the universe, we must first agree on what God is. And since that definition hasn't been nailed down despite having thousands of years to examine all arguments, there will never be a singular answer that will please everyone.