I don’t know how to talk about God(s)/god(s)/G-d. We’re dealing, presumably, with the ineffable, that which is incapable of being expressed. I guess I’m like physicist and bongo-player, the late Richard Feynman. When asked why he described himself as a non-believer, he said, “You describe it; I don’t believe in it.”

I’m with him. It’s not that I don’t believe in God, just that I haven’t a clue what we’re talking about.

According to theologian (and great writer) Karen Armstrong, “Some of the most eminent Jewish, Christian, and Muslim theologians and mystics insisted that God was not an objective fact, was not another being, and was not an unseen reality like the atom, whose existence could be empirically demonstrated. Some went so far as to say that it was better to say that God did not exist, because our notion of existence was too limited to apply to God.”

So am I an atheist? Don’t know! I need to know what a theist believes in first. In our Western culture, that’s one god (unless you insist that Christianity, unlike Judaism and Islam, is polytheistic, granting Jesus’ stand-alone divinity). This is one of those awkward situations where a word is defined by what it’s not, like vacation and chastity and, for that matter, death. In this case, theists set the rules, so to say you’re an atheist is normally to say you don’t believe in a/the Christian God. (Saying you don’t believe in Thor doesn’t count as atheism, as I understand it.) 

Believing in God isn’t like believing in fairies or bigfoot. As it happens, I don’t believe in fairies, but I’d know one if I saw one, dancing around a circle in the moonlight, pixiedust in her hair. Bigfoot, same thing (sans pixiedust). But God? How would I know God if She or He suddenly appeared or spoke to me? Just because a burning bush announces itself as God doesn’t make it so.

I resonate with a 2006 Salon interview in which professional skeptic Michael Shermer says, “It doesn’t matter to me if you call it God or the cosmos. We’re all talking about the same thing, whether it’s religious people or New Age spiritual people or Buddhists or scientists. We’re all talking about having a sense of awe and wonder at something grander than ourselves.”

I’m not sure we all are, but let’s go along with this and rephrase the God question as, “Do I experience awe and wonder?” then, you bet I do, usually when I’m least anticipating it. So I suppose the best I can do with the idea of God is to grant it—the concept—shock value: some new, unexpected feeling or awareness or gratitude.



Barry Evans gave the best years of his life to civil engineering, and what thanks did he get? In his dotage, he travels, kayaks, meditates and writes for the Journal and the Humboldt Historian. He sucks at 8 Ball. Buy his Field Notes anthologies at any local bookstore. Please.