God is the name given to a mythological character who plays a main role in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Sikhism, to name a few religions. Hinduism, while often thought of as polytheistic, does share a similar concept of "God" to the Abrahamic one.
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In Islam, the word for "God" is "Allah". In Judaism it varies, but includes "Elohim" (a word expressing concepts of divinity), and is most commonly "Yahweh" (a personified God, a corruption of which is Jehovah). In Christianity and Judaism, God is generally simply referred to as "God". In non-Abrahamic religions, it varies more greatly, but in the scriptures of Hinduism the closest translation to the Abrahamic "God" is "Bhagavan" (literally "Prosperous"), and in Sikhism a common name for "God" is "Ek Onkar" ("One Creator"). When used generally, any deity can be described as a god, though it is more usual to refer to a feminine deity as a goddess. God may be credited with being animate or inanimate, or even having a nature which transcends existence itself. To adherents of a religion, their god undeniably exists; non-adherents, by definition, do not share this belief, and hence would deny the existence of the god. Most gods people imagine can't exist because all but one religion must be wrong, see How many gods?.
It would seem to make little sense to seriously discuss the existence of a particular god, as gods tend to be mutually exclusive. If God exists, whatever (mostly Christian) religious adherents claim, God is a weak or unreliable "friend" (see problem of evil).
Ideas of God
There are various, more-or-less exclusive, ideas of god.
- Monotheists believe that there is a single entity which is the supreme being, responsible for the creation of the Universe. In some versions such as deism the god simply created the world and sort of wanders away. In others the god frequently miraculously nurtures its creation, watches over proceedings, and intervenes. Claims made for such a god can verge on the dramatic: omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent. Adherents of the religion wishing to honour their god credit him with supreme powers, without considering whether or not such powers might be self-contradictory. Christians who believe in Hell are regularly so frightened that they dare not look closely into why their beliefs are unreasonable.
- Polytheists believe that there are multiple divine entities, which are usually responsible for different aspects of human life and the natural or supernatural world. Pure polytheism implies that these entities are worshiped more or less equally, according to the needs of the individual worshiper, but several other subtypes exist:
- Henotheists, like pure polytheists, recognize a pantheon of gods, but only worship one of these at a time.
- Monolatrists believe that while multiple gods of similar power exist, only one of these is worthy of worship.
- Agnostics would contend that it is impossible to determine whether or not God exists. Some contend further that arguments about the existence or non-existence of God are counterproductive. Other agnostics maintain that, as it is very difficult to prove a negative, and hence absolutely disprove Gods (or God) exist, then the most logical scientific position is that of extreme skepticism. Strong agnostics claim that it is inherently impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. Weak agnostics claim that proving or disproving god is theoretically possible but there is currently no such proof. Weak agnostic and weak atheist can mean roughly the same thing. There is confusion when people don't understand this.
- Atheists do not believe in deities. There are many types of atheism but generally atheists can be classified as pragmatic, where they live life as if no gods exist, or theoretical where they make an explicit statement of lack of belief in gods and back this up with logical arguments. Strong atheists say there certainly is no God. Weak atheists say there is no reason to believe that any God exists. Atheists feel that they have the strength to face life’s problems without asking for help from an imaginary friend, God.
Evolution of God
The modern character of God has been evolving for thousands of years, before even the rise of modern Judaism.
An old semitic god, known as El, seems to be at least part of the basis for the modern idea of God. However, he was originally not the only god, being the king-god of a Pantheon, just as Zeus is king of the Greek Gods in Greek Mythology.
Although El had many wives, a prominent one was Asherah. Even when the other gods had been dispelled, many continued to worship her alongside God in early Judaism.
The name Yahweh was originally the name of a separate god from El, or an alternate name for him. Regardless, the two eventually became entwined, and are now both names of the current Judeo-Christian god. If they were originally two separate gods, they're now one. There have been ancient texts found associating Yahweh with Asherah, who was originally El's wife.
Birth of Monotheism
However, it seems that God turned on his own wife. When, in the bible, he orders that no other idols be worshipped besides him, that included idols of Asherah. When this practice was officially abolished, for a long time secret worship of her continued, especially among women. However, this practice eventually died out.
Additionally, other local gods encountered by these early Jews or even later by Christians were drawn into the religion and demonized. Ba'al is one example.
Proof of God's Existence
Throughout history, various arguments have been proposed that supposedly prove God's existence. See Apologetics. Sadly for their proponents, none of these arguments has yet been successful.
In rational terms, logic and evidence appears to dictate that there almost certainly is no requirement for God to exist.
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