Holy Ghost Girl

Reflections on God, religion, and growing up in a cult

Making a Case for God with a Little G

Experience trumps belief.

With apologies to Joan Osborne, what if God is not only one of us, what if God is us? Some theories posit that our belief in God is a sort of Stone Age artifact that developed along the same brain pathways "that originally evolved for other purposes, primarily the mechanisms we summon to negotiate the sea of people on whom we depend and with whom we interact." So said J. Anderson Thomson, a Virginia psychiatrist and author of "Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith," in an almost recent interview.

It seems to me that Western arguments for and against the existence of the divine turn on the most simplistic notions of God: The great guy in the sky, the ultimate Santa Claus, the jealous egomaniac, Jesus meek and mild. God with a big G. I'm making a leap here, but what if God is the sea of people on whom we depend and interact. And what if God is the dependency and the interaction and the breaking down of isolation that occurs as a result? Mystics and poets have long characterized, and experienced, God in just this way.

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Most of the time, I don't believe in God, at least not God with a capital G. Still I pray and meditate. And when I do, separateness falls away, though I'd be hard pressed to say separateness from what. The experience feels momentous, but when compared with creating universes, parting seas and rising from the dead, it's definitely god with a little g stuff, if it's anything at all. Here's the deal though, when I'm having a hard time, the experience of prayer and/or meditation changes me, in a way that years of belief in Big G God never did I'm less isolated, less grumpy, more prone to seeing the world and the people in it as described by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins; Charged with the grandeur of god.

Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, published by Gotham Books.

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