If you google that question most of what you get are explanations of why God allows so much suffering and proofs of God’s existence. For locations you get only: “everywhere” or in a “different dimension” or “hidden” or “inside you”; I have not found anything more specific. This is unfortunate because knowing where God is could reveal much about what God is. We can learn where he is by examining how he got there, a subject about which we do have some knowledge.

   Our species has a powerful need to find reasons, to know how and why. Many conditions and events have no obvious explanation and are attributed, by some people, to unseen, mysterious powers. In antiquity, before the dawn of science, such happenings were very pervasive. To explain them various spirits with magical abilities were imagined. These spirits were mostly capricious, fearful and demanding. Often icon surrogates of them were made. Rituals, aided by the placebo effect, were invented to influence, cajole or placate them.

As societies became larger and more complex spirits morphed into gods; rituals morphed into worship and religions were born. Usually one god was imagined to be more powerful and was more venerated or feared than the others. For the Abramic religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- the supreme god became God. The remaining gods were eventually abolished, to be replaced, in Christianity and Islam, by angels.  

The important takeaway is this: all of these spirits, gods, God and angels are not existent entities; they live only in human minds; they are mere figments of imagination, which, unlike reality, is unconstrained. 

In this context it is worth noting that throughout “A History of God (Random House, 1993)* -- the excellent seminal book by Karen Armstrong, who is not an atheist -- gods and God, as well as spirits, are treated as concepts  not as actual beings.

These days, even though almost all of what once bewildered our ancestors is now explained or at least explainable, most people still believe there is a God of some kind. However, when they are questioned for details, one finds a plethora of God characteristics and versions, from the creator-supervisor of the universe and everything in it (who is demanding, loving, caring and trustworthy or demanding, jealous, vengeful and capricious or both); to a mere initiator of the universe; to an unknowable supernatural “something”. In short, God is whatever its believers-cum-creators concoct.

So, God, gods, angels, etc exist in human minds, no where else, especially not in any genes. They, and deeds attributed to them, are imagination supported by (usually willful) ignorance, nothing more.

* You can find a free PDF file by googling “a history of god pdf”


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That's sums it up pretty nicely, Giddian.

It's so easy to trace the evolution of human spirituality from animism to anthropomorphism to polytheism to monotheism. When believers learn of this history of spirituality, it takes (as you stated) willful ignorance to gloss over the implications for their beliefs.

Willful ignorance . . . denial . . . whatever you want to call it, it's the laziest possible response to cognitive dissonance. If only there were a way to make people think . . .

I think our gods are in our genes.  Humans have such a strong proclivity for theory of mind that, such as everything looking like a nail to one with a hammer, we perceive every problem as a consciousness.  We beg objects not to fall over, we become angry with tools and throw them, and when rain finally falls on a hot day we let look up and sigh, "thank you!"

Theory of mind indeed! Have you been reading Jesse Bering's The Belief Instinct ?  I think his evolutionary theories are a bit shaky, but the psychology (his field) is rock solid. The great read if you haven't. As a rare contributor but frequent reader of these blogs, I have always been impressed by your intelligent responses and creative wit, Heather. Was that really you I found on the beer brewers blog? Ah, if only I were a much, much younger man....... 

Thanks.  It really was me you found on the beer brewers blog - one of my favorite hobbies.

I never visited the beer brewers blog but really like beer. Lets be friends.

It's not gods; it's the need to find explanations when causes can not be identified. That leads to magical thinking. Genes aren't needed.

I'm sorry you don't interpret metaphor.  To be more specific, our propensity for believing in gods is something that lies within our genes - the coming together of various aspects of our evolutionary psychology leads us to magical thinking.  Genes are a part of it.

It seems to me that “gods” is a poor choice as metaphor for magical thinking. Tea Party nuts and similar fanatics, as well as less fanatical religious people and agnostics, are quite comfortable with the notion that “God is inside” them. That’s what they take away from “gods are in our genes”. We should not be encouraging such fantasies.

I'm not encouraging fantasies - I'm acknowledging the scientific observation that we are genetically predisposed to magical thinking; and that includes religious thought as well as gods.

Wasn't the seal of Solomon supposed to have the true name and location of god on it? The true name's not much of a secret but what if it had some kind of astronomical coordinates written on it, and it pointed to a star system, and we went there in the year 3099, to find there's a planet with all our lost loved ones reduced to mindless bliss, and angels and a Wizard-of-Oz god of Abraham behind the whole operation?

Call Bruckenheimer - that rox!

Replying to Lewal: Thank you for your comment. Evidently you don't agree with the conclusion of the article or, perhaps you're just showing your open mindedness. You should be careful though; excessive open mindedness can cause spillage of brains.


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