Thursday, March 16, 2006

Finding a new and better Name (or reference) for God

Oh yeah. The headline is pretty presumptuous. I admit, I'm quite tired writing this but I have a feeling that if I don't force myself to sit and write what I've been thinking about now and then in the past few days or more, it may never happen. And I can refer you to one of my earlier posts about the elusiveness of inspiration and so on. Regardless, I thought it was nigh time to raise the discussion level here up a notch (that is, to actually try to start a discussion).

I would like to clarify that I don't mean to offend anyone of any creed and religion with this post. I'm merely trying to do something many of the religious people of the world are trying to do - get close to God.

Anyway, I shall begin by explaining myself. I am not a religious person; in fact, I'm agnostic. Being agnostic however, puts me in a fairly good position to continually debate (usually with myself) on the topic/concept of God. For argument's sake, in this post I'll refer to the Monotheistic God, the one many of use are supposedly familiar with. Also, I don't intend to deal here with the question of the existence of God or the nature of God. So, who or what is God? What are the correct or proper questions we should ask ourselves about God? Are there any wrong questions to ask about God? I've decided to concentrate in this instance on something rather mundane (supposedly) like God's name or reference (meaning, how we refer to God in our language).

So, how do we refer to God? What is God's name? Can God even have a name (such as we can actually relate to)? Well, whether God is a 'mere' philosophical super-entity or the God we're familiar with in the various religions, how do we relate to God in thought or prayer? You may notice I don't refer to God by 'he' or 'him' (or 'she' or 'her' for that matter) as I don't really believe God has anything to do with these natural, human properties. For similar reasons, I don't think the term 'it' is fitting either (nor 'they' and so on). In fact, I don't think there is a fitting and proper term or reference for God in any language I'm familiar with, and not only because of poor vocabulary or lack of philosophical and theological clarity, but because of a conjunction of at least these two factors and additional historical and cultural reasons.

What of God then? Can't we call God by the many names that were coined through out the centuries? Many of them, according to the wonderful Wikipedia ( have originated in earlier religions or customs and do not fit today to describe the God we are "familiar" with. For example, the name "El" which means in Hebrew "God" is in fact a name of an old Canaanite god (a rather shocking revelation for me, but understandable given where and when the roots of Judaism come from). Another example is the word "God" itself, which as far as I understand it come from old Germanic from some sacrificial context. In Arabic, similarly to Hebrew, the name of god comes from an old local god from before the Jaheliya ("The time of ignorance", before the coming of the Prophet). Clearly, in my mind, these names do not fit my "image" of God (who/which/don't know what doesn't really have/has an image, sort of... You see what I mean about getting a new and proper reference term?).

I'm not looking for God's first or last names (rather ridiculous notion when you stop to think about it). I'm trying to understand. One of the ways humans try to understand things is to give them names. I claim the current names and reference terms for God are poor and inadequate and a new, clear of any past use and context names and reference terms are needed. Something which will unite rather than divide, something people can relate to, no matter how religious. So I'm opening up the stage to you, my wondrous readers. Help me with this task. Let's make something new and meaningful together. Help me find a new name for God.

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