Chouang Tseu dreamed he was a brain trapped in a body. Then he awoke and remembered he was a human being with a mind. Then the pollyty awoke and realized a small part of it existed in the person of Chouang Tseu.
After many fruitless attempts at explaining why people were wrong to use the word god as they did, and tiring of answering their questions as to whether he really did in the end believe or not in god, Chouang Tseu decided to tell the following story:
An atheist and a christian fell madly in love and decided to marry. They were very happy together, but though they shared an interest in many similar activities, they could never agree on the problem of god and argued through many nights exhausting themselves into the wee hours of the morning. So one day they said: we cannot agree on the existence of god, nor can either of us understand why the other so vehemently holds to the position e does. Let us have a child, both of us will teach e what we believe, and whatever conclusion the child eventually comes to, that will be the better truth.
So they gave birth to an infant and each parent spent much time with the child talking, reading and answering questions about god. On e’s eighteenth birthday both parents sat down with their child and asked e: so, now that you’ve grown up understanding both views of god, please tell us, which is right: is there a god or not? The teenager paused for a long while and then answered: you are both wrong, but you were right in what you did. Now i see with two eyes, whereas both of you had only one. And i see that your problem was never the existence of god, but god eself: there is no god such as either of you describe e, for everyone of your descriptions were always woefully inadequate, like the pictures i used to draw which no one could make out. Nevertheless, god is the most powerful word you ever taught me. It fueled both of your lives, and now it fuels mine; only i can use it much more effectively than either of you ever could, because i have learned never to dull it by pinning it down.
It is just as wrong to believe God exists as it is to say e does not, for both statements are built upon an erroneous conception of God. All descriptions of God, however broad or inclusive, are essentially incorrect. Which is why it is just as importantly wrong to go about denying that God exists as to preach that e does. The only way out of this predicament i know of is to find a better conception of God — and to never finally settle upon any one.
You can decide to simply ignore God, but that is a deliberate self-blinding, as one might ignore beauty or suffering throughout one’s life. The idea of God can be very powerful and useful for persons & societies, as human history has proven out; everyone is certainly better off with a good conception of God than without one. The key is to never settle for a bad one — either in order to accept or deny it.
The Atheist is just as trapped in es picture of the world as is the Theist; both live their lives according to the same mistaken idea about the nature of God, only one constructs positive and the other negative claims, and yet both have structured their lives as if their preferred phrase (“God does (not) exist”) had meaning; it does not.
We do not say “Justice exists” or “Justice does not exist” because justice is not a thing that might or might not be found somewhere. It is, say, a way of living one’s life. And so with God. Moreover, no one knows how “Justice” is to be defined; we are always trying to invent or find better ways of being just. Each conception is but a roughly hewn stool for stepping up to a slightly better one. And so it is with the idea of God: The only intelligent way to use the word “God” is to find a better way to define and use it; to deny the existence of God is to capitulate to those who’ve already defined — and poorly so — the word you are using. There is no easy way out.
As silly and pointless as the Atheist might find the Christian or Muslim’s lifestyle, es own is just as far from the mark. To live as if there were no god(s) has just as great an impact upon the kind of life you live as does the opposite persuasion. And both kinds of life, resting as they do upon an erroneous view, are much worse than they could be.
The idea of God is the seed in our minds that enables and compels us to search for much better ways of looking at the world and ourselves. This idea is a constant reminder that we are always trapped in a way of looking at our world that does us more harm than good. Continually searching for and finding better pictures of God is the way out & up into happier lives.
“God” is an effective promise that there are superior ways of seeing the world which will immediately make you a better & happier person. The intelligent person’s task is to never stop moving from good gods to better ones. Theists and Atheists are merely those who’ve given up the search for happier lives, preferring to stick with someone else’s old & mistaken conception of God.