Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


In my post on a belief-less Christianity over at the Friendly Atheist, I talked about BYOG (Bring Your Own God).   Some commenters say that BYOG is idolatry, making God in our own image.

The criticism as I understand it, is that the correct image of God has been revealed to us by God himself.  Consult the holy texts.  Moses, Mohammad, and the Apostles already got the divine memo and we just need to read it, believe it, and stay on message.

This was a huge debate when I was in seminary.  Since most images of God had been male (i.e. Father, Son, and Mr. Holy Ghost) expanding the range to include feminine as well as masculine images met with charges of idolatry.   I was on the expand the images team.  I consider myself in good company.

Higher criticism of scriptural texts demythologized them.   This has led an increasing number of people to regard these texts as products of human creativity.   All images of God are our images.   Is there a place for revelation?   Whatever you call it, revelation or evolution, Life is change.

Who decides that revelation stopped somewhere in the past?   I call any claim that revelation (or evolution) has ended, idolatry.  Idolatry is accepting someone else's version of God without doing your homework.

A.A. knows better.
Step 3:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives our to the care of God as we understood Him [sic].
That is a clear a statement of BYOG as I have heard.   God can be everything from an inner voice, to the community, to gravity, to humanity's emerging aspirations.  It is whatever keeps you sober.  

Another point:  just because you BYOG that doesn't mean you will leave with the same G.   You will meet others who have brought their G or are skeptical about G altogether.  They may have an idea that disturbs you or enlightens you and changes your G.   The various Gs in our various spiritual traditions might provide challenge or comfort to your ideas as well.

Any claims that BYOG is soft-pedaling or idolatrous is missing the point.  BYOG requires spiritual maturity, creativity, courage, and hard work.

So BYOG, my beloveds! You have permission and you are welcome!


  1. Seems to me that if God were not real, then neither are you. You would be nothing more than a momentary chemical reaction, with sound and fury amounting to nothing. Or as C.S. Lewis said in "A Grief Observed", "I mistook a cloud of atoms for a person. ... What we call the living are simply those who have not yet been unmasked." Your very identity becomes nothing more than illusion, and anything you may "think" or "say" was predetermined by the arrangement of atoms, and totally without meaning.

  2. You might be interested in Nancy Ellen Abrams' take on it A God That Could Be Real.

  3. In replay to Demolay,it could be the other way around.

    Since the person matters and their identity is, then the cloud of atoms matters as well, and their placement in the cosmos is bursting with meaning. Exploding with life. The subatomic particles themselves singing for joy when they are able to unite in fellowship with their brethren, dance to the sound of harp and drums, and see themselves in a mirror, or gaze upon the sunrise, for a period of time or two over the eternity they have to live. What a privilege it is to be a part of the process that gives the Universe itself its own identity and meaning.