a few days ago i read a post by adam lee on his blog, daylight atheism, which was linked to an article of his that appeared in theguardian about those who profess belief in God. his point was that, while the latest research by the pew research center which found 89% of people in the u.s. believe in a divine power, that figure is misleading because of the wide diversity of belief regarding the nature of that divine power. simply to say an overwhelming majority of us believe in God suggests that we believers have much in common with regard to our belief, while the reality is our theism leads us in many different directions. our "gods" are quite diverse, just as we are.
perhaps it is more accurate to say that our perceptions of God are diverse. because there is a wide variance from theist to theist regarding the nature of God, doesn't mean that we don't believe in the same God. just as each person may see something different in an abstract painting or find a different meaning in a poem, those differences in perception don't mean we are looking at different paintings or reading different poems; the painting is the painting and the poem is the poem. it is our interpretations, our perceptions, that are different.
this doesn't diminish the validity of adam's point, because our perception of God influences the way we perceive life and our relationships with those around us and the environment of which we are a part. the "clockmaker" God of the deist, the "interventionist" God of the evangelical, the "ground of all being" God of the philosopher, or the "pantheist" God of those who believe God is the personification of nature lead those of us who perceive God in any of those or myriad other ways to live our lives very differently, while those who believe there is no God see life through still different eyes. to lump all theists together in the 89% majority is misleading.
i find myself somewhere between the "clockmaker" and the "ground of all being" theists, denying the idea that God is constantly monitoring every move i make to see if i am conforming to a "divine" plan that was laid out for me before my birth. yet my faith is such that i believe in a God that cares for me as an individual and as a part of the vast universe, a God who rejoices and suffers with me without making marks in a giant book, marks that will be tallied at some judgment day in the future. the God in which i believe understands our human foibles and loves us in spite of them, leading us to love one another and to recognize that we are all more alike than we are different.
what we believe about God is important. that belief colors our thinking about every aspect of life. the absence of belief also leads one along a different path from the disparate paths of belief. may we love and respect each other despite our differences in belief or lack of belief. may we take time to consider the nature of our belief/non-belief and where that leads each of us. may we abandon beliefs that cause suffering for ourselves and for others. shalom.