God is Love? God is Energy? What does that even mean?

Some religious people have a tendency to redefine God in such a way that their claims become unfalsifiable. A vague concept of God becomes impossible to disprove, but it is also impossible to support with any type of evidence. If you claim that God exists but cannot say exactly what God is, your claim is ultimately meaningless.

Some people attempt to define God as being synonymous with things that are already proven to exist: nature, the universe, love, energy, etc. For example, author Brendan McPhillips suggests in his article, “Einstein Proves the Existence of God,” that God is the energy that creates mass as described in the famous equation E=MC² (1). According to McPhillips, the energy responsible for creating the universe and everything within it is God.

The problem with this is that we already have the word “energy,” and it suits this purpose of describing energy just fine without using the word “God.” God is a term that comes with a lot of additional baggage. For most theists, God does more than create the universe; he’s also responsible for answering prayers, passing divine judgment or causing things to happen in an individual’s life. God has a consciousness and ability to think, speak, act and make decisions.

There is no evidence whatsoever that energy has consciousness or self-awareness. Without those qualities, nothing about energy is divine or supernatural. Saying that God is energy serves only to talk about the proposed definition of words. It does little to provide more information about the physical world, and it certainly says nothing about the nature of existence of a deity. 


Definitions of God

There are several types of theists, each of them defining God in their own way but all of them generally agreeing on some basic premises. Monotheists, like many Christians, Jews and Muslims, believe in a single supernatural, all-powerful deity. Polytheists, like Hindus, believe in multiple deities or a single deity who can take multiple forms, depending on the specifics of their particular belief system. In either case, when these people refer to God, they have something very specific in mind. For the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, God is an all-powerful, benevolent deity who is responsible for creating and maintaining order in the universe. This deity is believed to play a role in every person’s day-to-day life, answering prayers, performing miracles and punishing sinners.

Some people believe in God without subscribing to a particular religion or adhering to a specific definition as laid out by a religious text. Many such people are deists who believe in an intelligent, supernatural being who created the world and established all of its natural laws. After that event, this impersonal deistic god plays no further role in the universe; he doesn’t answer prayers, perform miracles or have any effect on the lives of individuals or the things that happen in the universe.

Although the deist god is quite different from the god of most theists, he is nevertheless presumed to be an intelligent, supernatural being with some sort of consciousness. Although deists often do not subscribe to any particular church or religious affiliation, they are nevertheless theists. The problem with deism is that it’s ultimately impossible to prove; a passive, non-intervening god is indistinguishable from the complete absence and nonexistence of a god in our universe, as neither of these scenarios include a deity intervening or affecting our world.

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For some people, “god” is simply a word used to describe certain concepts, like natural laws or the universe itself. A pantheist is a person who believes that the words “god” and “nature” are synonymous. In some cases, people with these beliefs may believe that these natural forces are inherently divine. Others may see some sort of spiritual power in nature without ascribing it to a deity. They do not believe in the existence of a supernatural sentient being that exists apart from the natural world. For these people, the usage of the word “god” is metaphorical, a poetic device used to ascribe a sense of spirituality or wonder to the natural world, not the name of any real deity. Pantheism is, as Richard Dawkins put it, “sexed up atheism” (2).

All of this quibbling about language may seem inconsequential, but it underlies an important point about the way we approach language and our world. If the word “god” can mean anything to anyone, then it essentially carries no meaning. The very concept of human language and communication depends on words and sounds that are clearly defined and have a consistent meaning throughout the population of those who use that language.

Words Are Not Objects

The words used to describe an object have no effect on the nature of the object itself. When imagined in other terms, it becomes clear how fallacious the argument “God is energy” really is:

  • “God” is my pet cat. 

  • My cat exists. 

  • Therefore, God exists.

All this serves to prove is that my cat’s name is God. It does not imbue God the Cat with any of the qualities people assign to deities: omniscience, omnipotence, benevolence or having supernatural abilities. Thus, calling my cat God is meaningless in terms of defining and proving the existence of a deity. The same is true for “God is energy” or any other similar claim. Unless you are also claiming that energy has the supernatural abilities generally attributed to deities, the statement is void of meaning. Just like claims for the existence of the Abrahamic God, claiming that energy, love, gravity or any other natural force has supernatural abilities can be ignored if not supported by verifiable evidence.

We already have words for things we know to exist. We don’t need to redefine those words, and doing so only serves to create confusion and a breakdown of effective communication and language understanding. The word “god” can mean anything, but it has a generally accepted definition that people have used for thousands of years. If the word is to retain any meaning at all and not become completely useless, we must continue using it in the way it has always been defined: as the description of a conscious supernatural deity who created our world or, at least, some major attributes of it and the rules that govern it.

There is no evidence whatsoever that an intelligent supernatural entity exists. Saying that God is energy does not support the theist concept of a god and thus cannot act as any sort of counterargument against atheism.

References:

  1. McPhillips, Brendan. "Einstein Proves the Existence of God!" Brendan McPhillips. Accessed September 16, 2014.

  2. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.  

If you enjoyed Armin's blog, check out more of his work in his book: Why There is No God

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