Religious symbols do exactly the same thing as all symbols do — namely, they open up a level of reality, which otherwise is not opened at all, which is hidden… Religious symbols open up the experience of the dimension of (the) depth in the human soul. If a religious symbol has ceased to have this function, then it dies. And if new symbols are born, they are born out of a changed relationship to the ultimate ground of being, i.e., to the Holy.

Paul Tillich, from The Essential Tillich

During a recent conversation with someone I’ve known almost my whole life, I was asked why I refer to what I write about as “God” when clearly I am not using the “standard model.”

If you refer to the essay entitled Why God Necessarily Exists, you will see that – following Spinoza – I’m not referring to the “folk art” version of God, but instead what we might call the God of the mystics. So, you might ask, why use the word God at all?

As Tillich notes in the quote at the top of this essay, religious symbols go deep into the human psyche and can’t just be created willy-nilly. Most attempts to create new religious symbols fail; those that don’t are the work of religious or artistic genius, or are imposed by force.

Why “God”? Here I will quote from a noted atheist Ayn Rand who, when asked why she used the antagonistic word “selfishness” to describe her philosophy, replied: “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.” If you are afraid of the word God, you might want to ask yourself why. It’s just a word.

If I told you that “Nuk” meant “that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself: in other words, that of which a conception can be formed independently of any other conception” would you complain?

The word “God” has a power beyond the three letters.

 Jossifresco, revisions by AnonMoos [Public domain]