THE CONCEPT OF GOD
Mankind has created a plethora of gods; some are ancient in origin, while others were developed relatively recently. Most of the gods have evolved from a core group of deities. Yahweh, the primary god of the ancient Hebrews, spawned the Christian, Islamic, and Judaic supreme beings; as well as the thousands of related sectarian versions of him. The ancient Hebrew religion appears to have evolved, at least partly, from the earlier African tribal beliefs; which is where the barbaric circumcision ritual is from. The development of Yahweh was strongly influenced by Hinduism; as were most of the eastern religions. Going back further in time; the beliefs carried to the Americas fifteen thousand years ago, by the ancestors of the native population, bear a striking resemblance to ancient Egyptian beliefs; and to other isolated aboriginal cultures. This establishes that a complex common religion existed much earlier than one hundred and fifty centuries ago. Primitive man buried the dead with flowers and personal possessions between thirty five thousand, and one hundred and thirty thousand years ago: an obviously spiritual ritual. Then there are the "Earth Mother" statuettes: small figures of a pregnant female, that are all almost identical in appearance. Judging from human behavioral patterns, it is quite likely that a form of Animistic spirituality existed over half a million years ago.
Man has created his gods in his own image; usually physically, but always with human characteristics. Evidence suggests that the gods were originally female; which makes sense, since women nurture and produce life. It is likely that masculine deities were developed to justify human aggression: changing God from an entity that passively provided for, and created life; to a pro-active force that assisted particular groups in the domination of others ("God is on our side"). As society developed, and male/female roles became less clearly defined, the masculine deity began to serve an additional purpose: to maintain male authority over women. Most religions still place restrictions upon the female members: allegedly due to orders from the male gods.
Mankind has always used the existence of a supernatural being to explain phenomenon that were beyond understanding. Originally, natural occurrences such as eclipses, lightning, and comets; were attributed to mystical forces. As man discovered the real reasons behind these events, the gods were needed for increasingly complex explanations. Gradually, religion became a tool used to manipulate the masses; with the elite establishing rules of conduct designed to form a society that was obedient to the doctrine distributed by a select few: this allowed for the creation of a controlled, and therefore safer, social structure. Unfortunately, this situation also removed the need for the leaders to justify their actions; permitting them to use the "word of God" to attain self-serving goals.
What was God, prior to the development of structured society? Ancient Animistic beliefs held that God was omnipresent; that everything was part of God, and God was within all that existed: an "animated" world where every animal, plant, or object contained a spirit force. This concept continues to resurface throughout history, and in the common era, the logical variant is referred to as Pantheism: God and the universe are the same; so that God has no existence independent of the universe, and therefore cannot be its creator; there is no divine purpose, nor beginning or end; everything is cause and effect. The Pantheistic/Animistic viewpoints are likely far closer to the truth, than any of the anthropomorphic religions. Fundamentally, early Animism was the first form of belief similar to monotheism; suggesting there was one god in many forms. Such beliefs lost favour with the majority of organized religions; and monotheism did not regain popular support until Zoroastrianism reintroduced it in the sixth century BCE, which led to numerous religions adopting a singular form of God. (Note: many followers of the religions based on the "God of Abraham" confuse the Hebrew doctrine of "one significant God", with the idea of "only one God": most of the books included in the Old Testament were written during the Polytheistic period of Judaism; where there were many deities, but only one that was to be obeyed).
Let us begin determining what the concept of God is, by examining anthropomorphism. Many religions of the world, particularly Eastern sects, do not view their divine entities as the image of a man, but rather, as an ethereal force (albeit with human qualities). Logically, how could an omnipresent god have an image? An infinite force that is everywhere at once, is obviously without a specific form: even if a god had a shape, how arrogant it is to assume, with all that exists in the universe, that man would be that image. Confining your mystical entity into a given appearance, is placing limits upon this being. A number of religions were founded by prophets who claimed to have met with God, and therefore know he is humanoid. Considering God gave quite different instructions to each of these prophets, we must view these claims with a somewhat jaundiced eye: perhaps we can say that their gods manifested themselves in a way that simple humans could comprehend. Why assign a gender? Different sexes are only necessary for physical reproduction; although some religions believe their gods mate and bear offspring, this idea creates beings that are merely superhuman; not all-powerful. The Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have taken this viewpoint to an extreme; where the multitude of gods are actual physical beings, who produce enough "spirit babies" to inhabit billions of physical bodies. Their supreme beings are quite limited, hence the need for Latter Day Saints to learn secret passwords and handshakes, in order to identify themselves to the gods in the Celestial Kingdom. This is truly a patriarchal religion, where men become gods ruling over worlds, mating with their wives in order to populate their planets; and women become goddesses, whose duty is to be perpetually pregnant.
Gender identity, and all the accompanying behavioral traits, serves no purpose when you apply it to entities that allegedly have the power to create anything. In the belief systems that promise an eternal afterlife, there is also no reason for sexuality: infinite existence as some sort of perfect being does not require mating, desire, or pair bonding: these are tools nature uses to ensure species success.
Religions that follow humanoid gods often claim that man is superior to all other living things, and is consequently, the image of God. Following this line of reasoning, we must assume God is, or was at one time, a dinosaur. Does man's intelligence make him superior to other life? Could it be that creatures that live within nature's balance, without destroying the planet, are wiser by definition, and therefore superior? Mankind has always confused intelligence with wisdom. Humans have the intelligence necessary to make sophisticated tools, and overly manipulate the environment; other creatures have the wisdom not to do so.
We can claim that our spoken language is an example of intellect; but other living things are able to communicate adequately in a variety of ways. Bees "speak" to one another through dance, using complex body language to convey messages throughout the community. A bee returning to the hive with a new source of nectar, is able to tell the others where to find it, by describing the exact direction relative to the Sun, distance, and quantity; I dare say, few humans could convey such information accurately. When a hive is reaching maximum occupancy, the bees discuss the situation, and begin sending scouts out to find a suitable location for another home. The scouts return and describe places they have found, allowing others to go there, and form an opinion on the site. When all the bees are doing the same dance, they have agreed upon the spot. This is an example of, not only advanced communication skills, but intelligence and reasoning. Due to the fact that these insects regulate the temperature of their hive through communal wing flapping, the perpetual buzz makes a visual language the only practical option.
Other living things communicate using combinations of sight, sound, touch, taste, and scent: one does not have to speak, to be "heard". Man has a written language; but if everything necessary for the well-being of a species can be communicated without it, does it really mean anything, other than establishing that humans require it? The attributes that humanity uses to affirm its superiority over other life forms: building, art, science, culture, etc.; are characteristic, not qualitative, of man. Humans are fragile, and ill-suited for survival, without these attributes. Comparing these elements of human behavior to any other species, is called a category mistake: certain things cannot be grouped comparatively, because they do not apply equally ("apples and oranges").
All living things have intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge; but only as applied to the success of their species. When we try to apply human values to other creatures, we are simply projecting our behavior onto them. There are elements of existence that are common to all living things, to ensure harmony within the balance of nature; and there are elements that are part of a species identity. There are no life forms that are better, or worse, than others; only different: but this is not to say that each species does not function as though it had preeminence over all else; species awareness ensures this.
If we strip God of all human attributes, what we have left is a force. The few religions that attempt to follow this path still establish man as having priority over other living things. Most of them also add mystical elements to their belief systems; such as reincarnation, demons, anthropomorphic entities (spirits, ghosts), and/or ultimate paradisiacal conditions.
Is it even possible to reason toward something that can be referred to as God? With the limitations of human language, God is the closest word that we can use to refer to a group of certain logical principles. Man has an innate sense of these tenets, but many people are incapable of reasoning in the abstract, and need the symbolism created by religions, in order to even begin to comprehend anything beyond human reference; nonetheless, humans are aware that there is something more to this universe than simple existence.