What's the Problem With the Big Word "God"?
I'm a believer but I rarely say, plain and simple, "I believe in God." As far as I can remember, my mother has always despised anything remotely religious. She made a genuine effort to instill in her children's minds that the Catholic church was run by stealers, liars, and manipulators, and people who followed them were hopeless fools. I cannot blame her in the slightest, though. She grew up and went to school in communist Czechoslovakia, where the ruling totalitarian Party regarded the Church as a threat to be eliminated and religion as "the opiate of the masses."
And yet, such upbringing didn't succeed in eradicating spirituality from my soul, nor thoughts about the ultimate source from my head.
I was born in a country that is even today considered to be home to one of the most atheist and secular populations in the world. Many people, just like my mom, approach the concept of God from the "there's no scientific proof, so it doesn't exist" perspective. However, many, many, many other people do, indeed, believe. If you dare ask them directly, "Do you believe in God?" you will often hear, "Well, I do believe in something. Some higher order. I just don't know what to call it."
Having lived in many foreign countries and visited 50+ of them, I have heard this response on many occasions, from people of all colors and origins. Personally, I don't identify myself with any of the world's official religions, even though it would be easier and perhaps reassuring for me if I did. This, however, is something I can't purely blame on my childhood education. I know a few people who have converted as adults and accepted the teachings of the Bible or the Quran, for example, as their own with ease. But in my case, even though I consider myself a deeply spiritual person, no individual religion has ever resonated enough to follow its predetermined path.
What is it then that makes some people struggle with verbalizing the word 'God'?
Some of those who were raised religious don't identify themselves with the beliefs and practices of their parents. Thus the question "Do you believe in God?" impels them to set themselves apart.
Some are apprehensive of being judged by others. When you respond, "Yes. I do believe in God," you're expecting the one asking to make certain assumptions. Assumptions about something that is very private and fragile to you.
Or there are those people who have a certain image of what God means etched into their minds, based on what they've experienced or learned in the past, and it's not particularly aligned with how they feel about their own faith.
I don't mean to offer you a conclusion. And I cannot say, "It's just a word," either. Words matter.
Words that leave your lips invite me to peek into the nooks and crannies of your soul.
If only we care to listen closely.
That's why it's up to each one of us to make peace with this big word, or find our own way of expressing – provided that we decide freely to do so – our relationship with the energy, love, and intelligence that is behind all life in the universe, and our commitment to live with integrity.