Gods and Goddesses
Oh My God...
Even sex can be related to the Divine. "Oh god, Oh God, OH GOD!" is a common refrain in many porno clips, a verbal expression of otherworldly ecstasy and deep personal fulfillment. The intimacy of God with orgasm was wonderfully demonstrated by Meg Ryan in the notorious diner scene in When Harry Met Sally. Today there is a thriving sex manual industry for evangelicals and other religious adherents who look to enliven marriages by fusing fornication with godliness, fantasy with divinity. Hell, even Timothy Leary proclaimed that "sex and God are one."
So, the word God means many things to many people, with no fixed essence or form, and no one authority to regulate its proper usage. Does the acknowledgment of this strange brew of disparate meanings and confounding associations--emanating from the most sophisticated theologies to the most entertaining popular cultures--automatically lead to the conclusion that there is no God, or that the biblical God has been eclipsed by gods unfettered by sacred scriptures? Absolutely, for some; absolutely not, for others. But for those of us in the atheist camp (that is, folks who are not "anti"-theist, against God, but more like those who self-identify as "a"-political, or "a"-sexual and are therefore indifferent to the theistic arena), God is just a word, not The Word, that can refer to just about any experience that is hard to describe with other words.
While many equate religious belief with belief in one God, it is time to recognize that religious diversity in America is a messy, complicated, and confusing social reality not limited to one theological vision of a Father in Heaven, or a Creator of the Universe, or a Lord who is the Supreme Ruler. God can be found in sex, drugs, and rock and roll; God is love, peace, and war; God lives in anything, everything, and nothing at all; God evolves, is eternal, and is an illusion.
Gary Laderman is co-editor and co-director of Religion Dispatches and Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Religion at Emory University.