For many people the word ‘God’ is the perfect word, and others are put off by the word and head towards the hills.  I came across this provocative passage by Wendy Beckett that seems to grasp some of the issues so well.

…I am wary of using the word ‘God’. Essentially, this is a meaningless word. No thoughts can encompass God. There is no box into which you can put Him. He, or for that matter, She, completely transcends any human concepts. When we say ‘God’, we are doing no more than pointing a finger. It is a directional word. Forced to give a definition, all I could say is that God is Reality so absolute that all other realities are relative.”

And she goes on to say later in a section entitled ‘Admirable Atheists’: “Sometimes I blush for those who think themselves Christian, and yet the God they worship is cruel, suspicious, punitive and watchful. Who could love such a God? If that is your idea of God, you are obliged by all the rules of morality and common sense to become an atheist.   I have the greatest admiration for atheists, because by definition they have rejected a false ‘God’. The true God, if you have the privilege of knowing, you cannot reject. Anybody who truly understands what God is cannot but believe and love.  There are no lapsed Catholics, no lapsed Christians, but there are very many, far too many, who thought they were Catholics, or Christians, but did not have the good fortune to be taught the truth about God. They looked at this hideous image and said that if it was true, they refused to believe. Too few move on to the next stage and wonder if, in fact, their image of God is not true, or to the stage beyond when they realize that, in actuality, it is not true. If they could accept that the picture they have is wrong from the start, it would bring them to search for the truth.” (Sister Wendy on Prayer, W. Beckett, Harmony Books, 2007, NY. pp 77, 83)

Religions, religious teachings, have much to be held accountable for, in the way ideas are presented.  But each of us also have responsibilities. We have taken easy shorthands or caricatures to represent reality. They may have worked at one time, but do not hold over the long haul.  And then we are disappointed when they do not work, and get fed up with the whole thing. We need to be willing to throw out the dirty bathwater, but save the baby.