I think the difference between the moral, spiritual atheist and the thoughtful, liberal Christian is that the former sees continuing the evolution of the idea of God as adding an epicycle, while the latter sees the older ideas of God as steps toward a deeper truth, like Bohr’s electron model, and finds it worthwhile to take another step. I believe that in the pursuit of living the best life we can, it is worth our time to investigate and personally understand how God, spoken of so diversely even within the Christian scriptures, moves in our lives. I believe this because I believe all of these writings were addressing something real. At the same time, I recognize that the modern human’s world experience is sufficiently different from that of the ancient human authors of our holy scriptures that it will take some work to find the truth that inspired those words. But, I think it is valuable work.
In Part III, I wrote about what I see as some spin-offs/distractions. Certain models of God can be very useful, like the moboard. For ancient people, they explained the natural world, and for more modern people, these ideas are used to control behavior. Religion and faith can be also very useful in teaching us empathy, helping us cope with grief, nurturing our better angels, and so on. But, the usefulness of religion, or even certain understandings of God, do not assure us that these understandings are the most complete, or the most accurate understandings.
I also see a trap in playing mind games to make everything “fit,” analogous to saying that the Earth is still in the center of the universe. One example of such mind games is to make all of the Bible stories work by saying the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, present-everywhere God just takes different forms at different times, or tricks the characters in the stories. So, the Let-There-Be-Light God just takes the shape of a human to blow life into the dirt, or in Hebrew, adam. God stands before Abraham, but then God demands that Moses hide in a rock or be killed by God’s awesomeness, and then God never appears to Jesus, not because the image of God is evolving, but because that’s just what God wanted to do. Another game, which is more tempting to me, is to keep making God so abstract that God becomes nature, or everything, or a collection of human experience. Now, first that’s not fair to anyone debating me on the existence of God, but more importantly, it leads to a meaningless understanding of God for me. If there is a God, God must be more than nature, even if all of nature is a part of God.
I believe the search for God has to be an honest one. I think that is something it shares with science. Just as scientists can be derailed by preconceived notions, so can those searching for God in their lives.