Putting God into Words: Plato Said, "Truth Is His Body, and Light Is His Shadow." from Ancient Philosophers to Modern-Day Scientists, the Quest Continues to Describe a Supreme Being. (Religion)

The Saturday Evening Post, July-August 2003 | Go to article overview

Putting God into Words: Plato Said, "Truth Is His Body, and Light Is His Shadow." from Ancient Philosophers to Modern-Day Scientists, the Quest Continues to Describe a Supreme Being. (Religion)


His name appears on the dollar bill. Hundreds of millions speak to Him daily. He's the CEO of everything. Yet who can really describe God?

The Greek philosopher Empedocles defined God as "a circle whose center is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere."

The Roman orator Cicero defined God by a question: "There is something in the nature of things which the mind of man, which reason, which human power cannot effect," he said. "And certainly that which produces this must be better than man. What can this be but God?"

Buckminster Fuller, the 20th century innovator and inventor, said simply, "God is a verb; not a noun."

In her 1990 book, What Do We Mean When We Say God?, writer-editor Deidre Sullivan entered the fray by asking Americans of all ages, creeds, and occupations to submit their own ideas about the mysterious man upstairs. She also included ideas from famous people from the past such as physicist Albert Einstein. The following are selected answers from Ms. Sullivan's book, along with some contemporary responses by a number of noted Americans on the nature of God.

"A conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intangibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. This firm belief, a belief bound up with deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God."

--ALBERT EINSTEIN, PHYSICIST

"I'm just a light bulb, but there's a power line. His name is God, and I don't try to take His job. I just try to be the bulb. I don't try to be the source of the power. Oh, listen, it's a Duracell battery, just never runs out."

--MOTHER YORK, director of a jailhouse ministry in Chicago's Cook County Jail

"Intellectually, I know that God is not a person, a man who lives in the sky and has real eyes, ears, hands and sexual organs. But given the limitations of my three-dimensional mind, when I pray or when I contemplate God, I can't help thinking of God as a person even as I remind myself that references to God's hands and eyes, are poetic metaphors.

"To me, God is the Source of the world in all of its beauty, order and complexity. God is the Power that gives human beings the ability to think, to feel and to know the difference between good and bad. God is the force that gives ordinary people the otherwise inexplicable capacity to do extraordinary things, to be braver, more compassionate, more generous and forgiving than they ever thought they could be. God's promise was never that life would be fair; God's promise was that when we had to confront the unfairness of life, we would be able to because God would be with us."

--RABBI HAROLD S. KUSHNER

"A power higher than myself."

--JIM NABORS, entertainer

"I suppose there must be millions of different answers to the question 'What do people mean when they say God?' because most people see God through the prism of their own perception and preconceptions. …

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Putting God into Words: Plato Said, "Truth Is His Body, and Light Is His Shadow." from Ancient Philosophers to Modern-Day Scientists, the Quest Continues to Describe a Supreme Being. (Religion)
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