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The Need for God


Explanations > Needs > The Need for God

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We have a need to believe in a power greater than us, a guiding hand that brings order and meaning to life and the universe. Many people call this God, even though our conceptions of God's intent can vary greatly.


A person in mid-life feels a sense of meaninglessness. They try going to church and find that it somehow works for them.

A Christian becomes disillusioned with the church. They find greater value in Buddhism, where the idea of god is less as a person and more as a higher state. 

Related to


Part of Related to
Identity Control, Meaning, Fairness, Status



The idea of God helps with a number of other needs:

  • Control: When we cannot control things, we need to know that someone else is in charge, that an intelligent hand is managing things. A omniscient, omnipotent God provides this default control. We trust God and so feel all is going to his plan. We must also trust his priests, which leads to a convenient system of government and social control.
  • Identity: God is seen as a source, a father, and we are a part of him, and hence are connected to one another, with the identity of a family, not just a species. As an extension of an all-powerful being, we also get a bonus boost to our sense of control.
  • Meaning: God is intelligent and hence has a purpose, even if is not clear to mere mortals. Serving an assumption of that purpose can give much meaning, whether it is simply following daily laws or dedicating one's life to missionary work. God is also a great excuse for things that go wrong. When we ask 'Why did that happen?' the easy answer is 'God's will.'
  • Fairness: God is seen as impartial and certainly not siding with the rich and powerful. God is beholden to nobody, although godly people may be looked on more kindly. This gives downtrodden people hope and serves warning on those who would harm others.
  • Status: Paradoxically, God also offers superiority. We all like to feel better than others, and godliness is one route. Within religions, people vie for moral superiority as well as formal hierarchical positions. Between religions there has been endless persecution and wars as each tries to assert its superior rightness.

It has been said that if God did not exist, we would invent him (or her, in a modern feminist twist). Wherever there are humans, there are gods, who have surprisingly similar characteristics, such as in creation myths that presuppose a creator. There are also powerful priests and pious worshippers. In systems such as Buddhism, where there may not be gods, there are still concepts of things greater than the individual, such as 'nirvana'.

So what?

So figure out what your approach to God is, whether you believe or not and what you consider God to be and what you consider his (or her!) intent to be. Then decide how this shapes your life, or not.

When other believe in God, their approach to interaction may be strongly shaped by this. You can take this into account when you negotiate or otherwise try to change their minds. 

See also

Beliefs, Why science and religion are the same

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