How Would You Like Your Religion: A Personal or Impersonal God?

Summary

This article discusses religions that have a personal god compared to those that have a more impersonal god. The similarities and differences are covered to help readers gain perspective and knowledge. Please Share your thoughts at the end!

Shuri Castle
Shuri Castle | Source
Location: Okinawa, Japan
Location: Okinawa, Japan | Source

A Personal God Compared to an Impersonal God

There are many different kinds of religions, many differing beliefs on who or what we humans should follow. Some religions say there is one personal god, while others go the opposite way, saying there are many impersonal gods or forces at work here on earth. An age old struggle has ensued over which religion is the correct one. Out of this there have been numerous wars and killings. Some people have even become so fed up with religion that they formed a sort of anti-religion religion; basically, they believe that there is nothing to believe in. Is there hope for any cessation of violence? How much longer will there be this struggle over religion? Well, let us look into one factor that splits many people; whether there is a personal, all-knowing god or an impersonal, out-of-the-picture god and what the similarities and differences are between personal and impersonal gods

Differences abound between the belief in a personal god and an impersonal god. To begin with, it seems as though there is a feeling of trust, consistency or closeness with a personal god that is lacking in the qualities of an impersonal god. I think It is because of the definition of what a personal god is; a force or spirit that has an interest for each person on earth. An impersonal god or force simply does not have those characteristics. Christianity is a prime example of how a personal god thinks and acts. In the bible it says that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life (The Bible, NIV).” This shows how the personal God of Christians cares about, and loves each person on earth, making each of us feel as though we are special. When you feel as though you have a personal relationship with God, it makes it easy to depend on that God. Religions that believe in impersonal gods or forces simply cannot have this same ‘relationship’ feeling; the definition of what an impersonal god is, will not allow it.

Along with the feeling of closeness to a personal God, there is also greater guidance coming from a personal God. This is clearly shown in the religion of the Israelites. Moses, one of the major figures in Jewish history and religion, led the Israelites out of Egyptian captivity and into a land of their own. While on the 40 year journey, Moses and the Israelites received almost constant guidance and direction from God. Even Moses’ calling to lead the people of Israel was a direct message from God, in the form of a burning, talking bush. This sort of guidance is unavailable to followers of impersonal gods. To put it plainly, a personal god gives direct direction whereas an impersonal god will not.

Although the differences are plentiful between personal and impersonal gods, there are a few notable similarities worth investigating. Religions based on one or many impersonal gods or forces usually will have some sort of holy text. Oftentimes the holy text will be the prophecies or revelations of the founder of the religion or the writings of someone who had a large influence on the religion. In the case of Buddhism, the founder of the religion was also the writer of many of the holy texts. Those writings contain a wide range of topics, anything from how one can be enlightened to how one should live his or her everyday life. In the same way, religions that believe there is a personal god also usually have a holy book of some kind. In Christianity, followers believe that their holy book, the Bible, was inspired by God’s Son, Jesus. After his death and ascension to heaven, followers wrote down what he did during his lifetime on earth and now they use that as their guide to living life. Another religion, which claims connections to Christianity, also has a holy book that is inspired by a personal god. This religion was founded by a man named Muhammad who, according to their holy book, the Koran, received inspiration from god to found the religion we now know as Islam.

Besides the similarity between impersonal and personal religions on the point of holy texts, they also are analogous on the point of devotion to their respective beliefs. People from impersonal religions are not more or less devout to their religion then people who follow a personal god. However, it seems to me as though it would be significantly easier to be more devout to a personal god than to an impersonal god. In times of doubt or persecution, a personal god can seem to give personal guidance; whereas an impersonal god is not going to give the same kind of ‘personal’ direction. Yet almost all religions have experienced persecution of some kind that has tested the devoutness of followers. And, in most cases, followers of impersonal gods clung to their beliefs as firmly as followers of personal gods. All in all, there are several similarities between the belief in a personal god and an impersonal god.

There are clearly distinct similarities and differences concerning personal and impersonal gods or cosmic forces. But after looking at them, I find myself favoring the idea of a personal God. A personal God is there when you need it, or, at least it seems as though it is there. It’s concerned about what I do, interested in my life and it will guide me when I need it and not stand back and leave things to ‘just happen’. As I think about these desires of mine, because it is important to recognize what you desire, I realize that my desire for a personal God is probably embedded in me because of my cultural background as an American. America was founded on Christian principles by Christian men and women. This has affected all Americans in their way of thinking; we are conditioned to see things as good and bad, right and wrong. This is an interesting phenomenon; that your culture has a great affect on your view of supernatural beings. I have noticed this phenomenon even in Japan, where I have lived for several years. The Japanese people have been conditioned by their culture to not stick out, to try to be the same as the people around them. This has made it so that they believe in a more impersonal god and easily accept Shinto and Buddhism.

After all of this I think it really comes down to one basic point: All religions are different; all are unique in certain ways. So what do you prefer; a personal or impersonal god? For me, I believe in the personal God described in the Christian Bible. But what about you, have you thought about what kind of god you are following?

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Comments 15 comments

Chris Neal profile image

Chris Neal 4 years ago from Fishers, IN

Interesting Hub! It would be interesting to read something that outlines how believers in an impersonal god/universal force can believe so strongly. As an American and a conservative Christian (albeit one who had a sudden conversion from a completely different perspective,) I agree with your preference for a personal God, specifically the God of Christianity.

Voted up!


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Chris - Thanks! I may look into that, although my experience is somewhat limited on religions like Shinto and Buddhism. Thanks for the comment!


gclitty profile image

gclitty 4 years ago

You say you favor a personal god over an impersonal god like you have the decision to choose between the two. Maybe your just outlining why you have chosen one over the other.

I'm agnostic at this point in my life and am leaning towards unbelief as I read more Richard Dawkins and others. I enjoyed reading, though.

Cheers.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

gclitty - I do think you can choose to believe in whatever you want; the real question is if its true or not, which I did not address in this hub. Maybe a topic for another time.

Thanks for dropping in though!


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

internpete, for me, a personal (G)od. "and we will make our abode with you," said Our Lord Jesus in one of His many sensitive teachings that linked The Triune Godhead to fallen man. I love that from our God. A willingness to not only love, but take chance after chance on us even when we screw up. And I screw up a lot. I base my life on John 3:16.

Kenneth

Voted up and all the way. Great read.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Thanks Kenneth, totally agree!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

Hmmm, personal vs impersonal I cannot imagine following or believing in an impersonal Being...I mean, why would one want to? Mine is a very personal relationship.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Denise - Yep, same here. However, many people do believe in an impersonal god. While living in Japan, I noticed this quite often with the Japanese people. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!!


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I grew up in Christianity, but was never really introduced to God, so we had an impersonal relationship until I two missionaries introduced me to him and told me I could pray to him. I read about him in many books, but there is nothing that compares to experiencing a personal connection to someone like God who love me unconditionally and supports me even when I push away at times.

I voted this one up. You have a very diplomatic approach to sharing your faith and inviting others to do the same. I also enjoy your Christ-like style of invitation sharing and example.

I definitely have the personal relationship with God that I need. I need the attention--attention hog is what I am. I get the attention too! With all the billions on this earth, God notices me! I enjoyed this article. I shared it also.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

Rodric29 - What a great testimony! It is truly sad that many 'Christians' grow up never knowing they can have a relationship with God! Thanks for reading and commenting!


TravelAbout profile image

TravelAbout 4 years ago from United States

I deeply believe in a 'personal' God. God provides comfort and guidance when we need it. He can heal the soul if we let him. Yes, many atrocities are committed in the name of religion but there is also much good. In my very humble opinion, I feel the less of 'God' there is in society in general, the worse society seems to behave as a whole. I don't believe that any particular religion is the only or 'right' one. What is important is your own personal relationship with God and living a life of peace with those you share space with in this world.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

TravelAbout - Yes, I think you are right. That is very interesting that 'the less of 'God' there is in society in general, the worse society seems to behave as a whole'. I think there is a bit of history that backs that up! Thanks for reading and commenting!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I too believe in a personal God. Great hub post and hope that it will challenge those who wonder about God to know the truth.


internpete profile image

internpete 4 years ago from At the Beach in Florida Author

teaches12345 - That is my hope that this will challenge people to take a moment to think about what they actually think about Goad. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Kukata Kali profile image

Kukata Kali 2 years ago

Great expression, thank you. Voted up~

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