An Essay On


T J Dunn, DVM

To simplify communication, please assume within the context of this essay the definition of God is the entity that brought the universe into a state of material existence.  This general definition places no (human) bias for or against any other person's concept of their own God; nor does it exclude any individual's convictions or faith in a God relative to their personal beliefs.  For the agnostic or atheist, using the term "God" within this definition proves no acceptance that such an entity even exists but does create a linguistic method for us to discuss such notions.

Human history has demonstrated a consistent, passionate quest to understand and interact with a deity or deities.  Early evidence of our human lineage indicates A quiet place to worship...mankind's consistent conceptualization of an intangible spiritual entity that resides in and has power over and through material objects such as animals, rocks, wind, and even other humans.  Strong beliefs of spiritual powers mystically residing within the earth and the mysterious cosmos above have become part of what makes us human.  Some of us continue to hold fast to a conviction that there exists a heaven and hell; some believe there is credible evidence for discrete spiritual locations such as purgatory or limbo. Many hold fast to a doctrine of stages of spiritual habitation after death within which the person's spiritual essence undergoes changes that refine and improve the goodness of the spirit before it reenters another physical creation.

Highly intelligent, honest and passionate people have made their life's work the study of human concepts of God and the various categories of standardized beliefs we call religion.  Interestingly, through the ages uncountable numbers of these serious seekers of truth, after examining evidence of God, have come to widely differing conclusions.  Of note is the fact that evidence of God is qualified in differing and even conflicting ways by sincere truth seekers.  It is estimated that in the 21st Century there are over 40 different standardized belief systems we call religion.

The numbers of widely diverse yet sincerely motivated religions lead the curious mind to ask a fundamental question: Which religion is correct and true?  The open and curious mind then questions further: Is there even a single truth to be assimilated or are some, all, or none of these religions a perfect explanation of God and God's will?  It happens that human nature permits some people to become unshakably convinced their belief system (religion) is the single ultimate and universally true definition of what God is and how God has commanded us to conduct our lives.  Many people in an assortment of religions describe having direct connection with God via revelations, audible spoken words or signs.  Some people claim to have been directly commanded by God to perform specific works or behaviors; and these specially selected individuals are steadfast in their absolute faith that God has chosen them for specific purposes including killing other humans.

If an inquisitive person were to compare and contrast a few God-centered faiths, confusing and contradictory dogmas cloud the effort to arrive at a singular and definable deity.  I do not deny nor attest to the authenticity of anyone's personal beliefs.  However, after reading several examples of ways people interact with and believe in dissimilar renditions of man-God relationships you may wonder as I do why we humans have been unable to formulate a unified concept of God.  We humans seem able to define our personal gods but fall short of defining a deity that is unanimously agreed upon.  Try to unify the concept of God that the religion-motivated behaviors portray in the few examples below.  (If you would like to skip the examples and go directly to the possible solution to this obstacle of attaining a unanimous definition of a God, go here.) 


The commission of murder of any kind is abhorrent in some belief systems; it is permissible only in specific circumstances in others and is encouraged or required in others.  Which religious position is correct?  Walks on water over the sunOr can all these attitudes regarding killing be correct and honorable?  If a true believer in God kills another person as a sincere act of obedience to their God's will, can we conclude that God will be pleased with the person even though another persons' defined God might condemn the act?  It is interesting to explore the idea that the true essence of God might be relative to the believer. 


By examining behaviors of devoutly religious people of different faiths and then appraising how their actions are self-perceived to be approved by their respective Gods, we consistently find that approval and justification for the behaviors arises from a perceived religious permission. In some religions killing a convicted sinner by public stoning is reasoned to be an act of faithful vengeance on behalf of and to honor God.  These stoners are acting in an honest and obedient manner in doing their God's will; shall we not conclude their God was pleased and provided a reward in a non-earthly realm for the killers?

It is said that just before the act of mass killings some earnest and devout believers in God have verbally hailed their God by vocalizing "God Is Good" or "praise The Lord"  or "repent sinner."  With full expectation of a pleased and benevolent God, these individuals heroically and willingly vaporized their own precious lives along with hundreds of other random people as they obeyed the will of their God.

Motivated by their assumed mandate from God to spread Christianity to all parts of the world and claim territory for their Spanish king, Hernan Cortez and his army of a few hundred Christian soldiers in one of the most astounding conquests in history seized Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).  On the way to the city and its treasures of gold, jewels and slaves the conquistadores employed brute force, connivance, promises and coercion to recruit native people to assist the invading Spanish army and to forego their heathen beliefs or be killed.  It was a simple choice... pledge allegiance to Christ and the King of Spain or die by dismemberment by being roped to two horses and pulled apart. Death by the sword, musket, or trained dogs that tore the throats out of the fleeing natives were common methods for gaining new souls for Christianity.  Heads were severed and placed on posts as warning signs of the fate to be suffered if the natives did not cooperate with these strangers with horses and devil dogs.  Do you think Cortez's God was pleased with him?  The carnage  was absolutely wanton homicidal behavior by individuals purporting to be followers of The Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

Many North American natives in pre-European times believed a God-spirit resided in earthly and non-earthly objects such as stones, plants, animals, the sun and moon.  Belief in your WakanTanka is a highly personal experience.The tribal medicine man at some time in his life demonstrated a supernatural connection with God (Wakan Tanka) and received superhuman powers of perception.  The medicine man would be consulted prior to battles and often saw visions of the future.  A medicine man would tell his warriors that if specific objects were carried into battle or rituals were performed the warrior would be untouched by his enemies, who were no less spiritual and who trusted their own specific godly beliefs. The spiritual power of Wakan Tanka, through the sacred objects and rituals, would shield the confident warrior from harm.  While fully convinced of Wakan Tanka's protection, many warriors died in battle.  Others were outright reckless and foolhardy and yet survived without a scratch.  One wonders why their Gods favored one warrior over another when each believed an infallible spiritual shield would save them.

A Christian medical doctor and freedom fighter led a band of guerrilla forces fighting against his country's government forces.  He killed many enemy fighters, some of whom were his neighbors, but was eventually captured and imprisoned.  He was asked during a video interview what he thought of his imprisonment.  He replied that it was God's way of showing displeasure with his unnecessary and dishonorable actions destroying gardens, structures, water supplies and property while driving a tank through his enemy's territory. The doctor/soldier knew he was offending God by his unwarranted destructiveness and concluded he probably was captured and imprisoned because of it.  A thoughtful individual might ask why his God would bless his killing of humans but show vengeance for excessive property damage.  This very religious person projects an interesting selectivity to his God's interaction in his life. 


Devout scholars with a thorough understanding of biblical content, etymology, and teachings often have differing views regarding what the Bible means by the words within it.  The same can be said of other sacred and inspired books and doctrines.  Nevertheless, one individual’s acceptance of such texts as absolute and timeless truth emanating directly from God another person may profess to be simply a metaphor and not to be taken as literal doctrine.  This dichotomy of interpretation leads us to a challenging conundrum.  A person listening to various bible scholars may come to an impasse at trusting the veracity of any sacred text.  If the message is divinely inspired why does the willing and receptive truth seeker so often fail to understand the message? 

If God is infallible and all knowing why are God's direct instructions to us humans often

incomprehensible and even divisive among us truth seeking mortals?


One impediment to acceptance of divine texts and traditions may be the fact that within various religious manifestos are found contradictions and inconsistencies.  Nevertheless, some people trust that their definition of God as revealed by their religion's teachings, are entirely true in every detail because, they believe, the message issues from an infallible God's direct revelation.  These folks may be correct.  And they may not.  Interpretation is the key word wherein lies the thorn. 


The truth or error in any interpretation of sacred texts, revelations, miracles and religious doctrines are influenced by the interpreter.   To interpret is to translate, analyze or explain written or spoken language in a manner that provides the listener a better understanding of the subject.  Interpretation has always been an imperfect endeavor.  The accuracy, and hence veracity, of any interpretation is intrinsically warped relative to each interpreter.  This "relative to the interpreter" parameter may explain why there are so many versions of Christianity.  Unfortunately, it does not explain which interpretation designates the one true Christian religion..

Many very devout people in every religion testify that only their religion holds the ultimate explanation for what God is and what God wants from us.  A seeker of God may come to the conclusion that either a single religion must be found among the many in order to truly worship and know God, or that no religion properly defines God.  A third pathway to God is reasonable... the ever-widening pathway that embraces the concept that any religious belief is true for that believer.  Could it be, therefore, that God is relative to the believer?  One must really think outside our human propensity of finding truth only in what makes sense.  Albert Einstein, going beyond what made sense, unwrapped the mind-boggling concept of General Relativity which states the speed of light is relative to the observer!


(You can skip this brief explanation of Einsteinian relativity, it may not even be relevant!)
In a moment of genius Albert Einstein wondered what a beam of light would look like and how fast it would be going if he could ride another parallel beam of light going in the opposite direction.   An intelligent person expects Einstein to observe the other beam pass by him at twice the speed of light because his beam's speed one way and the other beam's speed passing in an opposite direction added together would make the other beam appear to be traveling at two times the speed of light.  It should work out just as if two cars going 40 miles an hour pass in opposite directions.  Each passenger sees the other car pass by as if it was travelling 80 miles an hour.  Surprisingly this addition of velocities does not work out that way when dealing with the speed of light.  An observer never sees any beam of light travelling faster than 186,202 miles per second no matter how fast or what direction the observer is travelling.  Light always appears to an observer to be going at the speed of light.

Stated again, the speed of light is always observed to be 186,00 miles per second
even if the observer is traveling toward or away from the light.

Could it be that God's true essence is always true as long as it is believed to be true?  If so, God is relative to the believer.  This concept (not a definition) solves the problem of reconciling the sincere faith of the devout suicide bomber with the equivalent faith of a devout pacifist such as Mother Theresa.  The suicide bomber, with the name of his God on his last breath vaporizes himself along with numerous random human beings.  He commits this act to honor his God and expects to reap the promised rewards of the afterlife.  Mother Theresa's self sacrifice for the poor multitudes was done in honor of her God, a God conceptually quite unlike a mass murderer's.  The characterization and attributes of the God for whom the deeds were done are relative to the believer.  Each believer, devout but different, behaves honestly and heroically while honoring their distinctly personal and distinctly different Gods.  Do all believers get a heavenly reward regardless of their actions as long as the actions were consistent with a deep conviction they were done in response to their God's commands?

Some believers in God accept human interpretations of God's word as the direct will of the Creator of the Universe.  They believe their definition of God and that specific humans with special study, training and authority accurately elucidate what God is and wants of us.  For example, a number of decades aAre birds bad because they eat innocent little fish?go the Catholic Church decided to end a practice which if not followed would result in a hell-binding mortal sin for the transgressor.  To knowingly eat meat on a Friday and subsequently die without confessing this mortal sin to a priest (and being truly repentant for having committed the sin), a Catholic believer was due for hellish damnation and separation from God for all eternity.  This kind of human origin mandate and associated punishment for transgressions seem to some introspective truth seekers to be inconsistent with the notion of a Creator of the vast and awe-inspiring universe.

Does God, the Creator of the profoundly wondrous, elegantly organized and ever changing landscape of space and time actually speak to the human inhabitants of the hazy blue speck of stardust orbiting a minor star near the edge of a galaxy over 100,000 light years in diameter?  Does God speak directly to favored individuals who then profess to know the way, the truth and the light?  What if a divine revelation required the establishment of a male dominated society where female human beings are regarded as less important than males?  What if God's truth means unbaptized people at death never get the heavenly reward that awaits those who have been baptized?  What's been the fate of all the deceased humans who innocently happened to be born before John the Baptist?  What if after death a spirit does not reincarnate into another life form as some sincere believers think?   What if a sacred stone or feather does not shield the warrior from the lance?  What if sacrificing by the sword young female virgins to appease the sky gods in hopes of causing rainfall to quench a thirsty population? 


If God is relative to the believer, all things are possible, all devout beliefs are true,

all descriptions and attributes and definitions of God are real.

As a seeker of truth and a believer in God, I have discovered that my beliefs came to me; I did not select them.   I embraced my belief in God not so much through human pontifications, not so much by blind faith in someone's claim that an ancient document conveys the only true way to revere God, not so much from people claiming to be visited by God and personally ordained by God to convince me to believe what they believe, not by repetitious recitations or ritualistic actions, not because secret golden tablets inscribed with mysterious symbols with an assortment of rules and regulations and were found behind a barn in upstate New York. But rather my beliefs formed by observation, study of physical sciences, and joyful contemplation of the physical manifestation of the immensity of a suprme power.  My beliefs came to me; I did not purposely set out to acquire them.

The life forms and structures seen in the submicroscopic realm are within the unimaginable expanse and atomic structures of the universe that surrounds us, and permits us to be here for a fleeting blink of eternity, is all my God has revealed to me.  What more do I need to know than that I am alive within the grand creation of endless physical time and space, and yet am composed of elements of the universe I find so magnificent?  I am humbled by the physical realm from which I became human, and while composed of physical matter I am unable to transcend this realm and fully partake of God's essence.  Because my God has given me life within a structured atomic energy field composed of particles of my Mother Earth, I hope and strive to do no harm, to help others when I can, to be thankful to God for permitting me in human form to witness the awesome material creation surrounding us and to understand and accept that I have received my existence from it.

If God is relative to the believer I do believe my God hears my prayers and nfluences my life.  I need no inherently biased human voice to tell me what God demands of me through religious dogmas.

I wish for others to simply trust their God and not judge nor harm nor condemn me for mine or others for theirs.    


I believe firmly that God is but will not profess to know what, where, why or how God is.  I will not define God because I cannot. I believe I am part of God's creation.  I believe God knows me as well as every atom and every empty space in the great void.  I dare not contend that God can be narrowly defined in human terms, ecclesiastical laws, revelations to specially favored humans, or written human testimony interpreted, debated, translated and handed down over thousands of years.  Humans defining God?  I have difficulty knowing what is credible because of the volumes of conflicting testimony and frail human-fabricated dogmas describing who, what, and where God is and what God expects of us humans.  Agnosticism is a solution for some people to this Red Squirreldilemma of describing God in words. 


The inability of us humans even to come close to developing a universally accepted definition of and belief in God brings up my theory of squirrelessence.  While quietly observing a squirrel busily digging little holes in the ground to bury pine nuts, I concluded the little rascal was preparing his cupboard for winter's hard times.  He'd never been through a winter but somehow knew to save food for it.  I also watched some birds hunt and peck tree bark for bugs and I saw a robin crooking his neck to better see and hear the subtlest movement among the blades of grass.  I wondered how and why the squirrel acted entirely like a squirrel.  Why didn't it hunt and peck like the woodpecker or nose around for caterpillars and worms like the robin?  Having formally studied genetics, physiology, biochemistry and animal behavior at the college level it intrigued me why squirrels are uniquely programmed to act exclusively like the rodent it is.  Although not too different physiologically or anatomically from a bird, I came to the conclusion that to act like anything other than a squirrel is impossible for a squirrel.  It doesn't act like a bird or dog because it can't, even if it wanted to!  That industrious little squirrel is absolutely limited by and trapped within its squirrelessence.  Squirrelessence?  The term Squirrelessence means the entireity of everything that must assemble harmoneously at the same time such that a squirrel manifests.  It can also be called the "context" of physical matter and immaterial energy fields from which a squirrel is created.

Each life form is exists due to the essential atomic ingredients that came together (from star dust) to form it. Similarly a snake is trapped in its snakeessence; it can only appear, think, and behave like a snake because nature has limited it to possessing only those essential contextual ingredients arranged and connected in a specific manner such that a snake comes to be.  The essence of what constitutes a daisy absolutely prevents it from being a rose, the quail can't act or think like a shark.  And so, squirrelessence profoundly limits a squirrel from being anything else. 

(More examples!) Everything a squirrel, a bird or an ape does is inalterably confined and shaped by its innate essence.  The snake will never know or even get a glimpse of what affects or matters to a cat.  A termite, blessed with incredible group intelligence, will forever be unable to savor the vision of the Teton Mountains.  The solitary Monarch Butterfly, possessed with a fearless determination to travel a solitary invisible trail thousands of miles back to its home base, can never know how to tie a square knot.  So too, humanessence prevents us from being God.  I have been told I am created in the image and likeness of God, that I have godlike dominion over the earth, that because of my superior intellect and ability to make moral distinctions and free choices I somehow have become godlike on a small scale.  I think not.  In a warped sense some homocentric people have concluded that God exists in the image and likeness of Man!


While trapped in my humanessence, my intellect and freedom of choice permit me to act and reason on a higher level than some other creatures.  Nevertheless, I do not believe mankind is able to partake directly in nor fully experience the essence of God.  Our limitations are similar to limitations of squirrelessence where the squirrel cannot fly south with the butterfly.  We can see Gods creations all around and even inside us.  But strive as we have through the ages to make a tangible connection with God from our earthly realm, we fail.  So we create fact-fables to explain in comfortable human terms what our constrained human intellect is unable to comprehend.  Nevertheless many people proclaim to hear, see, and dwell with God even while encapsulated in their earthly human context.  It is our nature to seek the spiritual realm wherein many believe our personal God resides.  Some call this realm heaven.  I believe it exists because I believe God's creation may have immeasurable, unknowable length, breadth and depth and has and will be in existence in a realm and manner that no human is able even to bring into thought.


To facilitate forming a concept of where we lowly but often arrogant humans fit in this universe is assisted by the metaphor of whaleessence.  The magnificent whale has a remarkable knowledge and understanding of the complex and vast water world surrounding it.  Try as it may, though, it will never even begin to have knowledge of the world in its heaven above and beyond the surface of the water. Constrained in mind and body by its whaleessence, no matter what the whale or other sea creatures profess to be true about the realm beyond the water, attempts to understand their Fishgods will be futile. Intelligent and committed groups of whales might believe the startling flashes of lightning are battles between Fishgods up in fishheaven beyond the water surface.  Some whales might believe Windgod is angry with them when huge bluster blown waves churn the higher regions of their water world.  Some groups of whales seem born with a prejudice against those foreign looking dolphins that speak the strange language and always seem to cause trouble.  Each bound within their species specific essence, the whales and dolphins just cannot come to a harmonic intercourse about that mysterious, inaccessible and often dangerous world above.  Perhaps each aquatic specie has evolved its own seemingly rational explanations and god-fables that make sense to them. 


We humans know that believing in angry Windgods and flashing, thunderous Fishgods are but flimsy inaccuracies and failed attempts at understanding the real human realm beyond the surface.  Are we not similar to the sea creatures?  As we go about our earthbound way many of us insist that there is no other reality The fence linethan the one we can see, hear, and touch.  And we humans are the quintessential fable makers.  We have the advantage, though, of revising dogma and turning away from previously worshipped decrees such as the flat earth fable, or earth being the center of the Universe because celestial bodies all seem to circle us, or Friday meat-eaters being sinners, or indigenous "uneducated" tribal people being subhuman.  Fortunately today, we seldom burn at the stake heretics who dare to question Fishgod fables.


Regardless of who is a dolphin, whale or squirrel, if we mortals permitted each other to believe in their own personal God a more tolerant and cooperative swarm of humans would evolve.  The overriding principles we need to live by no matter if one is an atheist, agnostic or believer were emphasized by Jesus of Nazareth's teaching of two great commandments.  We mortals would find life on earth a heaven on earth if every person would love fully and honor their own personal God, and do no harm to others.

Like the tiny gray squirrel confined within his squirrelessent context, I look with joy and amazement at the magnificent star filled sky and smile at the thought of my insignificant humanessence.  I know my limits.  I accept the thought that I don't even know what I don't know  To me the wonder and mystery of creation is magnified many fold as I daydream about the infinite complexity of the microcosmic worlds that exist within and beyond the elusive atom.  Creation is limitless, I am not.  For me the biggest wonder of life is that by God's permission I exist to behold it.


One of my favorite verses for inspiring thought about the fragility of life
and how fleeting is our time here was spoken in the late 1800s by
Crowfoot, a native North American Blackfoot chief. 

When asked, What is life, he replied:

                                                                     What is life? 
                                                      It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
                                             It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
       It is like the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.

Chief CrowFoot


We humans inhabit a physical realm characterized by atoms with mass that occupy a geometric space, meaning the realm has length, width, depth.  hummngbird at duskOur realm is observed by us humans to exist physically while coupled with a non-physical yet necessary fourth dimension we call time.

To be able to communicate with each other we humans have invented words that are vision tools for projecting internal, cerebral thoughts into our realm for others of our species to see and incorporate into their cerebral reservoir.

Human words and symbols for words are locked out of the minds of squirrels.   Squirrel and human realms and all such realms exclude non-self.  Hummingbirds communicate only with creatures possessing hummingbirdessence.   Hummingbird behavior and temperament and self preservation reflexes are not shared with non hummingbirds.  Neither are their ideas about powerful avian gods that exist in a spirit realm and don't need air to fly.  Do these feathered phantoms yearn to be flitting around someday after they die in a hummingbird spirit realm they named Hummer Heaven?  Do they believe Hummer Heaven has a multitude of easily accessed plastic feeders filled with sugary liquid?  Or is their heaven limited to natural energy sources such as flowers?

Many of us have intellectually-derived assumptions about the world.  If we force ourselves to imagine things to be something different from what we have accepted to be true and sensible, we really can break the confinng bonds of academic, religious and common sense just as Einstein did when he rode that beam of light and looked over at the other light beam racing past him and made the realm-breaking discovery that the speed of light is relative to whomever is doing the observing.   


Could it be that we humans cannot prove anything about a realm outside our own?  Does our humanessence trap us pitilessly and irrevocably in a manner which enfeebles us, blocking any success in understanding and defining our gods, devils and voidessences in a spirit realm we call the afterlife?


T J Dunn
11/24/2010                                                                          HOME PAGE