The evolution of God is one of THE biggest ideas of all. The way people have experienced God has always changed. One of the biggest changes was the move from pagan (fancy word for “earth based”) deities to transcendent (fancy word for “beyond the earth”)  deity(ies).

Think about the history of God using the analogy of a company. In short, God has evolved from regional (tribal) manager to chair of the board to the life blood of the company.

In primitive cultures, they believed in many gods (polytheism). Each God was like a VERY active regional manager, with an active hand in all day to day activity. If you had a problem, you looked to your regional manager for guidance.

Hebrew culture introduced the idea of one God above all others (monotheism). This God, Yahweh, was more like a chair of the board, a non playing coach, able to intervene if necessary but not generally involved in day to day activity.

Meanwhile back in India, Hinduism was developing the idea that each of the multiple gods and goddesses were different expressions of a single unity, also known as Brahman or Ultimate Reality.

Okay, so let me wrap this whirlwind history up.

Once you take God out of an active management role, and once the chair has changed hands multiple times, God becomes a figure head (an archetype). Legends about the origin and history of the company are told around water coolers. God becomes a rallying cry that draws people together, an inner inspiration to do right by the company. Some even doubt that there was ever ONE founder of the company, but the idea of God keeps people curious.

By any name, the seed of divinity exists in all things; all people, all species, all moments. The Source, or inspiration, that lies beneath all of the diversity is known by many names and experienced in multiple ways. Generations of water cooler conversations are a certainty.

I created a fun and easy way to explore the history of God, in bite sized and practical ways that you can apply to your life. Click here for more information.

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  1. I think the God idea plays different roles in its different forms.

    Nature-based polytheism was an attempt to control anxiety over the the variability of nature and vulnerability to both natural disasters and poor crop yields (once agriculture was invented).

    Old Testament-and-Koran-style mono-theism serves the purpose of maintaining order in a neurotic society (all civilised, i.e. repression-based, societies) by holding out the threat of divine judgement (either earthly, i.e. the flood and Sodom and Gomorrah) or Hell after death.

    The mono-theistic God of Jesus and some of the mystical traditions would appear to be a personification of the creative principle of the universe which manifests itself in the human social realm as love.

    I think it is important to distinguish between the different historical uses of the God concept because they are incompatible with each other. Submission to the authority of a higher power (real or imaginary) is an impediment to love, which is free, open, honest, spontaneous communication – something which only flourishes in a state of freedom from all authority.

  2. Chris says:

    I loved your twist on this!  I think people are fearful to discuss God because of the many layers that have been placed on us.  Sometimes we have to understand things where we are to go further.  Loved, loved, loved it!  ~Chris~

  3. ian says:

    thanks Chris- I enjoyed writing it, so glad you liked reading it.

  4. ns says:

    This deep expression of how we (humans) approached God misses only one point : Before we starded to move it, we have created it…And that was so long ago, that we tend to forget it : remember that at thebegining, it all started with th e collective kill of the chief of the Group (unconsiously considered as the father and protector of the Groupe). Then guiltiness pushed the killers to raise a totem in the name of the father) This is dhere theStory began : in your terms, the boss has been put in place by it’s employees;-)))

  5. [...] is part of a series on the idea of God. I created a fun and easy way to explore the history of God, in bite sized and practical ways that [...]

  6. Vic says:

    I like the idea of the corporate structure in relation to the evolution of societies.  You mentioned the Hebrews introducing one god above all others as monotheism.  I think it’s important to note that this is actually henotheism, which is one god above all others – this states there are other gods (ie: Moses and the prophets of Baal, the first of the 10 commandments) but that one in particular is more powerful than all the others and that just happens to be the god of the little tribe from Judah/Israel.  Monotheism posits that there is one god only, no other gods exist but that one and this did eventually become the theme of the Hebrew pantheon – via Zoroastrianism and the Persian Empire.  Looking forward to the series! 

  7. ian says:

    Great comment Vic- and an important distinction.

  8. David Ryan says:

    You wrote “By any name, the seed of divinity exists in all things.”  If by the “seed of divinity” you mean the seed of meaning or the seed of helping, then they would be better terms for me.  “Divinity” is one of those dualistic terms that suggests an opposite like humanity and creates the same confusion as the multiple meanings for spiritual.  What is the evidence that the seed of divinity, by any definition, exists in all things?  Is this another example of assumption based religion rather than evidence based religion?

  9. ian says:

    I hear you David, and appreciate your comment. I think some people react to poetic language like this because it whiffs of ambiguity. Personally, I like the power of poetry to describe something that linear words feel too limited to capture. After all, what is meaning? Its just as ambiguous as divine, but we intuitively know what it means. Having said that, i am sensitive to your comment and resonate strongly with your frustration. I get frustrated with many uses of the word divine.

  10. David Ryan says:

    Let’s agree that all words are ambiguous because all words are symbols for ambiguous meaning.   But words have a range of ambiguity.  The word meaning has a small range of ambiguity but to call it linear and therefore limited rather than poetic is a questionable put down. The word divine (and others like spiritual, etc.) has a wide range of ambiguity.    To call that poetic rather than confusing and therefore wonderful is a questionable assumption.   The smaller the range of ambiguity in the words we use the better we communicate our meanings.  Of course, there are some religious and political types who prefer ambiguous words because they are deliberately trying to hide their meanings.  Thank you for what you are doing.

  11. ian says:

    thanks David- I suspect we are closely aligned in thought.

  12. [...] is part of a series on the idea of God. I created a fun and easy way to explore the history of God, in bite sized and practical ways that [...]

  13. Stuart says:

    What always puzzles me is why so many intelligent educated people around the world continue to believe the puritanical versions of their religions – as if it’s all absolutely true! Also, why is there so little coming together of the different faiths on the grounds of their similarities rather than their differences – wouldn’t that be more spiritual than the childish ‘mine’s right and yours is wrong’ mentality we more often witness!!

  14. says:


    God came to be… as a result of evolutionary opportunities; created by consistent inconsistencies out in natural space (a machine, in essence) as a product of happenstance, an anomaly. For many, the word machine is a difficult concept to grasp. We are molecular but then, so is a machine.
    The universal complex as well as all of us, were designed, engineered, and built by God (“altered space”); on the other hand, God was formed from the natural rotation of particles that came together at a certain place and time in natural space to form a machine capable of doing all this that God does.
    In the beginning, God was without form because God could not see itself, therefore God could not define itself… this came about in time.  All things were tried in time and all the laws of physics were eventually known to God.
    Had any one of us come into consciousness first, we would eventually in time have done the exact same thing that God did.
    God created us, so she would not have to be alone and then, created a device that would give us knowledge in the same manner that God got it… blind, just as we are here on earth!
    This magnificent Universal  Machine  is God’s consciousness, sincerity & desire, and liaison to us; a Computer that runs the universe for God. It has a specific function; that being, to achieve their objective goal and that is… “God’s Will Be Done”! [more….]

  15. David Ryan says:

    I like your efforts and ideas, Ian, but this article seems out of character with your other efforts.  It starts, as I read it, with the assumption there is a god (known in the heart rather than the mind.)  What  follows is hundreds of assumptions that weave a fascinating story written with scientific jargon but with doubtful evidence-based criteria.   I think you can do better in your choice of writers when you are not writing.

  16. ian says:

    hi David, it took me a while but I think you must be referring to the comment before yours. I don’t censor the comments. I’m happy for everyone to have their say.

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