What Is God?

Once there was a wise woman named Athenerva.* Athenerva would travel from town to town in her country, spending a few days, maybe a week in each town. People came to her with difficult problems or arguments they were having with others, and she would help them find their way toward satisfying answers.

One day when she entered one of the towns on her route, Athenerva heard a lot of arguing. She looked and saw a group of people in a very heated discussion. One person called out, "Athenerva! Come here! We need your wisdom."

Athenerva approached the group and the person who had called to her said, "I've been telling people who God is and they keep saying I'm wrong. I'm worried about them. Help them see what's right, Athenerva."

"Well," said Athenerva, "what have you told them?"

"I told them there is one true God who loves and cares for us, hears our prayers and commands us to love one another."

And Athenerva said, "You are correct."

"What?!" said the others. "No! That can't be right!" Then one of them said, "I believe there's a god all right, a god who created the universe, established the laws governing it, set it going, and left. God has no interest in the affairs of humanity. It's up to us to make this world the place we want it to be."

And Athenerva said, "You are correct."

Then a third person said, "I believe there are many gods and goddesses. They are part of my worship of all of nature and the cycle of life."

And Athenerva said, "You are correct."

"I'm not at all sure there is a god," said the fourth. "I see a divine spark in everything and everybody, but maybe it's just part of human consciousness."

And Athenerva said, "You are correct."

"Well, I don't believe there's a god at all," said the last person in the group. "But I am truly awestruck when I think about the mystery of the creation of our universe, and how we came to be. I believe it's my responsibility to leave my corner of the world better than I found it."

And Athenerva said, "You are correct."

At this point everyone was confused! "But how," they said, "can we all be correct when we all have different ideas of what God is—or isn't?"

"Yes, you all have different visions. But each of those visions can lead you to love and care for each other and this wonderful part of creation we call earth. And that is the correct vision, however you label it."

And as Athenerva left, the people in that group agreed that they didn't need to argue about who was right; they needed to work together to make the world they wanted.

*Athenerva is a mashup of Athena and Minerva, the Greek and Roman goddesses of wisdom.