On the only way to show adequate respect to any possible deity.
We don't really know each other. We have perceptions of each other based on our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. We have 'best guesses' of each other, with varying degrees of accuracy. Like Thomas Aquinas pointed out, our perceptions of each other are like the panels in the eye of a fly: representative--possibly--of one aspect of the being that we perceive, but hardly representative of the whole.
If you misjudge me, I can set you right. But I don't really even totally know myself, so how right can I set you? Our perceptions of ourselves are also 'best guesses'. Perhaps they are more educated guesses; but they're still guesses. Our perceptions of ourselves are based on our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. Our perceptions of ourselves are also like the panels in the eye of a fly, but instead of windows, they are mirrors.
So if you misjudge me, I can try to set you right, but maybe I'm wrong. You have all kinds of reasons to reject my self-interpretation in favor of your own interpretation, because you know deep inside that I possess as many blind spots as you do to interpreting the nature of a being. We are also pattern seeking animals, and it is your method of pattern seeking that has kept you alive all this time.
I am able to rebut your perception of me, because I am right in front of you. Actually, I am not. You're reading something I've written. You could e-mail me, or call me, or visit me, and we could discuss what I've written, and I could tell you what I think is wrong about your reading, and you could tell me what you think is wrong about my writing. Perhaps we'd come up with a synthesis. But I'm alive, I'm in this world, and it is possible to get closer to my original intent than it would be if I were dead, or if it were probable that someone else had written this little piece under my name. Who could even begin to guess the motive of someone who would do something so unprofitable?
God, who is alleged to be much 'bigger' than us, with ways much 'higher', would be much more difficult to perceive. We would do so with our own experiences, proclivities, hopes, fears, and prejudices. Because God is not present to set us right, ultimately our perceptions of God would be manifestations of our own private values, aspirations, wishes and fears. You may refer to a particular holy text or guru as someone or something that might set me right on this, but the same problem that is encountered when examining this text is also present, but compounded. It's compounded by the absence of the author, by the dubiousness of the authorship, by the unlikelihood of the supernatural claims, and by the Outsider's Test For Faith, which, if taken honestly, points directly at the ultimately subjective nature of faith-value.
God is not here to rebut your perception, and it is highly unlikely that God even exists. How much projection can I cast upon a being that is unlikely to exist? A lot more than I can cast upon a being that I know exists, and that's a hell of a lot.
I don't believe in God. I am an atheist. I have also come to realize that non-belief is perhaps the most respectful and appropriate response to any possible gods. If we can't make wholly accurate statements about the motives and actions of others--and even ourselves--then how can we even begin to approach statements about a thing that is alleged to be much 'bigger' and 'higher' than ourselves? Surely, any belief that we state in such a being would ultimately be only a deification of some aspect of ourselves, and isn't that the worst kind of blasphemy?
I don't believe in God, which makes sense for an atheist. But my recommendation to the theist as well--if they truly love their god--is to abandon belief in it. It's the only way to appropriately respect the bigness, highness, and mystery of that potential being. It's the only way, ultimately, to remain open to it.
CROSS POSTED AT EVERYTHING IN THE MEDICINE CABINET HAS EXPIRED.