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Question 7: Can God experience emotion?

March 26, 2013

Emotion is a function of life and consciousness. Inanimate objects do not appear to experience emotions. Some living creatures don’t seem to be able to translate the emotion into something enriching their existence[1] , making it a reflex not something of greater value. We experience a gamut of emotions, and without them life would be far less interesting. At the same time, animals can also be seen to experience fear, joy, anger and love in some form.

This tends to suggest that God, being a slightly more advanced being than us, should be able to experience emotions too. From a human perspective, this opens a magnificent can of worms. Emotion is the lifeblood of our daily interactions – without love, loss and joy[2], life might take on duller tones. However, emotional reactions are the driving force for plenty of arguments, discrimination and distress in our lives as well. An emotional God could really screw [AD1] things up.

At various stages in our interaction with God, we’ve made efforts to explore God’s emotional side. In the Christian Old Testament, God is variously:

a)     Jealous of any other Gods we might consider[3]
b)    Angry the Israelites can’t get their act together
c)     Surprised by Adam and Eve’s pursuit of knowledge
d)    Vengeful enough to kill every person and animal in Jericho

Some of these incidents cause me to question the merits of an emotional God. However, a God devoid of feelings is highly unlikely to be able to empathize with us in any meaningful manner. In addition, we can take comfort from the general improvement in our understanding and control of our own emotions as we get older – if we can become “better adjusted” in one hundred years or less, what can God achieve in billions of years?

The depth and breadth of emotions experienced by God is probably incomprehensible to us. With an intellectual or spiritual connection to all living beings, God might understand all the emotions we experience. And, while we might put love at the top of the emotional hierarchy, maybe there’s something more? Regardless,  it seems likely the pursuit of this knowledge is a driving force for life “beyond just living.”

Given the time God has had to prep for the emotional tests accompanying the position, it is reasonable to expect that God can handle feelings as well as any human being. Admittedly, the correct emotional responses are probably reflected in your own values and beliefs. On this basis, a better understanding of God’s beliefs should lead us to further insights on this front.

Conclusion:

If God  is on a higher intellectual plane than us, it seems highly likely God experiences emotions but reacts in a manner befitting such intelligence and maturity. Understanding how this translates into actions or contemplations is probably part of the evolution of our own intellectual and spiritual journeys – both as individuals and as a species.


[1] Even if it just makes them run away to fight another day

[2] Insert additional emotions if you wish

[3] Begging the question of who they might be if there is only one God


[AD1]Stuff isn’t used this way in American English – goof, mess, jack or screw are words we’d use.

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