Praying to a God who may not exist

Opinion: Ken Trainor

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

What is your relationship to God?

Believe or don't believe. It doesn't matter.

I'm curious about how and why people believe. And what God they believe or don't believe in. 

This seems an appropriate question as the Christian world prepares to observe their "Holy Week" and celebrate the resurrection of their fully human deity.

What is my relationship to God? I approach the question as an agnostic — with occasional bouts of belief and an acute interest in the subject. 

That means applying elements of the scientific method to theology, starting with the only truly objective position on God: We don't know. Since we can't test whether God exists (based on measurable sensory observations), my application of the scientific method to theology only extends as far as hypothesizing, which I love — and not being afraid to admit what I don't know. 

I respect believers — either those who believe in God or those who believe there is no God — but I think we'd all be better off admitting we don't, and can't, know for sure. Atheists are really battling false gods, and that's a good thing because most gods are "false" — which is to say, incomplete, with grains of truth.

But false gods don't prove there is no God. Neither does not knowing prevent belief … or hypotheses. My latest involves the Big Bang. In religious terms, the Bang was caused by God. Aquinas called it the "First Cause," one of his proofs of a supreme being's existence. Something or someone had to cause the universe, and a creator God was his logical suspect.

Scientists, however, limit themselves to the material universe, the "stuff" released by the Big Bang. Since God is decidedly "immaterial," the notion is suspect to say the least. But the longer scientists study the universe — at the macro and micro levels — the less solid it looks. The closer we get, the more matter resembles, well, spirit. 


Which got me hypothesizing one night, neurons ablaze in the wee hours, that the Big Bang wasn't caused by God. Maybe the Big Bang is God. In a manner of speaking. The ultimate act of incarnation: God so loved, so longed, and therefore so loosed what Whitman called "pent-up, aching rivers" — on a cosmic scale.

I'm speaking here neither as a scientist nor as a theologian, but as a poet. I see the world in metaphors, God being our meta-metaphor for a reality that exceeds the ability of our minds to grasp. Theologian Karl Rahner called it "The Incomprehensibility of God" in a standing-room-only talk at the University of Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel way back in 1974. I thank God (so to speak) that I attended. Rahner, I learned later, preferred the term "Mystery" to "God."

My relationship to the Great Mystery, or the Great Silence (a nod to Native Americans) is quite active these days. Whenever I'm in a bout of belief, this how I pray:


To the God who may or may not exist

The Incomprehensible God who strains the limits of language

The God of To Be, who became an active verb, giving birth to the universe 

And to us, who are the grasp of God's reach, God's arms and hands,

We who are working so hard to resolve the paradox of becoming who we already are,

Recognizing and realizing the divinity gestating within us,

To the God of our Unconscious, the invisible 7/8ths of our psychic iceberg,

Connected to all other icebergs by the collective stream of consciousness deep underneath,

Which may prove to be our afterlife,

To the God who is our intimate witness — anything other than other,

The God who cannot be tamed, who defies definitions and eludes personification,

The God who does not require our worship, only our wonder,

The God who is irresistible because any God who can be resisted is not God,

The God who may someday be found at the point where science and religion converge,

The God of wild hypotheses, of matter and anti-matter, dark energy, black holes, multiple universes,

To the God of Love, a cosmic force, powerful beyond Gravity, beyond even the Grave,

The God of Eros, for whom we are becoming the emissaries of Love,

Which pulls us forward like a tractor beam, inviting us to solve its riddles and puzzles,

To the God of the Universe, for whom we serve as receiver, channeler, and transmitter, conducting waves of higher consciousness through our mental and emotional capacities when our central nervous system is finely tuned and fully functional,

To the God of Shadows who sends us out, as Rilke said, beyond our recall, to go to the limit of our longing, to flame up and make big shadows for God to move in,

Whose love we will someday harness, as Chardin said, and, for the second time, discover fire,

Not the flame that destroys but fiery energy that forges all our dualities into unities, our either/ors into both/ands,

To this God I ask for enough time, and enough courage, to become who we were meant to be,

Time enough to tap our potential and relieve the suffering we have caused,

Atone for the sins we have committed, right the wrongs we have perpetrated,

To be Love's emissaries and harness its awesome power,

The Love that created this universe — and perhaps many others, 

Time and courage enough to discover our destiny and catch a glimpse of our destination,

And make some small contribution toward reaching that horizon,

Which we hope is not the end, 

But our next beginning,



Praying is no small undertaking. The pray-er must name the God being addressed, and that God is different for every person — even if we are all addressing the same God. 

And even if we are addressing no God at all.


Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad