1. Atheists. Those who describe themselves as atheists are those who actively deny the existence of God. For my purposes I will assume this includes any Being or Force that by any other name might still be "God." An atheist has a positive non-belief in God and in some cases an emotional rejection of the possibility of God's existence. The emotional rejection might stem from a person's experience of dogmatism or definitions of God that include condemning souls to eternal hell or as allowing injustice and suffering in the world. Or, their negative affirmation might be on intellectual grounds, perhaps on the basis that science has shown that there is no longer a "need" for God to explain material phenomenon.
Ironically, atheists are illogical, despite their fixation on reason, science and pragmatism. They can no more disprove the existence of God with the very tools they claim disprove Him than religionists can prove the existence of God with anything other than faith (or, far worse, mere belief). Just because God can't be proved using their chosen tools of knowledge doesn't, logically, mean that God can't or doesn't exist! It just means there is no evidence acceptable to them. Just think of all the scientific laws, forces, or phenomenon that couldn't be "proved" only just centuries ago! Our non-belief had no effect upon the force of gravity, for example.
2. Agnostics. These folks just say, "Gee, I just don't know. Maybe .... but I've not met Him ..... " For this group there's less of a reactive objection to God and more of either indifference or a positive, intellectual doubt. Some agnostics might embrace the assumption that the question of God cannot be answered for lack of acceptable proof. Thus they are off the hook of having to grapple with such an existential or esoteric question. They can live their own life free of the angst or guilt they associate with religious beliefs! This group of people may incline (unlike the professed atheists) to be content with themselves; they are busy with their own lives and simply not interested in the question to begin with.
3. "God-Word Dislikers." Finally, there is this category (the one I wish to discuss) of "God-Word Dislikers" who might believe in a Divine Being or Force, abstract and impersonal, or personal and involved, but whose name, if that of "God," they find objectionable. Behind this objection is the basic same emotional rejection described for some atheists but in this group they leave room for a loving or at least neutral Being or Force.
Maybe they view their god as an overarching Intelligence behind all created things. Others might prefer lesser gods (like Hindu gods, e.g. Ganesha, Shiva, or various goddesses) or angels or earth-based fairies, "devas," rather than one hierarchical, almighty, omniscient, all-pervading GOD! It might also be a male vs female objection wherein the GOD-word is impugned by male hierarchy, judgement etc. A female god (Divine Mother) or goddess, by contrast, is earth and people-centric, loving, caring and offers the bounty of the material world, enjoyment, happiness and love. The more earthy types of this genre incline dangerously close toward ego affirmation, offering humans the merely bounties of the earth and its pleasures (instead of eternal Bliss, which is said to be the nature of God and of our own Self).
It's not easy to disassociate words from their connotations. Even though I say to students in my classes, "get over it," it's not as if I don't understand their visceral objection. For me, at least, as a speaker or a writer, the G-word is simply convenient, easy-to-spell, easy-to-say hook for whatever attitude or practice I might be describing.
Also in my view, each person can ascribe whatever attributes they wish to project onto their god. Their God may be male, female, gender-less, all pervading or simply watching over each of us: your choice. I'm not being merely cynical, but, again, in my view, practical. Until you "know God" you'll just have to find the approach or definition that works for you!
I often explain that just as you or I will never be able to telephone and speak to the President of the United States, or Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon), so too we will never "see" or "hear" God face to face, or ear to ear with our human ego.
But that fact doesn't mean the President of the United States doesn't exist. It just means that I don't know him in my little, egoic self. It also means he doesn't know me, except as a citizen of his country. On that basis he can say he "knows me." Jeff Bezos would "know" me as one of his customers and that's all the counts from his point of view.
But both God and Jeff Bezos have customer service reps.
God has a whole lot of reps (compared to Bezos).
Some of these God-reps are self-appointed, like your average preacher, teacher, or priest. Others are indeed "His own" and have been "appointed" by God, not man: Buddha, Yogananda, Jesus Christ, Moses, Krishna, Rama and many others. These reps don't argue with one another or clash, though their messages "for their people" may vary in emphases, or culture, or time and place.
Down through history, millions (is it billions?) look up to these "high-end reps" for guidance and as examples of how to live. These reps and some of their high profile followers (aka "saints") play important roles in the lives of many. Relating to holy persons, whether alive or gone, is more than enough for most sincere devotees. Instinctively, many know that relating to the Infinite Power (aka "God") is neither particularly appealing nor practical. Even the lesser but more accessible line of popular spiritual teachers is adequate for many. Knowing the "boss" or the "president" is simply neither an option nor is it necessary.
Still, this God-word and God-question will forever rage on. Is God personal or impersonal? Here are some thoughts on it: who can limit that which is Infinite? What's the difference anyway between Infinite and Infinitesimal? Why can't "God" be both? How could He who is Infinite NOT be both? And why can't a rep be a "son of God" (or, ok, for some of you, a daughter! Doesn't matter, really, because souls are without gender, so I am told.)
The distinction is our problem, not God's problem. Whether his reps are his "sons" or simply souls with the red phone hot line to the Almighty, it doesn't really make that much difference on the ground in the here and now.
Down through the centuries the reps were everything and God was just a faraway idea. The reps told you what He said we had to do, or, or, well, or ELSE! For those who needed the stick more than the carrot, that's what they heard.
But for those more sensitive, these reps always exhibit and express divine, unconditional love (and joy and power etc.). They attribute their "power" to God, not to themselves. They urge their followers, those with "ears to hear," to do so also. Most talked of God as intimate; as real, both personal and impersonal, depending on their own point of view and mission. But the masses generally missed the point and simply wanted what they could get from the reps: comfort, joy and a better life via divine favors.
For the deeper souls, the imitation of these Christ-like reps is the goal. To have the joy of St. Francis even in the midst of suffering; to forgive while crucified by hate; to render aid no matter the personal risk; to love all alike; to adhere to righteousness in the face of temptation or at personal inconvenience. to heal the sick; raise the dead; forgive sins (meaning change lives of others). These divine powers, these "Gifts of the Spirit," have been demonstrated and witnessed down through the ages for those "with ears to hear and eyes to see." It's not blind faith but openness to that which might otherwise seem impossible. Faith is knowing without logical or sensory evidence. Belief is but a hypothesis.
The lives of these saints and masters bring us the "good news" that God exists and that we, being "His" children, are made in His image and are destined for immortality: not of the physical body but of the soul. Nor is it "mere" existence but "ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss of the soul. This is our destiny to re-discover and to realize our true Self.
So, sure, stick with the reps if the big Guy is still beyond your ken. God is "big enough" not be upset by it. If you like his reps; if you know his reps; then, it's enough for HIM. Whether you know it or not, He knows that in knowing his reps you know HIM. The reps are a chip off the Old Block and so are you. Really.
He doesn't even mind if you dumb it down to wanting to find happiness within your Self. The last sentence of Chapter 35 of "Autobiography of a Yogi," states: "Through use of the Kriya key, persons who cannot bring themselves to believe in the divinity of any man will behold at last the full divinity of their own selves." ["Kriya key" means the practice of "kriya," an advanced meditation technique!]
Maybe our very interest in the subject has its genesis in God's hidden presence within us. Maybe that presence recognizes itself in the reps. Maybe the reps help that nascent knowledge to grow from a seed into a tree as we progress from ego to soul; from devil to angel; from sinner to saint. Just maybe, "it takes One to Know One." Just say'n.
"Goodness" (with two "zeros") is God (with one "zero") manifested in the duality of His creation. Goodness with its necessary opposite exists in this world (of duality) whereas God is transcendent Bliss itself. One without equal; One without opposite!
In the name of Thy holy reps,