As dirty as the title sounds, the God-shaped hole is actually a fairly common philosophical concept. What it boils down to is that ever since God died, humanity as a whole is missing a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Not even necessarily the moral compass that God typically is considered responsible for, but just the essence of having something above us, greater than us, something that is inherently right in the universe.

Even if you don’t agree that God is dead, you might be able to appreciate that God is certainly less prevalent than He used to be. The “civilized” world has all but abandoned God, by keeping it out of the majority of its establishments. Flip side are those who place their faith less-so on God, and more-so on the war for God. In every day life it seems that the intimate relationship with God has lessened from what it was even a hundred years ago. Some see this as a bad thing, others see it as a good thing. But for something like God (Higher Power, whatever) that has been around for pretty much the entirety of human existence, you’d think that having God disappear might leave something missing in our shared consciousness?

Within the last few months, I have spoken to two people (I have spoken to others as well, but they obviously weren’t memorable enough to make it into this blog post) who were in Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. I realize that two people isn’t exactly an ideal statistical sample size, but shut up because this is hardly an academic paper. ANYwho, the person in AA is partially religious, to the extent that they believe that Christ is our saviour, but still does not adhere to traditional religious practices. The NA member is anti-religious. A burning-down-the-churches-and-laughing type of person. Not as totally polar opposite as I would like, and if anyone happens to know a super-Catholic, bible-thumping lush I’d be happy to talk to them, but we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got. But these two almost-opposite people agree on one thing: they need their Higher Power to help them with their addiction. For the semi-religious person, the Higher Power is the obvious one. The anti-religious person relies on Love as their Higher Power, and focuses on NA’s stipulation of personal interpretation to exclude themselves from the otherwise religious tenets of the NA program. Keep in mind, this isn’t a romantic love that every day humans are capable of experiencing, as “romantic love is a bunch of bullshit and shouldn’t exist.” This is a Love with sentience, that produces a form of serenity and a sense that everything will be okay. This might sound almost identical to a definition of God, but from our conversation this Love seemed like more of an inner sense rather than an outer being. It is what this person needs, and they found it.

It might be argued that this is the Anonymous program brainwashing its members into its informal religious doctrine, but at the same time, it’s hard to say what it really takes when you’ve hit rock bottom, and you feel like nothing, and maybe humans as a species really do need something greater than ourselves to pull us out of the dark. I know I certainly haven’t come anywhere close to the lows that addiction can ravage us down to, so I choose not to offer an opinion on the matter, and prefer listening to the experiences of others.

There is also a song by Regina Spektor ( that discusses many other examples of points in our lives where we might reach out to something greater than ourselves. No one laughs at God in a hospital, when your mother is dying in front of you and all you can possibly do is wish for her to be at peace, happy, somewhere, anywhere. No one laughs at God when the last sight you’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes, and you cry out, hoping for any kind of justice to be done. No one laughs at God when it’s gotten really late, and your kid’s not home from the party yet, and all you can wish for is to have something take care of your child.

None of these examples actually prove the existence of God, or even a Higher Power, but as my old buddy Voltaire used to paraphrase, if there was no God, maybe, just maybe, we would need to create Him. The need for something more creates that something more, and to deny that something more is to ignore the necessity for it.

These are all low points in personal human experience. Maybe the God-shaped hole that people allude to is really, in our collective experience as a species, a low point in our humanity, and if we hope to escape it, we’ll need something greater than ourselves to pull us out of it. Maybe we are too obsessed with the distractions of modernity that we can’t unite to actively search for this Higher Power that will save us from ourselves. I’m not saying that it is some objective Higher Power that is doing any actual saving, but the belief in that Higher Power gives us the power to do it ourselves.

I’m going to offer some counter-arguments here, because this isn’t a post meant to convince you of anything, as even I am not fully convinced one way or the other. Feel free to make up your own mind regarding the God-shaped hole.

In regards to addiction, people give up cigarettes all the time without the help of a Higher Power. Cigarettes are equally deadly, but for some reason, there is no Anonymous program to help people escape it, and yet they do. Maybe since alcohol and narcotics destroy more than just your own life, but the lives of the people around you, and even change who you are as a person, do they require something more than just cold turkey and a patch. On the other hand, maybe since there is no secular option for the recovery of alcoholics and drug abusers, we have no other options with which to compare results. It is very difficult to say what it takes to save us when we need it most, and maybe only since we collectively have always reached out for something greater, do we continue to do it today.

There is also the Nietzschean belief that there may be a God-shaped hole, sure, but maybe instead of filling it with something that doesn’t exist, we ought to fill it with ourselves and our Selves. Believe that humanity is the greatest power, and should only aspire to be greater. We as individuals are capable of incredible things, and to ascribe those incredible things onto a non-existent being is an insult to that human capability.  This isn’t to say that what I said initially is invalid, as it is the belief that is necessary to help us escape our lows. It’s just instead of the belief in a Higher Power, it should be the belief in our own power.

Or ultimately maybe it’s not so much what we believe in, so long as we believe.