I have always found the term “personal god” a little suspect, and I think I figured out why. Every monotheist defines their own personal image of God, which is what “personal god” really means. In other words: if you went to a church on Sunday, each of those people is praying to a completely different god, each of which has completely different traits.
Some worship the angry God, all vengeance and smiting. They think AIDS is God’s divine viral justice (I guess hemophiliacs and children are collateral damage on the celestial battlefield). They envision God judging us upon death and sending the bad to hell, while the “good” (see also: people who agree with them) live forever with Him in heaven, behind the pearly gates (a sort of eternal gated community, I assume to keep out those in “poor person” heaven).
Some worship the “Love” God. “God is love!” Of course, they don’t explain how atheists are capable of loving, but that doesn’t stop their bubbly optimism. They believe God performs miracles for dying atheists so they can repent at the last second and be saved. They believe God doesn’t send anyone to hell, that our own actions send us there (thereby absolving their touchy-feely God from the unsavory task).
Some worship the abstract God, a complex being who exists outside of time and space, a deity who can create a rock not even He can move – or can He?! God is a complex series of paradoxical propositions: the master who serves, the one who sets you free if you submit completely, the benevolent creator of evil.
Lots of people worship various aspects of all of these gods, and most will jump between the definitions when convenient. None are any more “correct,” as each is quite accurately portrayed in the Bible by different writers.
The interesting thing is that there are no God archetypes stated; everyone wordlessly creates the image for themself, without being instructed to do so. It seems to just come naturally. The Bible is full of nearly every imaginable depiction of God, so there is no difficulty in formulating any particular image of God from its pages. Liberal, conservative, moderate, hippy, bad-ass, lover, fighter, whatever you can think of: God has been depicted in that way somewhere in the Bible.
So once people have this image of God, how do they go about ignoring all the other depictions? If you see God as a condemner of evil, how do you justify Jesus’ relationship with prostitutes? Again, it’s quite easy to perform the necessary mental gymnastics required: you just use rationalization to justify what you already do. “Well, Jesus wasn’t condoning prostitution, He was saving their souls. There, now I can still maintain a clear conscious when I call women in short skirts ‘no-good whores.’”
However, what amuses me the most is that many believers don’t know God’s name. It’s a common question I ask initially in religious conversations (of non-Jews), and I find that most Christians have no clue. They guess “Jesus” most of the time, and blank when I say “No, I mean the Father, not the Son.” Which reminds me, does the Holy Spirit have a name? If not, I think it should be named Nothing. “I feel by the power of Nothing!” That sounds so much more accurate.
[For the record, Jesus’ name is actually more closely pronounced “Yeshua,” and God’s name is YHWH, pronounced roughly “Yaw-way,” commonly spelled Yahweh. I prefer Yawa, as it maintains the tetragrammaton property of four letters.]
So, if you’re reading this and you believe in God, why not give Him a name? You created Him, you have every right to name Him: He’s your “personal god.”