In an ethical sense (i.e. not metaphysical), could God be equated with mankind?

Many of the religious duties of people towards their god could as well be interpreted as duties towards their peers, e.g., the commandment not to kill. Of course, some metaphysical questions could not be applied to this allegory (e.g. mankind would not have created man).

Is there any philosopher arguing that God is actually mankind?

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    It is really unclear what you mean by the possibility of equating God with mankind. Is this the Abrahamic God? Something like a transcendental oversoul? The conceptual collection of the kitchen god/rain god/etc? What is mankind? The set of individuals or their common culture? Also, what is 'is'? 'expresses itself fully in'? 'is a reinterpretation'? actually -is- like Jesus Christ -is- for Christians? Also, is this a point you're trying to find support for or to try to argue against?
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 15:02
  • My answer would be 'Sure, it depends' because the question is kind of vague. It's easy to believe that God is in and all around us). But then how does ethics come in to a ll of this? Please clarify at length in rewriting your question.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 15:05
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    @Mitch: It's a perfectly clear question to anyone who has familiarity with the Philosophy of Religion. One simple definition of God that applies to most religious beliefs is "that which is worthy of worship". This conception is especially helpful when who considers the problem of evil, which has direct application to ethics. It's quite clear that the questioner can not be speaking of the Abrahamic God. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:37
  • @JonEricson: OK. I'm not conversant. But then the rest of my questions (those not relevant to the Abrahamic God) seem to still stand. 'Many religious duties' seem to have quite a bit that is totally irrelevant to moral duties. So for those duties that are also moral...I still don't get how mankind and God are identical with respect to morals, because I don't know what the OP (you, philosophers of religion) mean by 'mankind', 'God', and 'equate'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:41
  • @Mitch: I agree, the question could use a bit more clarity in terms. (I don't know why the asker put metaphysics off limits, for instance. "Equate" is certainly a term that needs to be redefined from its usual mathematical sense.) But I don't think they need to "clarify at length". ;-) Maybe a link or two to where the question arose from would suffice. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


Pantheism is the more general position that God and all of the universe are the same. In this view, God is in fact equated with mankind (and everything else).

I don't fully understand the position, but it seems that Gottfried Leibniz proposed in La Monadologie the idea that everything, including people, are of the same substance as God:

47. Thus God alone is the primary unity or original simple substance, of which all created or derivative Monads are products and have their birth, so to speak, through continual fulgurations of the Divinity from moment to moment, limited by the receptivity of the created being, of whose essence it is to have limits. (Theod. 382-391, 398, 395.)

In both cases, it seems that there are ethical implications that go along with the metaphysical ones. (I notice you want to exclude the metaphysical question so the answer so far might not be helpful.) For Pantheists, duty to God extends to a duty to all of creation and therefore to other people as well. Leibniz makes this consideration his final point:

90. Finally, under this perfect government no good action would be unrewarded and no bad one unpunished, and all should issue in the well-being of the good, that is to say, of those who are not malcontents in this great state, but who trust in Providence, after having done their duty, and who love and imitate, as is meet, the Author of all good, finding pleasure in the contemplation of His perfections, as is the way of genuine 'pure love,' which takes pleasure in the happiness of the beloved. This it is which leads wise and virtuous people to devote their energies to everything which appears in harmony with the presumptive or antecedent will of God, and yet makes them content with what God actually brings to pass by His secret, consequent and positive [decisive] will, recognizing that if we could sufficiently understand the order of the universe, we should find that it exceeds all the desires of the wisest men, and that it is impossible to make it better than it is, not only as a whole and in general but also for ourselves in particular, if we are attached, as we ought to be, to the Author of all, not only as to the architect and efficient cause of our being, but as to our master and to the final cause, which ought to be the whole aim of our will, and which can alone make our happiness. (Theod. 134, 278. Pref. [E. 469; G. vi. 27, 28].)


At least Gottfried Leibniz and any philosopher who holds a pantheistic view are examples of philosophers who equate mankind with God at least in part. (I submit a philosopher who himself claims to be God in full would either be crazy or equivocating on the meaning of God.)

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    As a Christian, I actually believe that one man rightly claimed to be fully God. But our ethical obligation to each other arises first in order to be obedient to God and second because humanity bears His image. Humanity in this view is "like" God and not "the same as" God, so this comment does not address the question directly. Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 22:44
  • Leibnitz's "monad" can be understood nowadays more precisely as a "bit" of information in a computer. The notion that people are like God is the statement that both can be considered as a form of software,. Leibnitz expended much effort in making a mechanical reasoning machine, and believed that it was possible, and it would resolve the problems of philosophy. His terms are groping toward the computational terms we take for granted today, since Hilbert, Godel, Turing and others made Leibnitz's vision an everyday reality.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 17, 2012 at 5:36
  • Though maybe Leibniz's system might be suspected to lead obliquely to pantheistic consequences, Leibniz is far from an avowed pantheist. To the contrary, pantheism ( and its paradigmatic instance , spinozism) is Leibniz main target. ( See : Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy for a reliable ressource).
    – user37859
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 0:20

In an ethical sense (i.e. not metaphysical), could God be equated with mankind?

No. In a theologically grounded ethical system, God serves as the foundation of the ethical imperative-- things are good to do because God commanded them. One cannot simply replace "God" with "Mankind" and end up with a coherent ethical system; whose commands would one be morally obligated to follow? Naturally, there are a number of alternative ethical systems which do not require a recourse to a God (such as utilitarianism, or virtue ethics) but these are founded upon different principles.

Many of the religious duties of people towards their god could as well be interpreted as duties towards their peers, e.g., the commandment not to kill.

And many of the religious duties of people towards their god are not applicable; the duty to sacrifice animals, or dietary restrictions, or baptism or circumcision, etc. Religious systems are generally predicated on a clear distinction between god and man, not upon their interchangeability.

Is there any philosopher arguing that God is actually mankind?

Not that I know of. There are a number who posit that mankind created the notion of God, or that mankind partakes of the divine, but those are different claims.

  • Would you put pantheists and Leibniz in the category of people who believe "that mankind partakes of the divine"? My answer suggests that these are much closer to what the questioner is seeking than to what most people would understand God's relationship to humanity to consist of. It seems a hasty generalization to lump people who believe God created them with those who believe that they are substantially part of God together. Ethically, pantheists behave the way they do, not because God tells them how to behave, but because each person has a spiritual unity to every other person. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:21
  • Well, wouldn't that also imply that each person also has a spiritual unity to each tree, rock, lizard and flea? I'm not quite sure I see how God being in all things leads to a coherent ethics, but this is definitely not my specialty. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:51
  • It most certainly can. Jainism is an example of a coherent ethic that arises from such a belief. Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 21:18
  • @JonEricson: Interesting. I'll definitely have to explore that. Thanks. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 7:54

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