In a new book, The Quest for God and the Good, which I have only read excerpts of, Diana Lobel uses the word "God" to mean the ultimate principle of the universe, the source of all existence, knowledge and value. She says (in an interview) that the divine or absolute is what's at the heart of reality, is what assures our existence and gives life meaning.
So far so good: a possible response to the spate of new atheists with best-sellers in recent years (Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris)?
I'm not sure. The philosophical God searched for here is closer to Plato's idea of the Good. There is no personal divinity with a will who creates and sustains life. There is no "personhood" involved, as theologians would say.
Still, it's important that a contemporary thinker and academic would put God in the title of a book and consider the name coterminous with the mystery of life and existence. It's refreshing to find a serious secular writer today claim that when we look at the world, we see significance, that if anything in the world has value it is "because there is an ultimate source or principle of worth." Does this make Lobel a theist?
If not, she is at least moving in a positive direction. But I still want to hear something a little warmer, some definition that includes love as the divine energy propelling the universe. When contemplatives like Thomas Merton confronted an unknown God in the solitude and silence of their hearts, did they find a principle?