Dan Dennet likens the erosion of the conception of God in the public sphere from an omnipotent and omnipresent power which is playing around with everything in the universe, to a "form of energy/force/power" that binds everything together and various variants of this somehow "new-age" conception, to Mount Everest eroding to the gracious hills of the Hill Country. Before judging the truth value of this analogy, I asked myself what do I understand from the word Energy?
From the Physics textbooks, I remembered the definition: "Energy is the ability to do work." But what is work then? Again the textbook definition of work is "transfer of energy." What? So energy is supposed to be "the ability to transfer energy." What a great definition!
It turns out defining what energy is not that easy, especially in terms of the two modern theories of Physics (yes they are also only theories like Evolution, a fact that doesn't lessen their value or truth value): relativity and quantum mechanics.
From the quantum mechanical perspective, we are all familiar with arguably the most popular physics formula "e=mc2". One can draw the over-simplified conclusion (on the walls - this is for Dylan maniacs like me) that energy is actually mass, or in other words matter and vice versa.
Quantum mechanical definition is even more complex and harder to grasp. Energy is defined to be the rate with which the wave function changes. The square of the wave functions amplitude gives the probability with which a particle will be at some location -to be more technical an area, not a point-. If the governing Schroedinger equations are solved for particles -which is extremely complex-, the solution gives the energy that particles can posses. So energy is somehow related to a particle being at a particular region, or existing at all. The physical interpretation of Wave function is a long discussion topic in physics which deserves another post. But my understanding is that energy is again related to matter existing at some particular region of space.
I admit that I will have to spend some more of my free time on this issue, and update as soon as I get a grasp.
But, ultimately, Energy is related to mass, or existence of mass, which is a property of matter. Thus, when people talk about their belief in "an energy" they are actually talking about belief in a form of matter, and being materialistic. I am not sure if that is what they really wanna say? I guess not.