Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Why Religion Still Makes Me Cross, Part 1: God’s Mysterious Means and Uncertain Ends.

I look on with disbelief when people take Christianity seriously, or simply politely tolerate it alongside other ‘established fantasies’, first of all because it seems to me so silly. Christian beliefs are a ripe target for ridicule, and I find it difficult to resist.

God, it seems fair to presume, must have decided that He was not happy enough alone, even though He was already The Almighty. He desired some companionship, but – He Reasoned – since He Himself happened to be so very Wholesome, His companions would need to be without stain too. Any association with impropriety would have been unconscionable. Well, okay, but why in Heaven’s name cause such a muddle by designing – or creating, or whatever – a duo like Adam and Eve who were evidently capable of wrongdoing? What was God thinking – sorry, THINKING? What kind of ill-considered Providence is that? And when He fathered only one favoured son, privileged with virgin birth and without sin, why abandon him to the Romans, and their then modish form of capital punishment – as if grotesque “justice” would somehow put right our spiritual wrongs?

No, I can’t see it. After all, if my dad had his wallet stolen in the street he could just forgive the robbers there and then, or possibly an hour or two later after cancelling his credit cards and drinking some tea to calm his nerves. He wouldn’t need to come home and punish me in place of the robbers before he could forgive them. Well, I hope not! True, God apparently had other things – worse things – to forgive than petty theft. Nonetheless, I would venture to say that even I, a ‘mere’ mortal, can improve my life by learning to accept and cope with some imperfection; I wonder whether God ought to have had the ‘omni-capacity’ to cope with an excess of imperfection? Shouldn’t He have been able to cope without Pontius Pilot coming to the rescue, when (the Bible alleges) he condemned Christ?

‘Perfection’ is such an abstract, Platonic concept, but it is worth remembering that we might not have fallen so dismally short were it not for God’s parenting skills, or the lack thereof. Let’s face it: we have an absentee Father who doesn’t keep up his maintenance payments. Who helps when natural disasters tear down homes made of mud? People do. And if no person steps in to save a drowning man, who or what else will? Not our Heavenly Father. He doesn’t even provide crusts of bread for starving children, never mind new bikes for Christmas. Of course believers would infer something Greater behind the actions of philanthropic people – God’s instruments – but surely the only proportionate response to our experience of compassionate people is a Humanist’s belief in people? That is, people on their own with no pretensions, artificial colours, miracles, or other wonders. The idea that God works through us reduces us – we shouldn’t have to share the credit.

Please understand, as a Humanist I don’t wish to mock of the rich and diverse population of human beings who happen to be believers, it’s just that I’d betray my Humanism if I didn’t interrogate their beliefs and be honest about my concerns.

Part 2 will follow shortly...

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