Since I am not known for my self-restaint, tolerance and moderation, I will point out that I have written this piece numerous times and not posted it out of respect for the faiths of many readers. I mean respect in a positive light and that their faith makes them better people. I am not arguing against that result or even what it takes to achieve it, simply questioning the rationale for all earthly religions, that's all.
Mitt Romney's candidacy along with some other odd things about the Mormon Church have brought religion into this Presidential election. But as someone without a God in this fight, Mitt's God isn't really any stranger than Jesus, or Mohammed, or Brahma, simply more recently canonized. I have seen quite a few leaders on the Christian team trying to exclude a discussion of Mormonism, as it opens the door to discussion of all religions. Well good idea, let's. Mitt maybe doubling down on no Muslims in Cabinet.
As I sit on this crappy rock in the East Goat Rope of our own galaxy and a miniscule bit in this universe, I have a problem with anyone who claims to know what God wants us to do. It seems the most profound arrogance to even assume that it is knowable, and the thought of a vulgar animal claiming to discern the intentions and desires of a being capable of creating it ex nihilo should remind us snakes don't eat their own tails. And yet we have billions of people all around the world who are convinced that their local guy has a line to the one true God(s). Karl Marx said that “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. I don’t have much else I agree with old Karl about, but to an extent I do on this. It is a darker quote than required though, as most religions offer a hope for better things and addiction is simply escape to oblivion. There has to be a reason religions flourish and it is obvious to all.
Why? That is what it all boils down to. Why? are we here? does it suck so much? did my best friend die? did that baby get molested? don't you smite Paris Hilton? WHY?
It is not possible to avoid the question, so an accommodation must be made. Accept this as the crappiest planet you have ever lived on and try to live your life as well as you are able, hoping that doing unto others outside of a formal God scheme is accepted by the final arbiter, mindful that there is no guarantee either way. OR
Create or join a group with answers to life's biggest mysteries, understanding that this will likely be passed down by tribal or familial ties and also that there are a large number of these belief systems. These disparate religions will have core beliefs about what comprises God and they will be completely irreconcilable.Let's just roll that idea around for a moment.
1.9 Billion Christians
1.1 Billion Muslims
800 Million Hindus
Each one of these groups believes a totally different entity or group of them is God, each has completely different methods and requirements for worship, they can't even agree on which parts of which animals God doesn't like to eat.
Not that Occam's Razor is the proper tool for a theological/philosophical discussion but the question stares us in the face, Why? did Allah make so many infidels? did Vishnu tolerate jihadi terrorists to kill Hindus by the score? and why did God (Jesus' dad) make so many unbelievers and make some of them so militant? In each case the answer is weak although Islam may have the most coherent one.
Islam gives each Muslim the requirement to live according to it's precepts and also the commandment to live a personal battle to remain pure, jihad. Each difficulty can be attributed to the struggle of jihad and will be rewarded in Paradise. That fits well with the reality of life everywhere Islam dominates, which is certainly a struggle. Christianity uses a similar justification in that God took them to be with him. That's great if it's true, but hardly comforting to the millions starving and living hellish lives. Why does anyone's God create such horror?
If taken at face value, a God who would do that would be an evil one absent some tremendously, compelling reason. The standard answer is that we are born flawed and must earn our way to Heaven by doing what God wants, eating what he likes, and dancing and singing at the appropriate times. Does this really make any of these Gods more appealing from a non-invested view? Hardly. The tests for adherence and rules are archaic, and often arbitrary. If they have a coherence it is most likely the dietary restrictions, as they had real world food safety concerns in ancient times and still through much of the world. As Chris Rock said, "If you don't have a refrigerator, a pork chop might kill you". But most of us have fridges, and bacon tastes good, so do cows, and Friday Fish Frys have contributed to untold thousands of early returns to a better place.
Not to OD on pop references, but "I don't want to start any blasphemous rumours, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor, and when I die, I expect to find him laughing"
I am not resisting religion purposely, and if a disembodied spray paint can tagged my wall with "God rules!", I would convert instantly and be spreading God's word on subway cars and Subway restaurants for that matter. But thus far God has left me with an an inability to act on faith and no answers that don't require me to tell my rational brain to hush. I will recycle something I wrote a while ago about the best appeal from any religion to me thus far.
My daughter attended an evangelical Lutheran school for Kindergarten and since I was not a member of the Church I had to take 16 one hour blocks of instruction on Monday nights. The rub came during Football season, I mean c’mon Monday Night Football. I made up the missed classes one on one with the pastor, who like most clergy I’ve met was a nice, thoughtful man. I confessed to him my honest feelings about all religion, but told him I simply have seen nothing in my life to lead me to believe any of them, I don’t actively disbelieve, just unconvinced thus far. That I was born with a skeptical, inquiring mind and could not grasp the idea that my most core belief should be taken on faith alone. I couldn’t understand why a God would give me a mind screaming “Prove it” and then not prove it to me. I can’t swear fealty and belief in something I am not even certain exists.
We talked some more about the beliefs of his synod which is a very conservative one. I finally asked him to explain this situation, a Bushman in the Kalahari desert lives his entire life without coming into contact with any of the Christian God’s emissaries and never even learns of this God’s pre-eminence and the need to profess faith to him in order to ascend to Heaven. This Bushman lives an otherwise exemplary life, he is kind, charitable, and a pillar of Bushman society. After he dies, what happens to him? For the first time ever I got an answer that I could accept. He said that every person on earth, at some point in their life, will receive a visit from the Holy Spirit who will reveal God’s glory. At this point the person must either accept God and live in accordance with this or be damned to Hell. In the Bushman’s case this could occur the exact instant prior to death and if he says yes he goes up, no equals down. I asked if the visit would be definitive in revealing God’s glory and he said indisputably, so a rejection would be an informed decision to embrace evil.
So I guess the closest I am to any religion is Evangelical Lutheranism and am patiently awaiting my personal enlightenment, although if it occurs I will give a serious listen to whichever God’s emissary shows up, now what do I do if more than one shows up? I guess we could have a wicked, good debate.