“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
— Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
I think the time has come to make it clear what it is I believe, and what I don’t. And aren’t you glad I waited until well after the Easter weekend to do this, after somehow managing to write my rant against misandry on International Women’s Day?
First of all: no, I’m not a Christian, and never have been. Even though a nice lady at work tells me I “need” to go to church (though she is from an African country where the Christian faith is probably stronger than here), and even despite the best efforts of “female best friend” to convert me, I just don’t believe it. I do agree with some of what the Man Jesus seems to say, if you consider all the mistranslations and paraphrasings and out-of-context meanings that the Bible must be filled with, and I think it’s a shame that Christianity, like every other major religion, preaches “thou shalt not kill” yet has been used to justify slaughter in the past (and, sadly, in the present where Islam is concerned).
(Aside: who are these idiots using the Bible to decry gay marriage? The institution wasn’t invented by Christianity (or Judaism), and so religion has no “ownership” of the concept; and if you say “but herp derp IT’S FOR PROCREATION”, do you think infertile couples and the elderly should have theirs annulled? And oh, do you avoid all the other things in Leviticus, like shellfish and clothes made from two different types of cloth?!)
Actually, let me give you an analogy about the three main Abrahamic faiths that we in the West know and love so well (and please don’t take offence, because this is just a humorous generalisation and your own experience may vary):
- Islam is the angry hormonal teenager, who thinks (or, indeed, “knows”) that he knows everything and that everyone else just needs to get out of his way, now!
- Christianity is the middle-aged suburbanite who tuts while reading the Daily Mail over his cornflakes, and huffs: “there ought to be a law against this kind of thing!”
- Judaism is the old coot sitting on a rocking chair on his front porch, occasionally muttering to himself: “I warned ’em, didn’t I warn ’em? Hell in a handbasket!”
I won’t comment on other faiths because I know so little about them, but Buddhism seems to be the least offensive of all, because it boils down to, “don’t worry, be happy”, rather than “obey the people who apparently know exactly what God wants you to do, or you’ll burn in HAYULL!!!”. And I won’t say anything about Scientology beyond the fact that I don’t even consider it a cult, I consider it a SCAM. That’s my opinion and I’m allowed to state it, so I hope WordPress won’t be e-mailing me in a panic because lawyers are sniffing around (they’re probably still picking up the pieces after that DDoS during the week — glad my blog wasn’t hacked, although who’d notice?).
I won’t state “facts” about religions or the meaning of life because, in my opinion, we cannot “know” anything for certain, even if we think we do: we only know what our brains struggle to piece together from our senses and our memories, neither of which are 100% reliable. I don’t even know if I’m sitting here typing out this garbage: I’ve been feeling quite tired this evening, and it could all be a dream. Well, let’s be honest, a nightmare. This is why I consider all religions to be at least partially wrong: we can’t know what the meaning of life is, or whether God exists and what He/She/It wants us to do, and to claim to do so is an act of supreme arrogance.
I think religion was, and is, a means of mass control: I’ve known for years that people will do things for their deity that they won’t do for their government (though the devotion of some Americans to their flag approaches religious fervour — I can’t understand caring so much about a bit of cloth, but then again I feel the same way about sport, so what do I know?). The problem is that it relies on the people in charge being honest, sane, and intelligent, and I wonder whether many religious leaders in the world today score even one out of three! In addition, there’s still a lot of reliance on ancient texts that were written when people still thought everything happened for a reason rather than “just because” — remember that the Greeks and Romans believed “ideas” were thoughts put into their heads by the gods, and that plagues were Apollo firing arrows rather than germs spreading through human contact, so why should the Israelites have been any more scientific? “This happened because God willed it, that’s all you need to know!”
I don’t like the thought of a few people being invested with this much power over others, but for the time being it remains a fact of life. So, what’s my brilliant solution? Well, I don’t want to stop people believing (though I’d certainly like to stop people being Beliebers, the guy is an idiot!) — I think religion should be more of a personal and spiritual journey, rather than a game of me-too. Take everything people say with a pinch of salt — you wouldn’t go for the first quote you received for expensive work to be done (unless you’re a politician and have shares in… oh, sorry!), so why believe only one opinion of the very fundamental nature of existence?
And as for my own, personal belief: well, I just don’t know — but as Terry Pratchett observes, belief isn’t the same thing as knowing. Maybe Stephen King is right and there’s a Dark Tower at the centre of all worlds, or maybe Peter F. Hamilton has a point about a separate universe shaped by the minds of intelligent beings (some of whom — those we would consider “damned” — unfortunately gain the ability to come back and wreak havoc).
Well, come on: if you’re going to get your religion out of a book, why does it have to be an old book?
It’s one thing to follow Christianity, or any other religion, because you feel it in your heart and find that it helps you live your life: “female best friend” does this, and I respect it and wouldn’t try to change her from the path she has chosen. However, I myself have chosen “none of the above”, and that includes the religion that this country claims to follow officially. Hopefully I won’t do a presto-chango deathbed conversion out of fear — that wouldn’t be fair to the faith, as it would imply Christianity is nothing but an insurance policy for dying cowards, and it’s worth more than that. If it turns out that I’m wrong and there really is a judgemental bearded man sitting on a throne in the clouds, I’ll face Him and take whatever punishment He feels I deserve. However, I don’t believe in Hell (other than the world we’re living in), or anything eternal other than change, so I should be all right even then…
As for the meaning of life, well, perhaps Roger the Alien in the American Dad! episode “Rapture’s Delight” summed it up best:
A final thought: the phrase “God definitely exists” is true, for a given definition of “God”, “exists”, and “definitely”. And “true”. And, as Bill Clinton so wisely observed, it also depends what your definition of “is” is…