Since you go to a church, any church, I think you should consider a few things about your belief in God, His “son”, The Holy Ghost, virgin births, The Assumption, transubstantiation and His famously inspired book, the Bible, which will never be mentioned in your church (or any other church). Think of this as a sort of peer review of your belief and see where you stand.
I cannot imagine that you would argue with the statement that in as much as you believe in God you realize and acknowledge that in fact, there is but one god. I mean, surely you do not believe in multiple gods; one for the Jews and another for the Muslims and still another for the Hindus. There is just one god who made the heavens and the earth and all the creatures therein…and all the religions therein. You know what I’m saying; the god you believe in is the same god every Muslim believes in and the same god every Sufi, Sikh, Shintoist, Catholic, Quaker, Jew, Wiccan and Jain believe in. And all those folks firmly believe that their understanding of god is the right one. Finally, I must remind you that in as much as you believe in a god, a divine creator, an omnipresent, omnipotent god you cannot pick and chose between “the god of the Old Testament” and “the god of the New Testament”. I’m sorry, God is God; old style, new style, Muslim, Jew, Jain and Klickitat. One god. If you do not believe this then I propose that you don’t really believe in a God who art in heaven and said, “Let there be light etc”.
When I lived in Utah I was always bemused to hear the Mormons say with absolute conviction, “I am here to bear my testimony and say that I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the one and only true church” blah blah blah; seemingly quite unaware that there are at least one billion Catholics who think otherwise and another billion Mohammedans who think still otherwise and another few billion folks who fervently believe in sundry other interpretations of human origins, the hereafter, the soul, God, the Bible and miscellaneous other holy books. So, people like the Mormons, who represent .05% of the earth’s population, know unequivocally that they are the only ones who have it right! Gives pause for thought doesn’t it? I’ll bet that you think you have it right too. And that is the problem I am writing to you about.
Christianity did not begin with Jesus. It began a generation later with the fanciful stories written by guys who never even knew the man (and remember, this was long, long before reliable historical documentation. There is no paper-trail back to Jesus). You can insist that Jesus was real and really the son of god and a holy ghost till your last dying breath, but the facts surrounding the origins of Christianity are very sketchy indeed; that is to say, we have absolutely no first-hand, eyewitness accounts about Jesus or anything He is purported to have done; EVERYTHING is hearsay. There is not one shred of evidence in the whole life of Jesus, which would stand up to judicial review even in a Roberts/Thomas/Scalia courtroom.
This brings up the inscrutable question of the Holy Trinity in which you probably believe, wholly or in part. Think about this for a moment: a god (father), a son and a holy ghost all wrapped up into a single being. Who was Joseph anyway? And how did God impregnate Mary? When you pray, do you pray to God or to Jesus? I have never heard of anybody praying to the Holy Ghost. There are billboards that say, “Jesus loves you.” Plain and simple present tense, Jesus loves me. So, this guy who was born of a virgin a couple thousand years ago and became a carpenter and gave some speeches, and while unmarried and younger than Mozart or Schubert, was nailed to a cross and died, is still around some place loving us. What do you THINK about this virgin birth, the miracles, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the Holy Trinity anyway? Can you really make sense of it all or do you just say the catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm and get on with the whole Pollyanna fantasy and then go back to your job designing websites, teaching school or building air foils for Boeing jets? I refer to a lot of Catholicism here but you cannot pretend for a second that most of our modern Christian religions do not bear the DNA of the one and only church until 1517 AD. Does it ever strike you as a bit odd that a huge part of the planet (Asia) was ignorant of the secret of God’s son’s birth in Jerusalem for nearly two thousand years? I mean, why do you think God chose to have His son be born as a Jew rather than as a Confucian or Buddhist?
My point is that God does not make religions; people do. For example, until the early 16th century, there was, for all practical purposes, only one religion (Catholicism) in western Europe (with a few pockets of Jews and including the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church which had split off from Rome in the 11th Century). Aside from the Jews EVERYBODY was Catholic. I’ll bet you have never thought about that. Along comes a relatively unknown, irascible priest who tacks a lot of bellyaches on the door of his local chapel and voila, we can trace the beginnings of every single protest (ant) religion ever since (I know, I know, I am ignoring that other guy whose mythical steed Buraq, carried him into heaven around 700 AD in the remote sands of the Arabian Peninsula). I mean, by 1517, we had eyewitnesses, documentation, a real paper-trail and Mr. Gutenberg’s books for historical evidence; Martin Luther was a very real guy, a fact of historical evidence rather than hysterical evidence. Jesus was just one of many itinerant preachers emerging from the Bronze Age expressing grievances with ancient Hebrew doctrines. 1500 years later Luther was doing the same thing vis a vis Catholicism. A couple hundred years later there would be Calvin, Wesley, Fox and eventually Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith and today we have Messer’s, Robertson, Haggard, Warren and Dobson. All religions are based in solid, very human events, very human interpretations of ancient scripture (and fanciful “revealed” divine documents). The god you worship is responsible for every religion on the planet. I would say that He seems to have had a hard time making up His mind; first, it was Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam and then Protestantism, meanwhile, ignoring whatever was going on in the Far East with guys like Confucius and Lao Tse. And what about the Greeks and their pantheon of fabulous gods? Remember Zeus? Do you believe in Zeus, Jupiter, Thor or Wotan? What? You don’t? Every time you make a fire you don’t think about Prometheus and the possibility of pissing off Zeus and suffering a horrible eternity tied to a rock while an eagle dines on your liver? Then maybe you too are an atheist!
On NPR the other day I heard a young Baptist woman, speaking about the importance of her faith, and say, as an illustration, that she and her husband actually prayed to God for guidance on buying a bookcase! Like He doesn’t have a few other things to think about He has to tell this faithful couple to buy the Macy’s one rather than the Ikea one! I bet I am not too far off the mark in assuming that you too believe in a personal god who listens to your prayers. If, on your way to la Ville Lumiere (Paris), the starboard engine of the Air France 747 is in flames I would imagine you say an ardent prayer asking Him to please make the extinguishers function and put the fire out so you can get to Paris safely so you can see the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. You fervently pray, “Oh, dear God who art in heaven, please get me back on terra firma safely and I will be thy humble servant forever after”! Furthermore, I’ll bet that you pray at night and you go to church, you celebrate Christmas and Easter, you are happy with the fact that our currency says, “In God we trust” and you tithe generously and you read the Bible and donate money for the elementary school in Kenya your church fellowship is building. This is probably a reasonably accurate picture of the average American Christian wouldn’t you say? And what’s wrong with that you ask?
I met a woman recently who was suffering from acute multiple Myeloma and she told me that she was praying to God to heal her so that she could watch her daughter graduate from medical school in two years. I said, “That is interesting. You are praying to God to cure you but who do you think gave you the Meyoloma in the first place”? She said, “I don’t think about that”. This is about as succinct an answer to the problem as there is: “I don’t think about that”. This reminds me of the old Hindu story that the world rested on the back of an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise and when “they” asked, “Well, what about the tortoise” the priest said, ‘Suppose we change the subject”.
Speaking of a personal, omnipresent, all-powerful God, have you ever contemplated the need for all that bulletproof plexi-glass surrounding God’s personal Catholic emissary, on his Pope mobile? One billion Catholics believe that the Pope is a direct, palpable conduit from God. God speaks through the Pope. In 1950, when Pope Pius XII said that Mary went up to heaven body and soul, this so-called Assumption become doctrine, a truth every Catholic was obliged to believe. God Himself had spoken. For Catholics, the Pope is the closest thing to a heavenly son here on earth. When God sends his emissary (surrogate son) to Calcutta, Havana or Jerusalem wouldn’t you think He is keeping a close watch on his guy and the adoring crowds? If there is a God capable of healing sundry maladies, putting out fires and recommending furniture then I would think the plexi-glass should be superfluous. Gives pause doesn’t it?
How about this for another oddity. We have all heard, ad nauseam, from the religious “right” that the earth is variously 4,000 or 8,000 years old. For some reason, most of them have (reluctantly) conceded that God did not actually make all this stuff in six days. But, you have to admit, there is a rather strident insistence from the zealous “creationists”, the very same people we thought had been put to rest by Clarence Darrow 85 years ago, that this planet is very, VERY young; somewhere in the realm of just a few thousand years old. What do such people think when they drive through Utah and see layer upon layer of sandstone (as in beach sand) sedimentary rock? Does the expression “fossil fuels” mean anything to these people? A 4,000-year believer I talked to once in Utah said, “Well, I don’t know anything about carbon 14 or dendrochronology so I can’t believe that stuff”. She doesn’t know about tree rings? What does she think when she hears that there is a tree in Sweden that is 9,500 years old? Does she think Walt Disney stuck it there to fool people? Where does spiritual faith end and stupidity begin? I have met people who do not believe that Neil Armstrong actually walked on the moon.
This god that you worship every Sunday is the same god who commanded Abraham to kill (sacrifice) his only son. Abe was gonna kill his boy Isaac for the same god that you worship every Sunday. Anybody who pulled off a stunt like that today (piled up a bunch of firewood and put his son on top and was about to slit his throat) would be put in jail for the rest of his life. Oh, but this is religion isn’t it; invoking some kind of weird edifying metaphor no doubt? (I would love to know what we are supposed to “learn” from the story of Abraham and Isaac) This god you pray to every night is the very same god who took everything away from Job, piece by painful piece. What if your father did that to you just for fun to see how much you really loved him? This is the same god who angrily caused a flood that drowned every living thing on the planet except for a few chosen individuals, and select flora and fauna. The god you worship every Sunday is the same guy who arranged to have Lot fornicate his own daughters. What? Have you read the story of Lot to your little girls? The god you love is the chap who, at least a dozen times that I know of in the Bible recommends killing thousands of people for not loving Him.
Oh, but that was The Old Testament god you say. Hmmm. To my knowledge Nietzsche is the only man to aver that “god is dead…” so, was the Old Testament god born again? Ahah, so that is where we get the expression “born again”! If your daughters don’t love you are you going to kill them? And lets not forget that when this god of yours heard His only son begging for his life and forgiveness hanging there nailed to a couple boards…the god you love, ignored His son’s entreaties. Nice. Good fathers do not ignore their children. Good fathers do not threaten, abuse, ignore or kill their children. God did not die and come back as a different god. The god of the Old Testament is the same as the god in the New Testament. The father you had as a teenager was the same father you had when you were a baby. Do you think that the guy who created the universe and bullied Abraham to murder his only child is somehow different from the guy who gave birth to Jesus? Get a grip man; God is God.
The god you beseech to put out the flames on the 747 is the same guy who sat back and allowed his acolytes to promulgate the idea that women are inferior (actually, it was the Pharisee Saul, who became the Apostle Paul who really despised women, but we don’t need to get into that here). Trying to deny that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are not misogynistic religions is about as convincing as asserting that Nazis don’t really hate Jews. I heard a Baptist minister on NPR the other day explaining that “women are equal” blah blah blah…but that God has made it clear (Ephesians 5:22) that they are to remain obedient to the man in the house. I would like to see the dictionary that says, “obedient to” is synonymous with “equal to”. Having lived among the Mormons for many years I know that they subscribe to the “obedient to” definition and the dearth of female Catholic priests is testimony of the Papal notion of “equality”. It’s pretty clear where the Muslims stand, so the question is, why do modern religions (Catholicism, Islam and many Protestant sects) subscribe to advice promulgated by Bronze Age tribesmen who still thought the earth was flat and that a hefty dose of Mercury would cure constipation? It all goes back to the Garden of Eden and that greasy snake and that stupid woman who ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge! It should be called the Misogyny tree. You see where I am going with this? If you do not really, totally believe that women are equal, which all three major religions don’t, then you are not that far removed from the Taliban assailants of Malala Yousafzai.
Right there in Genesis you have the beginning of religion’s long history of two repulsive things: misogyny and anti-intellectualism. Of course you want your kids to do well in school so suppose your fourth grade daughter comes home and tells you that in that morning’s prayer study group (because you insisted that prayer be taught in school) the teacher told them that Eve was punished because she ate from the “tree of knowledge”. Your little girl asks plaintively, “Am I going to be punished because I want to learn and be knowledgeable daddy”? How are you going to explain religion’s long antipathy toward knowledge? How are you going to encourage your daughter’s desire to become a biologist if you continue to live by retrograde theology?
The god you worship is the very same god who gave us the Plague and the Inquisition. He is the same god who forbade the reading of the Bible by ordinary citizens until Gutenberg printed enough copies so that it no longer could remain secret. This is the god who has said repeatedly and still says so all over America that science is bad; the earth is just six thousand years old; all that stuff about fossils and dinosaurs, Carbon 14 and dendrochronology and sedimentary rock is a satanic plot to cast doubt on our faith. If you were to make a study of anti-intellectualism throughout world history you would, in fact, be reading the history of religion.
The god you love so much gave us the KKK, the Holocaust, Comrade Stalin, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milosevic and 9/11. That’s right: the same loving, omnipresent, omnipotent “heavenly father”, you are asking to put out the starboard engine fire sat around while these aforementioned murderers killed hundreds of millions of innocent people. “Not my god!”, you exclaim. Hmmmm. The guy who drove the 757 into the World Trade Center was shouting, “God is great!” Did I hear you say again, “Not my god”? What, do you think there are a whole bunch of gods up there drawing straws to see who can cause the most suffering and devastation down here? I suspect there were a few people on that plane who beseeched their “heavenly father” to divert the course of history but no…He had other things to do. We’re talking about the same guy; the very same guy who, when the kid put the Glock to the girl’s head at Columbine High School and the girl cried for all to hear, “Oh please God help me”! He did nothing but watch as the kid blew her brains out. That girl was a good Christian girl. Don’t you think she was imploring the same god you pray to every Sunday? This is the god who watched four cops permanently cripple a poor black guy in Los Angeles and who watched an Israeli bulldozer drive right over Rachel Corey. This is your god my friend.
You have probably used the expression, or heard it used, “all God’s children” referring to all of us here on this planet. Hmmmmm, what about little Malala, (happily recovering in a London hospital?) Do you think the Taliban are just a bunch of hooligans? Au contraire, they are extremely religious people who, with every fibre of their being, believe they are executing God’s word. Don’t you find it troubling, or at least interesting, that here we are at war with fanatical religious fundamentalism thousands of miles away and yet here at home we embrace people who entertain similarly fundamentalist views regarding sex, women’s rights, climate change, church-state relations and the origins of the universe?
You think you have sort of an inside track to this god of yours. Do you actually think you have a better connection with Him than Abdullah al Said as he is strapping on his C-4 Plastique vest before getting on the rush-hour bus in Jerusalem? Do you think you have a more meaningful relation to God than Rabbi Feingold as he bites the foreskin off an innocent baby boy? Do you think you know God better than the Taliban council who just had a boy and girl stoned to death because they had made love out of wedlock? Do you really think that you are praying to a different god than the one who recently incited hundreds of thousands of people to wreck havoc across the entire globe because of a stupid movie about the Mohammedan prophet?
I think the children in Newtown just proved my point. There were Catholics, Jews Protestants and sundry other sects represented among the slaughtered children. One god sat and watched as a mentally sick young man killed wantonly and further eroded any sense of happiness all of us Americans might ever enjoy from now on. Your god. And then you have the temerity to tell me, “Oh, but we can’t fathom God’s plans,” as though that should placate us after the horror of Newtown. The fact of the matter is that your god is a MONSTER.
How many horrible, horrible things must I catalogue that this god of your does every day, and has been doing for millennia…for you to come to your senses and realize that there simply is no god? You cherry-pick the Bible for a few pathetic phrases of affection and moral guidance while steadfastly ignoring the plethora of disgusting, vengeful, misogynistic, wrathful things this Yahweh-Jehovah-Allah guy has done and recommended doing ever since a few frightened nomads learned to ride camels in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago.
Over and over you tell us (secularists) that we must do this or that based on your reading of the Bible (Vis a vis scientific research, gay marriage, abortion, over-population, climate change, homosexuality etc). Do you know that there are places in the Bible recommending stoning to death for working on the Sabbath? The Bible even recommends slavery! There are numerous places in the “good book” exhorting us to kill all un-believers and their children, and their grandchildren and their animals and slaves. There are too many places to catalogue in this book you believe in that recommend hell-fire and eternal damnation for worshipping other gods than Mr. Jehovah.
Just a few weeks ago a bunch of Israeli kids killed a Palestinian kid. They are all Semites; descendents of Abraham… the only difference is that some read the Torah and others read the Koran. The god you love is the same god all those mis-guided kids love. Remember “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland; Christians killing each other just because some believed in transubstantiation and others preferred predestination? Does God speak to you? There are two guys doing “life” in a Utah prison because God told them to kill their sister-in-law. I had a friend once who spoke to Jesus every day even while he was having an affair. But since Jesus “loved him” that made the affair all right. If I tell you that I talk to my friend the unicorn in my backyard you think I am nuts but people who talk to a man who was strung up on a cross 2000 years ago are perfectly normal. What percentage of your brain do you suppose you have relegated to nonsense and deratiocination? I sure hope I never go to a religious doctor. When I am lying on the operating table I want somebody who is using 100% of his brain!
In almost every major dispute around the world today there is one root cause: religion. Catholics killing protestants in Northern Ireland, Jews and Arabs killing each other in the Levant, Hindus killing Muslims in Kashmir, Muslims killing Christians in Mali…and the list goes on….and on. And yet you wantonly abandon all rationality and insist on believing there is a “loving” god who is omnipresent and omnipotent over-seeing this quotidian carnage among “His children”. And, you keep telling us ad nauseam that “God loves us”. And, while He is sitting back in his celestial chaise lounge watching a dozen NATO troops die at the hands of another Taliban infiltrator He will have time to listen to you in your window seat pleading for a divine fire extinguisher?
Tell you what; the next time your kid has a serious illness why not simply pray to your loving, omnipresent, omnipotent god? Why bother a busy emergency room with your pitiable selfishness? Just ask God to cool the fever, plug up the diarrhea and save your little girl’s life? Oh, but “God only helps those who help themselves,” you say as a way of rationalizing taking her to the ER. That’s great, you are gonna take your sick little girl to the very place that God hates; a house of science (more than likely run by secularist nurses and doctors who dissected cadavers, donate blood, study stem cells and practice abortions)!
Do you have any idea how many men of science were tortured and excommunicated by the church in order for those people in pastel uniforms to be able to administer succor to your sick child? How about Giordano Bruno, burned at the stake in the 16th Century for his cosmological research? Both Galileo and Newton were considered heretics by the church. Do you have any idea how much religion HATES, and has always hated inquiry, research and the scientific method? Come on, think about it; even today your fellow religionists all over this great country are eschewing evolution; they can’t stand the fact that we ALL come from Africa, that we are descended from hairy-armpit-scratching orangutans! Even if you are not so stupid as to deny the fact of evolution you support such stupid thinking by your benign acceptance of those fellow religionists who do (and your insistence that we “respect” everybody’s religious beliefs no matter how loony). You lend support to their cause by pretending that it is okay for people to believe whatever they want to believe even when they believe that the (Zoroastrian) “end days” are coming, soon. If people in power are convinced that the ”end days” are approaching soon will they care about climate change or protecting the environment? When people in power believe stupid things we all suffer. It is very possible that you would like more religion in our schools and government. I suggest a brief trip to Saudi Arabia for an excellent example of how nice it is when government and religion are firmly wedded, or remember Malala, nearly killed just because she wanted to go to school.
If you love religion so much you might give some thought to statistics. Secular societies such as Germany, France, Norway, Sweden and Denmark have far lower rates of crime, fewer STD’s, fewer teen pregnancies and much higher test scores than religious America. Oh, but that is Europe, that is different. Okay, apply the same research to America, red states versus blue states, and the figures are again, just about the same. Blue states, which are more secular have less crime, fewer murders, lower teen pregnancies, fewer STD’s and higher test scores. Go figure.
Your religion is probably fairly harmless but nevertheless your fellow church-goers down the street at another church want to overturn Roe v. Wade and prohibit ALL abortions no matter what the circumstances. At the Mormon temple they just discovered in 1980, that Black people are actually equal to white folks. At that same Mormon temple a few years ago they raised millions of dollars to defeat a particular bill in the California state legislature. At another church in town they want to pass a law prohibiting gay marriage. A church in Wenatchee or Ellensburg wants to insist that children pray in school (ignoring the constitution and the fact that our “founding fathers” were secularists). Across town in the Church of God in Whatever they want to prohibit stem cell research. I can guarantee that stem cell research is going to provide cures and remedies that will save millions of lives but religionists are getting in the way just the same as they got in the way of vivisection and microscopy just a few hundred years ago; research which resulted in an understanding of anatomy and physiology and chemical structure and medicine which will save your daughter’s life within minutes of walking into the ER.
I guess by now you have figured out that I do not share your enthusiasm for angry, vengeful gods, virgin births, miraculous ascensions, transubstantiations, golden tablets, original sins and inhospitable fiery places for all but a few stupid sheep. As a matter of fact, I see you as part of the problem for over-population, C-4 explosive vests, genocide, untold wars and the majority of other catastrophes facing mankind today. If all of us agreed that there is no god, no afterlife, no soul, no virgin birth and no holy trinity…if we all agreed that we are all sharing the same little life-boat in the cosmos and need to work amicably together to preserve what we have and share what we have and understand each other and celebrate our differences and embrace our similarities we might have a semblance of peace on earth. The only reason there is no peace on earth is your insistence on a belief in a particular god and a life hereafter. Think about it every Sunday when you go to worship your god. I would defend your right to this ritual with my life but I think you owe it to yourself to pinch your arm, adopt a global vision, abandon “faith”, embrace contemporary (rational) learning, do good work and know that from dust we come and to dust we go. Reality is not something to be afraid of.