Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why I am not a Christian

Could it be that all that musing about Death now has me thinking about God?
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Hmmmm.
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To begin, I cannot and won't try to be as eloquent at Mr. Bertrand Russell, whose disquisition with the same title can be read here. His arguments are tightly reasoned and delivered in the best Edwardian style. His conclusions are hard to evade - Pascal has LOST the wager: religion is becoming ever more of an impediment, not an advancement, to human progress and happiness.
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It's taken me a long trip to get here; I've always wanted to believe in something. My parents tried to raise me a nice, conventional suburban Presbyterian boy - I never got why the biggest moment in the Sunday service was when everybody gave the money.
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In the service I was a Catholic because Father Jack was a great guy, and unlike the Prod chaplains, who just wanted you to accept Jesus as your personal Savior, he made sure you got your mail, and helped you call the Red Cross if your wife or girlfriend got in trouble.
Since getting out of the service I fooled around with trying to continue to be Catholic, but the current Pope cut me off at the knees by closing the cafeteria. Sorry, Holy Pop, but I just can't buy the whole "no birth control" thing, no matter how cool it would be to have to either stop shagging the wife or have a cottage overrun with Catholic grunions. And no women as priests..? Don't get me started...
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The past seven years have been a real crisis for me, too, because of the increasingly visible presence of Christian politics. Religious figures - and religious justifications - have been employed by public figures for everything from fighting wars to fighting poverty to fighting for the "right" to say "Happy Hanukkah" to your postman...These aggressively Christian politics and the people who seem to want them have made me realize how increasingly I dislike public piety.
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So I'm unhappy with religion in general. And my little boy's greed-fueled enthusiasm for all things Xmassy has made me grouchy about Christmas. This year is the first year that the Peeper has reeeeally taken to the true spirit of the American version of the holiday - that is to say, he lusts long and loud after every overpriced collation of cheap plastic hawked on every single kids' TV show, movie, juice box and yogurt strip. He wants a tree, and decorations, and all the trimmings, and here I am feeling increasingly Grinchy, finding that I honestly, seriously, don't care. If it wasn't for the Peep, I'd skip the whole thing and go skiing.
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I'm in the middle of slamming this irreligiousity around over on this Balls and Walnuts thread here - (let me pause to put in a good word for a fellow blogger: this guy is fascinating, a delightful writer and can be a total nut, all worthwhile reasons for stopping off over at the B&W bar for a shot and a...umm...walnut).
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The thing that really crystallized my problems with religion was a discussion about Passover.
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Passover, you say, WTF? Why do you give a shit?
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Okay, the thing is, the whole Christmas deal is wrapped up in Passover. Christ is the Lamb, the sacrifice, that save us like the lamb's blood saves the Israelite firstborn, right? But the Passover story is a horrorshow. God kills every single firstborn kid in Egypt. Not just Pharoah's kid. Not just Pharoah. Every single one - infants in the cradle, people living in peasant huts who have no more ability to let the Hebrews go than they could cross the Nile by flapping their arms.
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Every. Single. Fucking. Firstborn. Kid.
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The problem I see here is the problem all monotheistic religions have got to deal with. You have only one God, you’ve got to load the guy down with ALL the attributes of life and nature. Which, as we all know, is often cruel, unfair, capricious and wrong.The polytheistic religions can whistle up subgods and godlets to take the blame for this stuff. The even more sophisticated preChristian religions - the Greek pantheon or the Norse - even admitted that their gods were vicious, cruel, random and sometimes insane, just like the world around us. Tidal wave wiped out your village? Clearly Poseidon was pissed off. Sacrifice to the angry God to placate him and also to somebody - I dunno, maybe "Kapok", the God of bouyancy, for saving those who got away. For a Christian, though, you have to try and explain how God gets credit for saving the handful while not the blame for drowning everyone else.
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So as a Christian, you have to try and shoehorn the "God is Great, God is Good" P.R. sheet in with the horrific evil like this wretched slaughter of every swinging firstborn dick in Egypt - including people hundred of miles away from the scene and tiny day-old infants - and somehow manage to blame the victims so it wasn’t “God’s fault”. The contortions are interesting but hardly enlightening. The Passover story remains a horrorshow, and as far as I'm concerned if God is caught loitering near those dead Egyptian babies, He’s gonna get done for suspicion of murder. Sorry.The thing is, I really WANT to find something of value in faith. I know there’s tons of beautiful stuff in religious writing and imagery. There’s passages in the Bible, the Koran, the Analects, the Zen koans that make me weep, they’re so moving and human. But if the God of the Passover was a person, you’d say, well, gee, (s)he is a great mom (or dad) and husband but also a serial killer, so we need to put them in jail for a long, long time so they won’t hurt anyone again. But because “they” are God, they get a pass.
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That doesn’t seem right to me as a person, or as a parent. Typical Christian explanations seem to be “well, that’s just the way it is, I can’t explain it, it’s a God deal”. How would YOU explain the “loving father/serial killer” to your child? I know I can’t to mine…
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I guess to sum up - the God of the Bible DOESN’T make sense. It’s the “good husband/father/serial killer” deal - great to his family, a nightmare to the “others” or those who break the rules. Hmmm…sounds kinda like…say…a desert tribal patriarch..? D’ya think…?
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Naah.
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Look, I don’t expect people to justify their beliefs. You and him and her can believe in Jehovah of the Thunders, Odin or the Flying Spaghetti Monster so long as those dieties play nicety and keep you home and dry.
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But my reading of religion is you don’t get to pick the Golden Rule and forget all the smite-the-heathen stuff. You’ve gotta be all in or not. And gods, if the historical (and biblical) record is correct, are uncomfortable neighbors. You never know when they will choose to smite you, and for what. The devout say that they’re OK with that.
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But - here’s the big deal - I’m not. Because for me the miracle of a pregnant woman’s slow smile, a chuckling baby in a peaceful room, a sunrise, a field of flowers, every human moment ever lived, is more glory and greatness than every god and every saint and all the angels that ever danced in heaven.

5 comments:

holly said...

Oh oh oh....we are so on the same page.

Doug (Walnut, that is) said...

Thanks for the plug. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one appalled by the Passover story.

My friend Shaina, the Jewish Studies major, couldn't explain it to me. And I quote: "Just get over it."

walternatives said...

IMHO, the Bible is THE problem. It needs to be taken in context, i.e. a text heavily edited hundreds of years ago by power-hungry clergy, composed to keep the (then) masses in awe and controlled. We're living in a vastly different era but too many are quoting a dead script. For me, the best part of the Bible got left on the cutting room floor. Ironically, it was the gospel of Thomas (supposedly Jesus's favorite) that says the light of God is within us all - we ARE the light - and all we simply have to do is search ourselves, not look elsewhere. Of course, that kind of thinking wasn't popular with Emperors nor Bishops, etc...

Bodine said...

God Has been MisQuoted all these years!
To ALL the evangelicals out there...
ALTERS ARE PERSONAL THINGS!!! Every armed compound begins with a pulpit in the corner.
praise BOB
bdbdbd

FDChief said...

bodine: that's "altar" with an "a". If someone "alters" your personal things, well, you'd be "bodina".

Just saying.

But the armed compound thing? Kreegah, tarzan bundolo! You can be the next Whacko from Waco!