I think it was MK Ghandi who said (well it could be someone else, quotations are frequently associated to anyone from Aristotle to Spongebob Squarepants; any way let’s assume it was the Mahatma who said): “I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians.”
(Actually, since Christ is mentioned, it’s unlikely to be Aristotle, although Spongebob is still a distinct possibility).
I was raised as one of those Christians, but as a member of the Church of England that more or less means just being nice to everyone. Indeed, Anglicans have always had a fairly relaxed attitude towards God. Contrary to popular myth they didn’t even get too upset over Darwin and all that evolution mullarkey, basically accepting the Bible as a work of allegory from quite early on.
For me this meant that it was quite easy to feel accommodated by the Anglican communion without getting all tangled up in that Father, Son and Holy Ghost nonsense.
This in turn enabled me to choose to be confirmed at the ripe age of 25 and become a full member of the Church, Holy Communion and all.
Then the Evangelicals came along.
Of course these “earnest” souls, convinced of the literal truth of the Old and New Testament and of the importance of prophesy to the world, had always been there, banging on about their religion from their pavement pulpits and doorstep calls. I, for one, took little notice of them because, to me, their literally unbelievable faith defied logic and the facts.
However, even in the Good Ole Church of England they were being seen as the “way forward” with their happy, clappy singalong songs of praise and frankly embarrassing and downright un-English hugging and kissing in church.
So I drifted away. Not just from my local parish church or the Church of England but also from organised religion itself.
I’ve always leaned towards science and logic but the older I get, the more deeply I believe that religion and scripture are less divinely inspired than inspired by the status quo.
It’s all nonsense, isn’t it?
I mean I’m sure all these people existed, Jesus, Moses, Muhammed, Buddha and the rest. But I’m also sure that they have been misrepresented, by others or possibly even themselves.
Without exception, all the standard religious texts contain multiple contradictions, which — if they were the word of an infallible supreme being, or even inspired by such — they shouldn’t, should they? Even the Holy Q’ran, allegedly dictated to the Prophet (PBUH) by God Himself, who sent the winged horse Pegasus to collect him to make sure he’d be on time, preaches universal peace one minute and mutilation, torture and death the next.
If God is so merciful, why is He so bloodthirsty?
And so needy too. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” runs the FIRST Mosaic commandment. If God is so great he shouldn’t be so insecure.
The fact is that even if God created Man, Man certainly created religion. And religion is usually all about getting people to do things that normally they wouldn’t do — like being nice to people — or stopping them from doing things they shouldn’t — murder, incest, eating pork and shellfish in a hot climate, etc.
The problem is that, down the ages, certain less scrupulous individuals — mainly old blokes interested in keeping things like the good old (bad old) days or worse — have slipped in the odd edict or two in the name of the Almighty. I mean, Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets from God, but did anyone see Him write the prescription?
I could go on for hours about the contradictions, fantasies and hypocrisy of the world’s great religious texts but that’s not really what this blog entry is all about.
I said earlier that it was the rise of the evangelicals which set me off on the path away from religion. Well, nowadays I live in South East London: the black heart of the evangelical movement. There are literally hundreds of “churches” all around: The Winners’ Church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, The Overcomers’ Assembly, to name just three.
Position, position, position
These are not glorious stone edifices. One on our street (residing above an electrical wholesale company … closer to Heaven, perhaps) is currently celebrating a “month of fasting and prayer”. Looking at many of the congregation they could certainly do with the former.
You’ll find many more of these churches on seedy industrial estates, over the top of run down high street shops and down gloomy back streets. If you would know what God thinks of His followers you should see the places He makes them worship in.
Simply walking through the streets of London you are approached by many more believers pushing one sort of religion or another. All of them are convinced that I should be convinced that their particular imaginary friend is the most convincing of all.
Just the other day I saw a stall advertising just how loving and welcoming Islam was, complete with literature proclaiming that the unbelievers would go straight to Hell.
And yesterday walking to work I was approached by a Paul Belmondo lookalike — complete with cravat — asking whether I cared to know more about Krishna.
You’re not even safe at home. A few nights back I was greeted at the doorstep by two gents in ponchos asking me how I was. I could see the signs, which included badges using the word “empowerment”. I asked them if I could help them in any way. They simply continued to ask me how I was. I politely closed the door.
If God was so attractive a proposition, would He need to advertise? Primark don’t.
So, all evangelicals take note: the more you tell me how good it would be to hear the good news about God, the less I want to listen.
I find it harder and harder to believe that religion is any more than a way for the devious to get the weak-willed to act in a way that makes the devious more comfortable.
And while the world’s great (and small) religions have been used to promote a lot of good things, that’s still not enough reason to believe that an old man with a white beard created every living thing in the universe in just a little over 140 hours or any of the other proposterous claims of transusbstantiation or ressurection or reincarnation or magic flying horse taxis.
I might as well pay homage to Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy; after all, they are at least consistently nice to people — even though they give more to rich kids than poor ones.
You make be shocked as you read this. You may fear for my immortal soul. You may even think I have uttered blasphemies that make me unfit for society.
Well, I think you’re entitled to think that. I also think that if your god is as all powerful as you claim then it is up to Him how He deals with it. And for you to claim that you know what He is thinking and how He will react is, by your own standards, blasphemy.
Is it is your place to second-guess your god?
But then that’s what religion is all about at heart: second-guessing God. That’s why Man invented religion: to justify his blasphemy. If you believe in that sort of thing.
Logically, why would God listen to someone who doesn’t do what he’s told.
God isn’t listening to you zealots. And I’m certainly not.