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God claims he doesn't exist!
If you want to be religious one could argue that that is your freedom. Personally I would support that argument. But if in your "freedom" to be religious you include the practice of indoctrinating children then I would argue that that is prohibiting their freedom and that is not acceptable. If you want to sexually abuse them in the name of your religion (er... circumcision for example) I would not accept that either. If you wish to impose your freedom in such a way that it prevents me from uttering any question or comment on your activities then this would be rather silly. I think there is a significant difference between spirituality and religion. I am quite content to regard the constellation of Orion in the night sky as being a superhuman entity which watches over me and looks after me providing me with protection and guiding me in ways to make my life more successful. It may be correct and it may not but I can do that. But if I assert that it is factually true then I must be open to other people's questioning and possible refutation of that postulation. And if I can't get other people to agree with me that it is true (though why would I need to?) it would be rather grubby of me to collect a whole load of young impressionable children and to take them away and inculcate them with the singular view that this assertion is true. If I saw someone doing that I would consider it a kind of perverted intellectual abuse. If eventually I collected a "gang" of people who agreed with the spiritual idea of Orion we could call it a religion. Some might prefer to call it a cult. If instead of forcibly inculcating young children I simply started a club where people were free to attend if they wanted to this would seem an awful lot more sensible.
There is no justification for religious schools. Institutions which dominate the education of young children should be very careful to "educate" the children in their care [see: educating children] and not inculcate them in the ways of any particular ritualistic mystical practice. They should not have any particular allegiance to a cult or religion. Religious education is perfectly fine and visiting religious educators are perfectly acceptable. But getting children to recite claims of their own belief every morning is really intellectual abuse. Especially when it is entirely aligned with their education and their acceptance by their culture (it's a survival threat). Now churches and mosques seem like a good idea to me. Sort of clubs where you can go and mumble strange incantations and things like that with other like minded individuals. I like that idea. Theatres, pool halls, mystical places of worship, concert venues, swimming pools are all jolly good ideas for the variety which is apparently the spice of life.
Having been inculcated myself I am very well aware that within Roman Catholicism there is the fundamental notion that we all have a direct contact with God. After all he is omnipotent. According to main stream Christianity a person must be baptised to be "saved" and to effectively get to heaven. I wondered as a child what happened to all those people born in far away jungles who had never heard of Jesus and had no opportunity to be baptised. It was explained to me that there is an exception to the rule and it is called baptism by desire. Basically if you are a good person and desire to know God then you are effectively covered. Neat stuff this religious mumbo-jumbo. Did I just type that? Must be the hand of God at work. After all I am baptised. But back to the more serious stuff. It is also clear that if the church wants to assign responsibility to individuals (probably so that they can "blame" them if they need to) they must have some way of knowing the truth in spite of some unfortunate circumstance like being brought up by misguided parents to believe in another God. Inside all of us is a conscience. This is a good thing and, like Jiminy Cricket with Pinocchio, it means that you always have the truth available to you. Also, it is expected of you that you follow your conscience. This being the fundamental issue with martyrdom. You really have to do what God wants in spite of being surrounded by misguided individuals who think you are wrong. So if, like Abraham, you are commanded by God to do something as extreme as to kill your own son you must do it. It's simple really. You can't pretend that you had to rob the bank by claiming "God told me to." Ultimately it is between yourself and God and you'd better not be lying. But there is also the fact that the people around you might not believe you and so you shouldn't necessarily expect them to concede that in your case it was alright because God told you to. It is reasonable for them to doubt your claim. After all, you are only human. So if they imprison you it really is a matter of you accepting that they couldn't know that God had instructed you to do such a dastardly thing and that their response is reasonable and you just have to suffer the consequences. It's all about doing what you know to be right deep inside yourself. I like all this stuff about Christianity because ironically it has reassured me that I do know the truth. And I have prayed at great length to God and he has told me that he doesn't exist. I know it sounds a little paradoxical but what can you expect from a deep subjective understanding of the objective reality in which I exist. The fact remains that it seems to me that Roman Catholicism gives me the insight and conviction to know that God doesn't exist [see: The God Delusion]. So he must exist to have given rise to Roman Catholicism to have afforded me that insight. But then perhaps, if he doesn't exist then Roman Catholicism and all of Christianity is wrong and there is no God which means that I can't know that he doesn't exist because I have nothing more to go on than the teachings of the church. Hang on a minute. I'm getting a little confused here. Is there a God or isn't there a God? If God doesn't exist (because I am subjectively involved and so much a lesser intelligence than him that I cannot conceive of him - you know - like a fish doesn't now about the semiotics of cinematography) then there is the possibility that he does but if he does then he has made it abundantly clear to me that he doesn't.
It all seems a bit conclusive to me. One thing is for sure though. If we are going to change the aberrant behaviour of humanity on this planet we have to do it with what we have got and not with some desperate hope that a super human entity will intervene and save us. [see: God won't save stupid people]Q.E.D.
(quod erat demonstrandum) (for the Latin scholars) (or perhaps quod erratum deus :o)