I should make up my mind, one way or the other - do I believe in God or not?
The problem is this - if I find that I believe in God, how can I possibly ever find it in my heart to do anything other than loathe him?
They seem like particularly biased questions coming, not only from Left Field, but somewhere out past the bleachers entirely - but if you were raised in what can only be described, despite the obvious oxymoron, as a moderately extreme religious community (Seventh Day Adventist) - hey, they're pertinent questions.
Of course, to my way of thinking - that is to say, perverse at best - they are important questions to anyone, regardless of their upbringing.
Because anyone who spends even a few minutes of their time engaged in looking at the world as something other than a place to find the most convenient and shiny distraction in the least amount of time and for the lowest available cost - jesus people, look around you - if we aren't on the brink of the Apocolypse, whether a secular or a religious one, I'm fucking Mary Poppins.
I'm not going to go into a point-by-point analysis of all the 'signs' I see around me every day. There are better minds than mine who do a much better job of it all around me. But if this kind of thing is obvious even to someone like me, who practically lives under a fucking rock for all intensive purposes, how can it be less than obvious to any other sane human being?
As if that were a logical question. Ignorance is much easier. So much more comfortable, and easier to accept as 'safe'. Honestly, though I'm far from being a 'big brain' myself, there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't wish I were a great deal more stupid than I generally consider myself to be.
I long for ignorance sometimes. There are times when I would gladly trade anything anyone could possibly ask of me, if I could just stop thinking.
Which is a part of the whole theological issue I have with myself. Whether or not to believe in God.
It was only a work of fiction, and not even one of the better ones at that, but it had a fairly substantial emotional impact on me - the film "The Rapture". In it, the central characters lead lives of apparent debauchery and decadence until they are introduced to the word of God, at which point they do the standard lifestyle 180 and become born-agains - just before the End Times start into the final countdown.
The part that resonated the most to me - and I do recognize that I am very susceptible to emotional manipulation, particularly when presented in an even clumsily rendered artistic form - was when the main woman character is standing on one side of a rather silly depiction of the River Styxx, with her dead daughter standing on the other side, pleading with her to "say you love Jesus!" so that they can be joined again on The Other Side.
And the woman has to reflect on the concept of really and finally embracing a belief system that she used to justify murdering her own daughter in order to demonstrate her faith in God.
The daughter, seeing her mother's indecision, reminds her that, if she doesn't make this statement, if she 'turns her back on God,' she'll spend the rest of eternity in nothingness. The film doesn't, if I remember correctly, go so far as to say Hell and eternal torment - but enough already.
The woman makes her choice. And says that she would rather not exist than to claim to love a God that could ask such things of the beings he claims to 'love'.
Yes, this was just a poorly cobbled together piece of Hollywood hoodoo. But anyone who's had any kind of bibical training knows, it's not at all out of step with Standard Operating Procedure for God as portrayed in the Bible.
The God of the Old Testament asked Abraham to take his son up a mountain and offer him as a living sacrifice to show his loyalty. Abraham didn't even tell the poor kid he was taking him on a hike to carve his heart out for Jehovah - he just schlepped him up the side of the mountain, and it was only at the last fucking minute that God said, hey - psych! - here, have a magical sheep, never mind all that, I proved my point - you were willing to murder your own son to earn your celestial merit badge, I'm not going to make you, ha-ha, actually go through with it or anything.
I could go on and on with examples - but you get the picture.
How could anyone in their right mind BUY INTO this kind of insanity?
How could I have done it for as long as I did?
How could I possibly even entertain the idea even now?
For the same reasons it ever seemed like a plausible idea in the first place. Other than the fact that, at the time, I was a kid and didn't have a lot of say in the matter.
For a while, if you're scared enough, just about anything can seem like a good idea.
One of the things that the Seventh Day Adventist church did, and probably still does, is place a great deal of emphasis on 'The Last Days'. They like to go over and over the details about the Signs of the Apocolypse, and how 'the Faithful' will be persecuted in the time just preceeding the return of King, blah blah blah. How we would be, first reviled, then systemtically targeted and finally driven from our homes to live in the mountains - those of us that survived torture and murder, of course.
All in the Service of the Lord. Can I hear a quiet and reverential Amen.
You get enough of this stuff crammed into your head at an early enough age, and looking around at the world today is enough to give you the crawling heebie jeebies.
Because, when seen through the spectacles of early indoctrination, we're getting really fucking close to The Last Days.
Nikki would say, people have been saying that since the world began - that there's always been someone claiming that the world's about to end in the next fifteen minutes. And she'd be absolutely right. There's never been any shortage of sheet-wearing religious wackos claiming that JAYSUS is already on the elevator down, and he's going to kick some Righteous ass when he hits the lobby.
And even when I leave out the religious angle, and point out that the world, with or without a God, is being dropped head first into an enormous toilet, and that because the majority of humans evince absolutely no desire to accept this simple fact and strive to make the necessary, the logical, the humane gestures to try to change this direction -
She says, things always change, and people always adapt. One way or another.
I know she's right.
In a way.
To a degree.
And I still wonder.
If there is a God, and I face the possibility, as a result of my life choices, and the choices I didn't make, of an eternity of either complete nothingness or everlasting torture -
How could I still, even facing that, choose to say, hey, God, it's cool - I don't really get it, but you must have some Master Plan that I'm just too clueless to fully understand right now.
No. Fucking. Way.
And even though the idea of hell and spending the rest of time being slow-roasted over an open pit doesn't exactly fill my heart with joy, hallelujah -
I still can't do it. I can't sign a contract with someone or something that seems to have the worst sent of Situational Ethics I've ever encountered.
The other question I can't get out of my head is this, though -
What if I'm wrong?
What if there is a God. What if he's just been given really bad press, and the entire Bible is just the end result of centuries of people playing campfire story 'telephone' games.
You know, the one you played at camp, where the story starts at one end of the circle, get's whispered into one ear after the other, until the end result at is so far removed from the beginning that everyone gets a good guffaw and goes on to roast a few marshmellows before plotting which poor bastard gets their hand dunked in warm water while they're sleeping to get them to wet their sleeping bag.
What if God is just - misunderstood?
And what if I face an eternity of misery because I didn't listen to the 'still small voice' that's been tap, tap, tapping at the door to my heart?
Hey, if God's so all-fucking-powerful -
Why didn't he hire a better Image Consultant?
Sorry, God. If I have to choose between you or eternity with a fog machine and a poorly rendered river - even between you and a thousand barb-tailed, pitchfork-wielding pixies -
You're on your own, Big Guy. If you can call the big hoe-down yuo're going to have with entire membership of the 700 Hundred Club 'alone'.
Anyway, you can count me out.
I guess I need to just accept my non-acceptance, and figure out what my real questions are.