People around this country are busy expressing their religion. They refuse to do their government clerical jobs and deny people marriage licenses. They do it because of their beliefs. They picket military funerals with signs about “God hates fags” (though I don’t see why the creator dislikes English cigarettes so much) because of their beliefs. They refuse to bake wedding cakes because Christian fundamentalism has somehow become about who gets to eat your cooking. They condemn parts of the Middle East and pray for war because there is religious head-chopping going on, and certain countries are not promising to give up their nuclear daydreams sincerely enough. Expressing religious beliefs seems to be mostly about condemning stuff. And, admittedly, some of it is bad stuff… like the head-chopping. But is that what religion is for?
The Paffooney I am using today is called “One Day the Old Mad Gods Will Be Made Whole Again” which is a nutcake picture created during my grad student years in response to the basic undercurrent of fear that underlies most of Christianity. I think I may have written it wrong, though. It used to be about “fear”, and today it has become about “FEAR!”
People turn to religion primarily because they fear death. Christianity promises an ever-lasting immortal life, either in Heaven (Which I have my doubts you will ever find on a map) or (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses in my family believe) on a Paradise Earth. To never die you are expected to follow a secret formula, or somehow cast a magic spell that will guarantee that even if you are killed, you will never die. If you knock on enough doors to share the “Good News of Christ’s ransom sacrifice” you will be resurrected to everlasting life. If you “Love what is good and hate what is bad”, you will claim a spot in Heaven. But you can’t earn this undeserved kindness. God gave his only son to die on the cross so that everyone else might live. …But not sinners. Not people who do not get the formula right… or do not express the right views… or say the wrong thing. What the… Heck?
It is not a logical construct. Elders among the Jehovah’s Witnesses explain to me that is all about belief. You have to express belief through action. And where belief conflicts with science or logic, you must prefer belief.
So, the man puts his hand down in an old aquarium full of rattlesnakes, and God is supposed to protect him. But if the man gets bitten and dies, well, he must’ve been a sinner or needing to be punished. Hellfire for all eternity… you can’t beat fundamental Christianity on the matter of punishment for sins.
If you have gotten this far through my essay without throwing up your hands and consigning my sinful soul to the darkest pit of hell to burn for eternity, then you have probably concluded that I am just another old philosophical atheist spouting semi-logical nonsense about why there is no God. And you would be dead wrong. There is a God. I talk to him daily. He helped me write this post. I am a Christian existentialist. I believe there is a God, and he can be found in the Bible at First John 4:8. “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” I don’t believe in everlasting life. I believe I am a part of the whole. I believe in love, because loving my fellow man is part of loving myself. I would willingly lay down my life to save another, out of love, because that other person and I are one. And when they bury me to become worm food and fertilizer, I won’t be feeling the pain and confusion and fear anymore, but I will still be part of the whole. And the whole is God.