“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” –Steinbeck, in East of Eden
(nod your head if you know where this is going)
I was attacked online today in a private message. Apparently, God hates me.
God can get in line. (Well, maybe.) <–agnostic joke
I’m used to theological debates, ontological arguments (I love them), and even personal attacks based on my thoughts on religion or my individual beliefs. But every now and then, someone is so vitriolic, so full of hatred, that it catches me off-guard. Even the Pagan community is not immune, and we’re generally very mellow folks about that stuff.
It makes sense. Nobody likes having their sincerely-held beliefs questioned (or, perhaps, the bedrock shaken, hmm?). It feels personal, even when it isn’t.
No matter what your beliefs (or adamant lack thereof) may be, I mentally dismiss them, even if they match my own, if you’ve never questioned them — really, sincerely questioned them, as in: cried, ached, and wrestled with the Big Questions that are way outside your comfort zone…stripped yourself down and asked yourself, What do I believe? when all of the old books are closed, the rhetoric is silenced, and nobody is around to remind you, unceasingly, how the story is supposed to go…that kind of questioning.
I just don’t respect your faith if it’s inherited and/or you’ve never even considered that there may be more than one path up the mountain — or, hell, many mountains…or none at all.
It seems to me, at this point in my journey, that a sort of gentle agnosticism and an open heart are the only possible doorways through which wisdom can potentially approach us. (And yes, I believe that wisdom is a living thing and that Truth for you and Truth for me may not be the same…and that that makes neither less valid or less beautiful than the other.)
I struggled with the Problem of Evil in the Christianity I inherited. I didn’t (and don’t) see how there could be a truly omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent god, since evil exists — and even beyond that, since suffering exists.
“Well, but God uses suffering to achieve a greater good.”
If your god is so capable and so benevolent, he could find a way to achieve his goals without allowing innocent folks to suffer. It would be within his power.
“God uses tragedy to bring us closer to Him.”
Did your god use the death of my first baby to bring me closer? Is that a benevolent god’s act, to kill (or allow to die — because your god is powerful enough to protect people from harm, else followers would not be taught to pray in supplication) a tiny forming human as an object lesson? What kind of egomaniac would demand closeness and dependency from the very beings he supposedly gave free will, to the point of twisting their lives into darkness to prove they need him?
What kind of love is that? If it were a romantic relationship, you’d tell the other party to get the hell out of there. It’s not healthy.
I could go on. I just don’t buy that suffering is a chosen tool of a benevolent and all-powerful god. Nor do I buy into the omniscient-but-we-have-free-will thing. Either he knows everything I’m going to choose (in which case it’s not really free will, is it?) or he doesn’t know some things. (I have heard the in-between arguments as well, the semantics regarding omniscience…I remain unconvinced.)
If god is not benevolent, why would I give him/her/it/them my loyalty? I have no desire to serve a being who is not good. I will not.
And if god is benevolent, I highly doubt she/he/they/it would punish people for exercising the intelligent minds and the free wills they were born with.
On that note, I don’t think any good and loving deity would really care what we called it/him/her/them. So I don’t think it matters whether we worship Vishnu, Allah, Brighid, or whomever else.
(There’s also the problem of “Does prayer work?” because if it does, and two people ask for the exact opposite things, what happens? Do they play favorites? Again with the egotistical power plays. And if prayer doesn’t work, do we owe anything to this celestial watchmaker who set the universe in motion and then apparently stepped back to just let her whirl?)
If what we choose to believe doesn’t matter in the end (one could argue that the act of choosing matters more than what we settle on), then we are free to believe whatever helps us to live fulfilled lives, whatever that means to each of us. And following from that, the good that we do is perhaps more truly good when it is done not out of fear of punishment otherwise, but because we just wish to do it for its own sake.
This brings me to a) why I don’t indoctrinate my children, and b) my own beliefs. I do privately venerate some number/concept of deity, but it’s with the conscious knowledge — and acceptance — that I cannot know anything for certain about whether said deity exists/does not exist/prefer(s) other form(s)…I do it as a focus for living a grateful life. A kind life. A joyful life.
Gratitude makes my life better. It makes me a better person. I don’t mean, “Thank you god for making me and for forgiving my rotten humanity and all my screw-ups” (don’t get me started on how strongly I feel about the concept of “original sin”…that’s another post entirely). I mean existing with an actively gladdened heart in a way that doesn’t diminish my own agency.
I suppose you could say that I worship the forces of wisdom, compassion, and hope. I’m at ease with that concept, whatever faces they may wear.
If your god hates (anyone), move along. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out — ’cause I don’t want ass prints on my door. (Yes, I love Futurama.)