Tuesday, March 07, 2006

40 Days of Lent - Day Seven

Hanging With The Unbelievers

Two weeks ago I was having dinner with a friend of mine who doesn't believe in God. Perhaps I should narrow this down, because I don't think any of my friends are believers. My friend Bob once said "I read a poll that shows most Americans believe in God. That just shows how out of mainstream culture I am, because I don't know anyone who does." I sheepishly (and not in the "The Lord Is My Shepard" sense) raised my hand and explained that my belief pretty much depends on what day it is. If there is a God, I think it supersedes our puny earthling attempts to comprehend It, and I don't think It is actively involved in our affairs at all. But that's all for another posting, another day.

Back at dinner, my friend, who is not just an unbeliever but an angry unbeliever, commented that he thinks the world would be much better off if people never came up with the idea of "God." No-one knows better than I the abuses that have been inflicted by organized religion...well, except for those tortured in the Inquisition, burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials, victims of Fatwas and the Palestinians...okay, lots of people know the abuses of organized religion better than I do. But the point is this: without the concept of God, things would have been much worse. I don't see how civilization could have advanced to where it has without the idea of an Ultimate Accountability for your actions. Religion teaches us to make peace (as opposed to war) with fate when things don't go the way we want. It also teaches us to act for the good of others in the community even when it is not in our best interest. This "acting for others" may have been easy when humans lived in small tribes, but as communities expanded and grew, it became more difficult. Sacrificing your best interests and your instinctive drive for the good of the community is one of the cornerstones of religion and necessary for civilization.

This brings up another point: I don't know of any civilization that doesn't have a concept of a "God" or "gods." I imagine it is hardwired into us, dating from when our ancestors looked at the sun, the moon, the ocean or fire and realized it was more powerful than they. This doesn't constitute proof that God exists, just that humans seem to have a need to believe.

All this is important to keep in mind when reading upcoming entries and it appears I'm trashing religion or the Almighty.

Today's reading from the Faithful Words Promise Box:
"Great Advocate, Almighty Friend!
On thee do all our hopes depend:
Our cause can never, never fail;
Thou dost plead, and must prevail."

(sounds like dialogue from an old Superman comic)


k.c. said...

"victims of Fatwas and the Palestinians"? Oh, come on, Johnny. You should know better than to imply that every Palestinian is a suicide bomber. Maybe a good Lenten deed for today would be to Google "Sabra and Shatila" or Jenin.

Julie said...

I would like to comment on the fact that, as someone who loves art. I believe that the human need to express spiritual beliefs that encouraged the development of visual art.

the hanged man said...

Kate -
You misunderstand me. I was listing those who had been persecuted by organized religion (victims of the Inqisition, etc.) The implication wasn't that Palestinians are suicide bombers, but victims of Israeli oppression.

Sorry that wasn't clearer.

the hanged man said...

Yep, just re-read it and it's not clear. Sorry. I did not mean victims of both fatwas and Palestinians; I meant two separate groups who have suffered under organized religion: 1. victims of fatwas and 2. Palestinians.

Perhaps I should Kate proofread my writing before posting?

k.c. said...

and i assume the typo in your last line is on purpose?

glad i misread you.

k.c. said...

and the copy editor's fix for your lack of clarity would be: either put the Palestinians first (Palestinians, victims of fatwas) or use that blasted serial comma, which in this case is necessary for clarity (victims of fatwas, the Palestinians).

okay, no more copyediting for tonight!