This is half of the God part of a lengthy essay I wrote. The other half appears under “The Old Testament”
Perhaps God knows the answers. (to the problems of greed and government)
Recently I read an op-ed piece entitled “Man Made Gods” by J. Anderson Thompson and Claire Anhofer. In it there were two mind-blowing assertions.
The first, and I quote, scientists “have produced robust theories, backed by empirical evidence, that support the conclusion that it was humans who created God, not the other way around”.
I have known this to be true for more than 50 years. What is absolutely stunning is that the idea was first suggested to me by a 14 year old girl in 1959. Reading the article produced a very strong sense of déjà vu. What she said then, they are saying now.
She wasn’t a friend exactly. We attended the same girls only boarding school in Johannesburg where she had committed some terrible sin (being cleverer that the teachers I suspect) and so was demoted. This meant that she had to spend three weeks in a dormitory with girls 2 or 3 years younger than herself.
Her name was Susan and she was brilliant. How did she come up with ideas that are only now being published. Perhaps more to the point, how did she have the courage to express them. Thompson and Anhofer say “We easily expand that inborn need for protectors to authority figures of any sort, including religious leaders and, more saliently, gods. God becomes a super parent, able to protect us and care for us even when our more corporeal support systems disappear, through death or distance.”
Susan said that we all need someone to look up to, and when there is no one left on earth, we invent another realm – heaven – with God presiding over it. Not her exact words, but the general gist. I don’t know how she came up with these ideas, but I do know that I have been an unwavering, and mostly silent, atheist ever since.
The second stunning phrase in the article was talking about John Lennon’s “Imagine”. As they put it, imagine that we might have a world where politicians no longer compete to prove who believes more strongly in the irrational and the untenable.
What a wonderful thought!
The First Amendment begins: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. With respect to the first half, there are no laws that I know of, but there sure is a lot of pressure. Theoretically, the country abides by the second half as well, except …… What it is actually taken to mean is that you are perfectly free to observe whatever religion you like, as long as you observe. There is no place in the American psyche for someone who does not believe.
Just look at this jaw-dropping exchange between a reporter and Bush senior:
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God. (At least it has been since 1954, when a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, prompted Congress to add the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge, turning it from a patriotic oath into a public prayer.)
However, there is hope. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis., group that describes itself as the nation’s largest association of “freethinkers,” including atheists, agnostics and skeptics, believes that the day is fast approaching when elected officials need no longer worry about revealing their disbelief in God.
I don’t care what deity a person espouses, prayer and other forms of worship (even the euphemistic “invocations” belong in church, chapel, meeting house, synagogue, temple, mosque or some other location where like-minded people gather to pursue their insanities. There, at least, when asked to pray everyone is praying to the same incarnation of the same deity, that is, they pursue a common insanity.
Religion has no place in public life, period.
Shortly after coming to the United States in 1984, I found myself running (unopposed) for Secretary of the Carder School PTA. At the subsequent swearing-in ceremony, I was taken aback when the School Board representative suggested a prayer.
It was not having to twiddle my thumbs while she spouted her mumbo-jumbo; after all, I had done just that for 12 years at my strictly Anglican school. No, it was the arrogant assumption that every person present was a believer who would want to join a complete stranger (and lay person at that) in her sort of prayer. She later apologized to me in that puzzled way that people have when they haven’t the slightest clue where they gave offence.
I may be taken to task for calling religious observances insanities, but I stick by the choice of words.
Faith is an insanity. Is it rational? Is it consistent with everyday life to put one’s faith in an unseen, unmeasurable, unknowable “being” that supposedly micro-manages one’s life and – if you are very good, and pray very hard – will give you what you want, including that ultimate reward, a place on a cloud where you can play a harp for eternity?
Has no-one ever considered the law of unintended consequences? For God to grant me my prayers, quite often someone else has to go without. Every time the President (or whoever) says “God Bless America” he is implying “and the rest be damned.”
Which leads to the subject of Heaven and Hell. Is it really sane to believe that there is a place where some ethereal part of you goes after death – if you are a believer and if you’ve been very good? What if you’ve been very, very good, but don’t believe in Heaven and all that goes along with it? Is God so vindictive that he sends an exemplary – but free-thinking – human to hell?