Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'll Believe In God If I Don't Have To Go To Your Church

As a good 12-Step Guy, I have a Higher Power. For me, that is the good advice and ideas of other people. Do I believe in God? It's a good question. Say it loudly and firmly and accusingly: "Do you believe in God?" You have to answer Yes or No. If you say NO, the other person can turn away in disgust. If you say YES they can ask you why you don't go to Church. In Eurup where even the Catholics are godless atheists, that's not such a big question. In the USA it's HUGE. 

Not only can they ask you why you don't go to Church (Temple, Mosque, Chapel, Meeting, wherever), they can ask you why you eat pork, are clean-shaven, allow your daughters to walk around bare-headed, are / are not circumcised, eat any kind of meat, wear fancy clothes or tolerate homosexuals. Because God has an opinion on all those things. Apparently.

Do I believe in God? Sure, just not a God who would stone an adulteress, burn a widow, refuse me bacon, keep my women indoors, kill queers and dykes, force us all to get married and have children, or any of that other stuff. So if your God isn't like that, and doesn't have any opinions on fashion, diet, politics, science, family structure, hygiene and the use of mobile phones, we may have something in common. Most Gods have opinions on these things. I'm not sure I believe in a God with opinions about teaching Creationism.

I don't believe in the Archbishop of Canterbury - but then neither do any of the other Archbishops - and I don't believe in the Pope either. Apparently I get a choice of Grand Mullahs and Rabbis, but I'm not so sure I'd believe in any of them. I don't believe in Bill W and Dr Bob, though I appreciate the good work they did and the message they carried.

But then, being British, I'm Church of England by default, and so Northern European Protestant, which means that unlike Catholics, Muslims, and most other religions, my relationship with God is direct, individual and there whether I believe in it or not. In most other religions, you only have a relationship with God if you attend one form of schule or another and know the rules and ceremonies of the community: that's why infidels aren't allowed in mosques and goys aren't allowed in a synagogue. But in an European Christian church anyone, absolutely anyone, from anywhere, brought up anyhow, can stand in line and take Holy Communion, and no-one will stop them. Raise their eyebrows and mutter, sure, but not actually stop them. Because in European Christianity, no-one has any right to get between anyone else and their communion with their God.

Is there a bearded patriarch in the Land Above The Clouds? I don't think so. We die, and we're dead, except in the memories of those who survive us. Is there a universal spirit into which we are re-absorbed? Yes, actually. It's called Nature. Oh, you meant a conscious, moral spirit, kinda like a ghost but even more insubstantial. No. There isn't one of those. There's this existence and this universe and that's it. This existence can be richer and weirder than the Vulgar Atheists (you know who you are) allow, and if you want to feel that in extremis you felt the presence of a Being Greater Than Us, I am not going to spoil the value of your feeling to you. Just so long as you don't claim it has ontological significance. 

I'm a 12-Step Guy. I have a Higher Power. I know that sometimes I can't do all this living shit by myself and I have to trust that someone else can and will help me. When they do, I am grateful and feel fortunate. On the unlikely chance I can be that assistance for someone else, I'm happy to be so. Do I believe in that Higher Power? Yes. Am I going to go to your Church? No freaking way.

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