Wednesday, 18 May 2011
When Gods collide
When I was a Christian I was deeply moved by the love, the warmth, and the self sacrifice of those with whom I shared my beliefs. In many ways I still am. Whilst I'm now an active critic of all religion I would be a liar to ignore what I often witnessed first hand. Faith can imbue one with an outward looking perspective, provoke feelings of empathy and acts of kindness where previously none would have been present. I've seen hundreds mourn the deaths of those young and old, and I've seen Church at it's best as believers come together in times of pain and loss. The sick have been cared for, the poor supported, the lonely given comfort. I say without hesitation that these are qualities we would all do well to share. Let's not forget, however, that across the world right now persons from all faiths are living this way, and doing so in the name of their particular God. Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and others all report feelings of transcendence, and will proclaim answered prayer and healing and prophetic insight. This is problematic, especially for the three main monotheisms. You see, they all make mutually incompatible claims; they all assert that they are the one true faith, and that all others are bogus, possibly the work of Satan. Yet, no person of faith can deny that brethren from other religions all have the same experiences, which of course begs a very obvious question. Why is God allowing perfectly good and decent people to be deceived in this way? If you are a Christian you need to acknowledge that based on your worldview, 4/5th's of the worlds population are going to Hell because they believe passionately and sincerely in the wrong God. And to the same extent the same apply's to Islam. Good people, kindly people, condemned to an eternity of torment. Now of course there is a perfectly reasonable and consistent conclusion that one might draw based on these uncomfortable truths. We could admit that religion is a largely cultural artifact, originating from our ancestral past and evolving into the forces we're considering today. Does that not make more sense? Is it not more likely that religious belief is operating at the level of the brain rather than due to some omniscient, omnipotent being out there in the ether? Ask yourself, what is more probable?