Preach It

I was going to stop eating biscuits and start exercising today. But yesterday I injured my knee and ate something that doesn't like my stomach. So on the one hand I can't exercise, but on the other I can't eat anything because I'll just throw it up.

You can see how some people think their lives are run by an invisible power with the sense of humour of a five year old.

Speaking of which, I've found myself thinking about God recently. I'm working on the outlines of a story about murder in a small religious cult, and posting about atheism on one of the more sensible religious discussion blogs.

I'll post quotes from the latter if/when it develops some more. In the meantime, here's some notes from the former. Imagine these words coming from one of the characters, a rather unconventional charismatic preacher:

There are those who believe that by giving the people what they want, they are doing what must be done.

There are those who believe that by doing what must be done, they are making the people happy.

And there are those who believe that by making the people happy, they are giving the people what they want.

But these are very different things.

If god started to answer our prayers, we would soon cease praying. Praying is a way of hoping for what we know we will never have.

They say man is defined by language, or work, or the use of tools. They say man is the only creature to think in words, or work the land, or invent technology. I say man is defined by his capacity for hope. I say he is the only creature to live for the future.

The future barely ever comes of course, and almost all hope is futile. If the future does come, or our prayers are answered, we instantly find something new to pray for.

Revelations are meant to be experienced by lunatics, quoted by the holy, and revered by the believers. They're not meant to be understood by anyone.

We don't care about the content of the revelation, only that there is one. We're supposed to be reassured by its existence, not informed by its data.

Every community needs its scapegoats, every religion needs its heretics, and every man needs his enemies.

If we weren't drawn together by our shared hatred, do you think our love for each other would be enough? If all we had was our love, we'd soon find reasons to hate each other.

It could be the wealthy in their semi-detatched homes with tripple glazing, or the poor in their cracked towerblocks which are only a mile away but which we've never seen. It could be the young, the mad, the clever,

The beautiful who have nothing but their beauty, or the ugly who would trade everything they have to have beauty. The good and kind who we despise for being better than us, or the spiteful and cruel who we despise for doing what we wish we could do.

the foreign with their strange food which they cook for us in the evenings, the immigrant who steals the job we don't want for wages we wouldn't accept. The criminals who scare us, or the police who treat us like criminals.

We live among these people but they are invisible to us. If they were not invisible we could not hate them as we do. Or if we love them, we couldn't love them as we do.

At the end of every religious quest there is an empty box. The box that the holy books say contains the greatest secret, the deepest revelation, the complete truth.

We open the box and see there's nothing there, but instead of blaming god or the scriptures for deceiving us, we blame ourselves for being too blind to see the contents. We tell ourselves we have not yet reached enlightenment, and are therefore not worthy to receive enlightenment.

If we see through this, we tell ourselves the real purpose of the quest was the journey itself, that the difficulties and waylays on the path are the true source of enlightenment, that the box is not empty after all because we fill it ourselves with each step. Indeed, the box is irrelevent, merely an excuse.

But we can't tell anyone what we've learned on the journey, because for anyone to understand it, they'd have to take the journey themselves. And even if they do, they've taken their journey, not ours, and receieved their enlightenment, not ours, so we can't even compare our vision of god with theirs.

Some even say your whole life is the quest, so when you've reached the end of your life, you'll know how you should have spent it.

It's perfect. The box stays empty, the truth stays hidden, the mystery stays intact, priests stay in control and the pligrims keep coming.

No comments:

Post a Comment