Faith of my fathers

I wandered away from the creed I grew up on a long time ago, but I never really took the time to rant. Here, belatedly, some good old-fashioned teen-style religion angst.

One hundred thousand years of human development and you told me to believe that one splinter of one tribal cult that sprang up on one patch of land during last four millennia is the absolute truth of a universe that spans billions of worlds.

A collection of after-action interpretations of oral histories, almost never written by their claimed authors, almost never written during the times they document, edited, collated, censored, mistranslated, repeatedly updated to suit the politics of the time (and all of this well-documented!), full of pastiches passed off as singular accounts, haphazard, arbitrary… and you told me this mess was the greatest and truest book of all history. Because the book itself said so.

A religion that argued and changed its own story on the most basic elements—such as, oh, the small matter of Jesus being part of God—within its first couple hundred years, but you told me this was unchanging Truth.

A worldview that said truth matters… except you said that any scholarship that challenged these ideas was not only wrong but a dangerous idea. Not that that’s something that every ideology that has ever feared the encroachment of knowledge has done, or anything. No, this movement isn’t like those other scared, quivering, defensive ideologies. Because this one is right.

You reveled in tortured explanations of how a collection of highly specific and anachronistic tribal taboos really, actually, make perfect sense as a universal guidebook for life in all times and places.

You sold me a universe in which God conspires to plant misleading clues, bends the laws of space and time to make it look older and stranger than the Bible says it must be.

You told me I’d find the confirmation of the truth in my heart, conveniently ignoring the fact that billions of humans have received personal religious revelations of near-infinite variety. It’s only the control freaks who decide theirs must be true for everyone.

I don’t have time for the pages and pages I could write about morality… how you taught me the absurdity of a God beyond all space and time and form and comprehension who is concerned about which appendages two creatures squish together and when. Often to the exclusion of other issues like injustice and violence.

You taught me to respect reason and science and observation and engineering. And to twist and subjugate all of them when they conflicted with a priori “revealed truths”. You showed me how all the science that happened to exist by the time you were in college could be seen as consistent with divine truths, but all the science that came after was suspect.

You taught me how every other nation in history had co-opted faith to suit its dominant paradigms. But how our country’s way of life—that is, the way of life of those currently privileged by the system—was conveniently aligned with God’s plan. At least, our country’s idealized way of life circa the post-world-war boom, anyway. Even though any eight year old can read the recorded words of Christ and understand that he was no capitalist, no patriot, and would have spat on the NRA.

You told me morality comes from God—your very specific God—in a world where the people of the most secular nations are self-evidently as moral and just—if not more so—than those of “godly” countries.

You told me about true miracles, that always seemed to happen to someone else.

You told me this was Truth not because there was anything remotely plausible about it, or because it was born out by study, or because wise people who meditate on it reliably arrive at the same conclusion, or because miracles prove it, or because it is the universal shape of inner revelation, or even because it was internally consistent. You told me because a man told you it was Truth and a man told him it was Truth and so on.

You talked about the “lies of Satan” and the scheming, devious people who sold them, even though your own truth was utterly subjective.

It’s not even a productive, uplifting lie. It’s a mess, it denies the bodies we live in, and denigrates the time we spend on earth. In its faithful interpretation it’s as often ugly and cruel as it is beautiful.

In short: You sat atop a vast green hill, clutching a windblown candy wrapper, and claimed to me you’d found proof that the world is made of corn syrup.

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  1. My ruminations on this topic over the years have made me come to see that what many people want is not really TRUTH, but rather CERTAINTY.

    If they are CERTAIN of what they believe–that is more important than it being consistent, rational, what not.

    This is not just a thing in religions–but religions–esp. the fundamentalist variety–are attached WAY MORE to certainty than they are to truth.

    Anyway.. Glad you got this out.. it’s always helpful to work through such thoughts–even if they’ve likely been hanging out in you for a good long time..

    I can say–even when you were a believer–which I’m pretty sure you were when we first met on ex-netgoth… you were someone I actually respected as a Christian–because you lived the life rather than just saying you did..

    1. Yes! Very well said. If I replace “truth” with “certainty” soooo much of the rhetoric makes more sense.

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