I don't remember how old I was, only that I was in early elementary school, and old enough to realize that Santa Claus couldn't possibly be real. A few friends and I were discussing our "dilemma of faith," and came up with a nice dodge. Santa Claus, we decided, wasn't a real person, nor a supernatural being, but the [undefined] "spirit of Christmas."
What did that mean? Only that we knew he wasn't real, but weren't yet ready to let go of a pleasant fantasy. I think we all understood that we were only buying a little time, so we could ease ourselves gradually into the cold water of reality.
As an adult, I've often been reminded of "the spirit of Christmas," when discussing religion with Christians. God isn't this and isn't that, but he exists! He must exist, because it would be so unpleasant to think otherwise...
Worse still is belief in religious institutions. Once again, the world is being treated to a look behind the curtain of the Catholic Church, and how, in Ireland (to name but the most recent example), it systematically concealed decades of child abuse by its officers, with the help of police and government officials.
When grown-ups refuse to let go of childhood fantasies, terrible things happen... Unfortunately, the terrible things usually happen to innocents, while the guilty go unpunished.
The recent revelations in Ireland aren't new -- here in America, lawsuits in the 80's and 90's forced the CC to admit it had shielded sexually-abusive priests for decades, not only protecting them from exposure and punishment, but actively enabling them to continue their abuse by allowing them to stay in the clergy while quietly sending them to new, unsuspecting territories.
What, in the minds of practicing Catholics, could possibly exonerate their church for these crimes? What rationale could enable of parent of a young child to entrust that child to the church? Could it possibly be as vague and vacuous as my friends' and my attachment to Santa Claus?
I understand that the thought that death is exactly what it appears to be, is not pleasant. Who wants to (really) die? Not me. I'm sure I'd feel a lot better if I believed I'd live forever -- I just can't get myself to believe it, and couldn't since I was a teenager. But on the other hand, how comforting is it to believe you might burn forever for having touched yourself, or having said the wrong word (like, for instance, "god")? That you're watched constantly by a judgmental being that disapproves of practically everything and forgets nothing?
Now carry it a step further, as the church does. It's impossible to go through life without sinning, but fortunately for you, your god has decided that some mere mortals among you will be given the power to exonerate you (even though god himself wouldn't consider doing so), as long as you believe whatever they tell you.
Yes, Catholics, god has decided to place your eternal soul in the hands of child-molesters. It's up to them whether you go to eternal reward or eternal suffering. Wotta concept!
By the way, if it seems I'm singling out the Catholic Church, that's not quite correct. The Catholic Church singled itself out through its belated admissions of guilt, but more to the point, by making itself the richest and most powerful Christian denomination, through its tireless and ruthless ambition. If the Catholic Church is more guilty than other Christian churches, it's only because power corrupts, and the CC has made itself more powerful over its believers than any other (with the possible exception of the Mormons).
Apologists for religion often argue that without it, people would have no morality. But in reality, human beings are the source of all morality, and pick and choose what moral precepts they observe, regardless of what their church tells them. I remember in the early 60's, when the Catholic Church bowed to reality and told American Catholics (but only Americans) that they could eat meat on Friday. They did it because so many American Catholics were already eating meat on Friday, and they didn't want to fight for a lost cause. (Of course, telling American Catholics they could use birth control was another matter, since the Church never gives in on sexual matters -- unless the matter in question is child abuse.)
Interestingly, it was the Catholic Church itself that commissioned a world-wide study that demonstrated that people decide their own morality. The study was to determine how much local morality (in, for example, asian countries) changed when people converted from their native religion to Catholicism. It found, to the dismay of the church, that local moralities didn't change at all, but rather that the locals altered the morality of Catholicism to conform to their traditional values, while still calling themselves Catholics (and thus, presumably, ensuring their place in heaven).
Man, the ancient Hebrews got it right when they wrote about the importance of "the word." It's so much easier to believe words than ideas. So we get nonsense catch-phrases like, "Jesus IS," that pass for -- what? A belief system based on vagueness?
I wonder what the world would look like if everyone in it had to admit that their morality is their own, and they have to take responsibility for what they say and do? And how many people, in such a world, would entrust their children to men they only know tangentially, because they claim to speak for god?
Causes Wayne Smith Supports
The Democratic Party's plot to take over the United States.