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We Haven’t a Prayer
Part I of A Hope in Hell
THE WORLD IS going to Hell in Donald Trump’s hand-basket and our trouble isn’t that we haven’t a prayer, but that we have far too many of them. The great challenge we face, as a species, is not Islam, nor radical Islam, nor even radical fundamentalist jihadist Islamic terrorism; no, the great challenge we all face is religious belief itself. Faith taints everything. But I’ll come to that dead end by the scenic route, probably two Fridays from now. (Coming from Trinidad and being raised Catholic, the power of threes has always held me in its sway.)
Because it is the scientific requirement – it is impossible to know for sure, while alive, anything post-death – I am agnostic. Reason sooner or later leads anyone with an open mind to conclude that there is almost certainly no omnipotent, omniscient, caring God as imagined by religions, but it requires a leap of faith to claim to state it as a fact; in any case, debating the existence of God seems even more pointless than worshipping Him.
With the conviction, then, that I have only this life to live for sure, my most significant (and most onerous) duty has been to prepare my children to live their own independent lives. Unlike my own parents, I have not tried to raise my children the way I was, or even the way I am, but in such a way as to allow them to grow into themselves, choosing their own paths.
When last we discussed it, both my children were agnostic; but either or both could turn up in hijab or sackcloth-and-ashes tomorrow and it would be fine with me. Whatever gets you through the night is all right, as the prophet John Lennon, mushy peas be unto his name, once sang. It seems plain to me that God has no answer for anyone, beyond stories, music and sex (thought those three ought to be enough for everyone). But the illusion that a set of fixed rules, followed unquestioningly, ensures eternal life after death, could be the best placebo of all time.
God knows I was far better off when I thought there was some point to all the suffering or some chance of redemption at the end of it. Every day of my life, and most dark weekends, I wrestle with Nothing, and Nothing wins every time. My only studied response to Nothing is to give it my everything. It was much easier being a good Catholic boy, especially with confession wiping my conscience clean once a week. Since I lost faith, my sins are my own burden; and I make atonement in word and deed, not with five Haily-Marys and an Our Father.
Now, many people much smarter than me believe, not just in God, but in their own religion’s firetruckeries, some actually serving in both conscience and an official capacity: Trinidad’s own Fr Clyde Harvey, e.g., is a brilliant man; and the current Pope ain’t no slouch, either. My favourite European filmmaker, Krzysztof Kieslowski, died a Catholic and the title of William Faulkner’s greatest work, Absalom, Absalom! is lifted straight out of the Bible. (Of course, both James Joyce and Marcel Proust knew God as a fraud and I just know that, if there were a God, She would prefer to lime with Bill Maher and Ricky Gervais than Mel Gibson and Deepak Chopra.)
There is no religion that does not require its believers to swallow whole a buffet of utter nonsense, one hors d’oeuvre of which would choke them, but for their faith.
Good Catholics, e.g., must accept the virgin conception and birth of a Jewish apprentice carpenter, whose legal execution resulted in, not just his rising from the dead, but an ironclad guarantee that whoever sincerely signs on to that also will; and that all of this was connived by his own father, who was God. (Also, the son of God was fathered by himself, as God the Father, though the other God in the family, the Holy Ghost, was not his mother – and it’s just struck me that the Holy Trinity is an undeniable divine argument for same-sex marriage.) Pentecostals, the fastest-growing Christian sect, believe as fact every word contained in a book stamped with the legend, “King James Version” on its cover, although the book is, without their faith, nothing more than a collection of Jewish fairy tales.
The nonsense Muslims have to accept includes polygamy for men, women being hidden in sacks and denied educations and clitorises alike., and no bacon for anybody. Frighteningly, Muslims are required to venerate a man who, according to their own historians, at age 51, had sex with a nine-year-old girl.
And Muslims are a barrel of laughs compared to the Mormons, whose beliefs are mocked even by other religions!
The clearest expose of the ridiculous nature of belief, though, is in the common religious approach to the great issue of our day: LGBT rights. If you cannot accept the person who sits next to you in church – at least one in every ten of whom is gay – as a normal human being just like you in the eyes of God, you should get the firetruck out of your church.
Or we – the human beings who stopped damning infidels, lesbians, Negroes and Jews as less than human – should get your firetrucking church out of you.
Indeed, it strikes me now that there would be a great benefit to me in my children finding religion: I would be able to ask, of people who could not doubt my love for them, how the firetruck they could believe the rubbish they do.
BC Pires is a closet heretic
Next week: Part II: Holy Smoke: The Only Reason People Believe