According to Time magazine, we’re apparently a nation of gentle New Age bliss-ninnies. All that sectarian stuff, the Nicene creed, even Jesus…nobody really believes all that with any conviction.
Just as Christian fundamentalists insist on a literal reading of the Bible, angry atheists tend to insist that belief in God qualifies you as a raving creationist.
Here’s what they refuse to get: Yes, Christians believe that Jesus’ nativity was a virgin birth and that he rose from the dead on Easter. But if you were to show most Christians incontrovertible scientific proof that those miracles didn’t occur, they would shrug — because their faith means more to them than that. Because in the end, what they have faith in is the redemptive power of the story. In Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited, an agnostic says to his Catholic friend, “You can’t seriously believe it all … I mean about Christmas and the star and the three kings and the ox and the ass.”
“Oh yes, I believe that. It’s a lovely idea.”
“But you can’t believe things simply because they’re a lovely idea.”
“But I do. That’s how I believe.”
I’m willing to bet it’s how most believers believe. Before Hitchens died at 62 from esophageal cancer, he made a point of declaring he was certain no heaven awaited him. But that swipe at the faithful always misses the point. Most of us don’t believe in God because we think it’s a ticket to heaven. Rather, our belief in God — our belief in the living ideal of ourselves, which is something even atheists ponder — instills in us a faith that in the end, light always defeats darkness (which is how people get through the wars and natural disasters I cover). That does make us open to the possibility of the hereafter — but more important, it gives us purposeful inspiration to make the here and now better.
What a load of reeking bullshit.
Try telling the congregation at your local Catholic church that if it’s more convenient for them, they might just as well attend the Baptist church, if it’s closer. Then go to the Baptist church and suggest likewise that the Catholic church is a lovely building and the priest is very nice and they should switch.
Try suggesting to the 40% of Americans who oppose good science in the classroom that they should be fine with teaching evolution, since their faith is all about love and light, and Adam and Eve are just lovely myths.
Apparently, no one ever really gets indignant at being cheerfully told “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. Everyone is untroubled by trivial differences in emphasis, and all that matters is that we’re all happy in our own way.
There is no hell. No one believes in it, anyway. We’re all about light defeating darkness, so the screams of the damned in torment are only invented by a few imaginative horror story authors. No true Christian believes in such evil!
Close your eyes real tight and imagine real hard, and all those people demanding that the schools sponsor public prayer will just vanish … and Tim Tebow is just expressing his appreciation of the Buddha, and his missionary family thinks Catholics are just as Christian as they are.
We can revoke all the special parking dispensations the clergy has at hospitals, because they aren’t really needed to usher the dying into heaven, after all. And isn’t it more important that the afflicted spend more time with their loved ones than that irrelevant guy with a funny collar?
Rick Perry wasn’t actually elected to be governor of Texas. Rick Santorum is just gentle humorous satire (come on, the name is a dead giveaway — no one would call themselves that if they were serious). For that matter, the entire slate of Republican presidential candidates is a hallucination.
The Mormons didn’t pump millions of dollars into the fight for Proposition 8 in California. They just believe in Love! And the Living Ideal of Themselves! And Lovely Fucking Ideas!
I could go on. Tim Padgett, the author of that tripe in Time, is simply a delusional liar — while accusing Hitchens of taking religion too literally, he goes far, far off the deep end to conjure up an entirely imaginary Christendom of pablum and soft, soothing breezes and no difficulties whatsoever, where everyone is stretched out on a comfortable sofa with some really good weed, toking themselves into half-lidded and smashingly baked heedless bliss. He himself might be wallowing deeply in that gooey non-sectarian treacle — these people do exist, from Karen Armstrong to Chris Stedman — but they are in total denial of reality. I can go down to the coffee shop on Tuesday mornings and find the Men’s Bible Study group going strong on the reality of Noah’s Ark and the submission of women; I can open up the local paper and find letters to the editor complaining about the university’s awful tolerance of The Gays; I could, if I were sufficiently masochistic, attend any of a dozen churches here in town and find people who will tell me that believing the earth is millions of years old (or older!) means I will burn in hellfire for eternity (oh, wait, I have done that! Painful, it was).
Unlike Padgett, I have a realistic view of religion. I do not think all Christians are creationists, as he falsely claims, but I also know for a fact that most Christians are damned insistent on the literal reality of Jesus, Heaven, Hell, and their sectarian views about how one can achieve or avoid a meeting with any of them.