Delight Springs

Friday, September 19, 2014

Created sick, commanded to be well

A student yesterday told us that God is love, that her purpose in life is to share and spread it, and that all who "deny" God are destined to an eternity in Hell. After all, we're all given a choice. And, none of us deserves grace.

But, what if someone sincerely disbelieves in that loving God, on the basis of an honest evaluation of the evidence and its absence? Their choice, their foul, their eternal damnation. Feel the love.

It's certainly not the first time I've heard the casual expression of such breathtaking inhumanity in my classroom, here in God's country. But this time it really rang a bell, on a day when we also discussed Hume's Law and its corollary that Ought implies Can. I was reminded of Mel Gibson, going with "the chair" and consigning his saintly God-fearing wife to the flames:
“Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.”
And, I was reminded of the late Saint Hitch's lament for theistic incoherence: created sick, commanded to be sound.
Oh, wearisome condition of humanity, Born under one law, to another bound; Vainly begot, and yet forbidden vanity, Created sick, commanded to be sound.
― Fulke Greville (quoted by Christopher Hitchens)

What we have here, picked from no mean source, is a distillation of precisely what is twisted and immoral in the faith mentality. Its essential fanaticism, its consideration of the human being as raw material, and its fantasy of purity. 
Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well. I'll repeat that. Created sick, and then ordered to be well.
And over us to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship; a kind of divine North Korea. Exigent, I would say, more than exigent greedy for uncritical praise from dawn until dusk. And swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place. An eternal, unalterable, judge, jury and executioner, against whom there could be no appeal. And who wasn't finished with you even when you died. However! Let no one say there's no cure! Salvation is offered! Redemption, indeed, is promised, at the low price, of the surrender of your critical faculties. 
Religion, it might be said, must be said, would have to admit, makes extraordinary claims, but, though I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, rather daringly provides not even ordinary evidence for its extraordinary supernatural claims. To insist that we are created and not evolved, in the face of all the evidence.
Religion forces nice people to do unkind things and also makes intelligent people say stupid things. 
Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, "Beautiful, almost perfect. Now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia, that I may do the work of the Lord"? No!
As the great physicist Stephen Weinberg has aptly put it, "In the ordinary moral universe, the good will do the best they can, the worst will do the worst they can, but if you want to make good people do wicked things, you'll need religion. 
Religion, and in fact any form of faith, -because it is a surrender of reason, it's a surrender of reason in favor of faith, is a fantastic force multiplier. A tremendous intensifier, of all things that are in fact divisive rather than inclusive. That's why its history is so stained with blood. Crimes against humanity, crimes against womanhood, crimes against reason and science, attacks upon medicine and enlightenment, all these appalling things. There is no conceivable way that by calling on the supernatural, you will achieve anything like your objective of a common humanism, which is I think you're quite right to say, our only chance of, I won't call it salvation. 

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