I say I left the Church, but I did not leave God. I like to believe in the existence of God, but to me He is not the engineer of all things, or even a benefactor. I never bought the idea of an all-loving, omniscient and omnipresent God because it is at odds with everything we experience in our lives. If we are to believe it, then every bad thing, from flat tires to famines to total war, has happened with the express consent of God — or at least, by His consent through inaction. The typical answer that bad things happen because of free will gone awry is both apologist and stupid: firstly, people have no control over acts of God (like tornadoes and flooding) and secondly, if God knew what evil man would wreak then He, knowing what was to come, would have made us cows for our own welfare. And besides, God started a deluge once before to fix his mistakes. It seems that God knows bad things are happening, but does nothing about it.
So this has been my challenge from the age of, say, seven: to reconcile my tenuous belief in an unreliable God with (1) my distrust of the Church, (2) an unwavering sense of morality and decency formed in the belief that I can be good and decent without spirituality, and (3) the bleak fatalism of lonely, run-of-the-mill postmodern life. Whew.
What I fixed on was the crucifix. I feel that everyone who says that it represents God’s love for us (since he sacrificed His son to absolve our sins), is basically wrong. The symbolism of the crucifix has nothing to do with love, and everything to do with hate. It is a reminder of the brutality and evil that is inherent in every one of us, and of the viciousness of this world.
The world is not nice at all, and the real question is not why not, but really why shouldn’t it be? When God as Jesus came down to guide us, we flogged him, crowned him in thorns and nailed him to a tree. He choked to death on blood and vomit. How can we expect a world that was not fair to God himself to be fair to us?
That God is doing nothing about it is beside the point. As I said, He’s unreliable; maybe we scared Him off, maybe we pissed Him off. Either way, wherever He is, it certainly isn’t here. The point is that we as human beings have lost focus. We live in this constant blur of speed and motion and routine. We drink. We smoke. We get high. We screw. We litter. We chase our tails. We are what we buy. We are apathetic. We ignore. When a man is slumped over, we step around him. We misprioritise. And all this time, we forget.
We forget that we are dying, and that we cannot stop it.
And this is something so explosive, so universal, that it tears into everything we know. People don’t like to talk about it because it turns worlds upside down; to know that your job doesn’t matter, your money doesn’t matter, your purchases don’t matter, that you will be dead in a few short decades and most probably forgotten in a few more. It’s depressing. It’s a rough shake and a cold flashlight to wake you from a pleasant dream. And in that flashlight’s beam, the only thing that’s brighter, the only thing that will outshine it, is the spark of goodness in all of us.
We must step up and take God’s place. It’s all up to you and me, and we each don’t have much time. We’ll be the change we want to see. We’ll bring lasting decency and honour and love to a hateful world, because God can’t or won’t. We were given ten commandments, but all we need is two:
1. Expect no quarter.
2. Take care of each other.
We’re all alone, and we are all we have.