Monday, February 16, 2015

What Does Your God Expect?


Most people who read my writing know that I consider myself an agnostic in that I neither confirm nor deny that there is a Creator and if so, whether he/she/it cares about us on a personal level. The farther NASA's telescopes take us into the vastness of outer space, the more difficult it becomes to think we are as important as we like to believe. If there is a Supreme Being, does s/he really take note of a single sparrow falling? Or even of the entire sparrow species disappearing? Is he (which term I'll use from now on for the sake of convenience and since almost all religions seem to agree that this Intelligence must certainly be male) even concerned with the whole planet, for that matter?

I wonder about these questions quite often and sometimes I try to talk to religious people about them but they usually won't deign to discuss them with me. Maybe they don't have satisfying answers either and that's where faith comes in.

But faith? Christians believe they have true faith and so do all the others but is your faith simply a product of the circumstances of your birth? If you had been born into a Sikh family in India and taught from the time you were born that the Sikh faith is the one true one, wouldn't you believe that just as sincerely as you believe in Christianity now? Do Christians think they would have gone against the grain and become Christians even if they were taught absolutely nothing about that religion? And when I say Christians, I'm not picking on just them, I mean every member of every religion.

All religions believe in miracles and it does seem as if what appear to be miracles do happen from time to time but why? How does God choose who is to be honored with a miracle? I often see prayer requests on Facebook and I usually send positive thoughts that way, in case it helps. But does it? Does the number of prayers you get make a difference? Doesn't that make it a popularity contest? We all vote on the contestant we want to recover from leukemia?  Surely, that can't be right. Sometimes, miracles even seem to happen to animals - when a baby buffalo is saved from the crocodile in the nick of time. Why did god decide to intervene in that particular instance and not in thousands of others?

Between them, Muslims and Christians make up over half of all the earth's people who claim to be religious. I would guess they are also the two most violent and insistent that others adopt their own beliefs. Perhaps there are some just as bloodthirsty but we don't hear about them because they are too small to make much of an impact on the world.

Christians and Muslims have been warring with each other (and warring among themselves) for as long as they have existed. Unfortunately, since they are both rooted in the Middle East, these wars often involve territory both sides consider their Holy Land. From the Crusades until the present day, Christians and Muslims have looked upon each other as opponents and enemies.

But it's even worse than that. Different denominations within each religion hate each other as well. Sunnis versus Shia....Catholics versus Protestants. People of faith want to believe that religion is a force for good but just as often, it has been a force for cruelty and death.

It's not what people believe that is the heart of the problem, it's what they've convinced themselves their god expects them to do about those beliefs that send things spinning out of control. Your god may tell you that homosexuality is an abomination or infidels are evil or the idea of an infallible Pope is nonsense but does he expect you, personally, to try to right these wrongs? Unfortunately, many religious people do think that. It's not enough that you live a good Christian or Muslim life by your religion's standards but you must also be your brother's keeper - or sender-to-hell, as the case may be.