Imagine you’re speaking to a female friend of yours, and she’s talking about a past love. She was trying a long distance relationship but it didn’t work out. Her and the guy are stuck on opposite coasts. She says that even though they broke it off and she hasn’t seen him in years, she believes he hasn’t been with anyone, not even hook ups, since they broke up. How would you react? Probably with disbelief.
I think about this often, as I am the guy in this scenario, and how much of a walking, breathing urban legend I am. Out of all the pain I experienced over losing the girl I thought would be the one, one of the more odd feelings was bitterness over having fallen for a ‘normal’ girl, meaning that I knew, in my heart, it would only be a matter of time before she was with someone again, and before she got married. Because most people are used to that affection in their life and aren’t strong enough to live without it. While it would be ridiculous to say I never have sexual desires or a need for companionship, I can also say that I can, and have been, living without it, and can even wrap my mind around a future of never having someone again without really freaking out. But when I heard she was engaged, there was a bitter ‘of course’, a painful submission to the way things are. This is what humans do.
Recently I have felt a growing discomfort with the idea of God, any God. Perhaps it’s seeing ISIS pop up and going through the whole ‘Oh no, terrorists, what should we do?’ routine again, but the power of belief in our species has just become plain unsettling to me. In recent discussions I’ve felt the passionate anger building up, a scary feeling for both its intensity and the fact that, like sexual urges, I can’t seem to really control it. It is the complete and utter absence of any kind of logic or rational thinking that goes into describing anything have to do with religion and belief that worries me, and the fact that arguing as much is easily dismissed with one word: faith.
It’s not the belief so much as the target of it. From everything I’ve heard of God, he is not someone you’d want to worship, let alone base your life around. In particular, the phrase ‘God has a plan for us all’ seems to echo with subtle terror, perhaps because it means that all the atrocities that horrify us throughout our existence are all deliberate moves on the part of a God who apparently could give us all wonderful, pain-free lives (I know my spoiled white ass has had one), but chooses not to. Even more disturbing is humanity’s immediate defense of this being who with a swipe of his hand created tsunamis, 9/11, child rapists, terrorist attacks, and other cruelties. I don’t know what aspect terrifies me more, that people are willing to give love to someone responsible for more pain than Osama Bin Laden and Hitler combined could ever produce (oh wait, those are God’s creatures so really he is the one that produced it), or the fact that humans view our all powerful deity as someone petty enough to use his magnificent powers to help their favorite team win a football game. It’s neither. Something else bothers me much more.
I can be truly stupid, and truly slow at grasping an idea. One time, after already seeing it many, many times, I was watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’ high when suddenly it hit me -the military is training people like animals to be killers of their fellow man. It was beyond disturbing, this concept that was glaringly right there and simple to get. In that moment I was terrified of our military.
Similarly, last night, as I wondered to myself how anyone could possibly defend such a being, it hit me. For the first time in 31 years on this planet it actually hit me – people are legitimately scared of the man in the sky. They’re shook, living in fear of his retribution. Somehow, in all the years of growing up going to church, and all my later years spent arguing about the subject, I’d never really fully wrapped my mind around this idea. Human beings are actually afraid of this person in the clouds we’ve all been told about. Suddenly, an overwhelming sadness came over me. This was slavery at its absolute worst.
Humans living under the ever-watchful eye of what conceptually seems to be an abusive stepfather up where the planes fly is the antithesis of freedom. These are shackles that have been on long enough to cut bloody lines into the flesh. There is no hope for true change and evolution when people are scared to speak or act against our tyrant, the one tyrant whom it seems to be OK to love, while we send troops overseas to bring down the human tyrants, disgusted over their actions. A genuine fear over offending Santa Claus’ un-dismissable-with-maturity brother will never allow for any breathing room, never allow for things to drastically alter themselves.
Much is said of atheists going too hard at believers, mocking them with alienating tones, and while that probably isn’t right (albeit understandable, I suppose, as here I am doing it), I feel the need to point out that there’s nothing to mock us back with. Non-believers are truly free. There’s nothing you can fire back with that even comes close to how you feel when we shoot at your sacred cow. Yours is an archaic, fire-and-brimstone idea that reeks of less enlightened times; ours is the mindset of total freedom, and able to move onto other ideas. Why are all these wars happening? Is it maybe because most people have a stranglehold on their belief and are willing to do anything to not have to give it up, because they are most likely not strong enough to live without it?
That’s the real kicker for me. Going back to my opening example, I don’t feel people are strong enough to give up on sexual pleasure or the chance at love and having a partner, and, again, while just by being human it is not without its longings, the idea of dismissing entirely the quest for companionship (the entire reason dating websites can make money) is impossibly freeing. I can talk and act however I like and any claims of ‘you know that’s gonna drive the ladies away’ can be met with a laugh. Those who need someone by their side can be driven mad by it. No matter how much pain the dating world causes, who’s actually willing to give it up? Is it not impossible for a human to live without love?
It’s impossible for humans to live without their comfort food, the opiate of the masses, their religion of choice. There is far too much comfort in knowing those deceased loved ones are sitting on cloud thrones waiting to meet up with you again. It is simply too appealing when compared to the knowledge that grandma has been eaten by worms and is never going to be seen again. Worse than that is, as I stated, the fear they have over dismissing the belief and upsetting their God. They are truly afraid, students with their heads down quietly as the teacher patrols the classroom.
This filled me with an unspeakable sadness, for I realized that there is truly no hope for our species when the invisible man commands that much power over them. No hope for evolution or radical change, no hope of realizing we’re all one species when we’re so desperate to put a religious box around us. No hope to dismiss the glassy-eyed longing for the afterlife and make this world, where we currently are, into heaven. Every major issue that occurs on our planet is nothing more than the result of insects whose minds have been convinced something is worth fighting for, but nothing is worth fighting for except us loving each other.
To the believer, to the one with faith, it is all too easy to place humans second. If there ever was a candidate for a more infuriating phrase than ‘God has a plan for us all’, it’s ‘Put God first’. Put him ahead of the flesh and blood humans you can see and touch who make your life what it is. Put him ahead of human pain because his plan is better. Put him ahead of hurting others and crash a plane into a building to reach the other paradise in the sky.
I don’t believe there is a fight here. I thought there was one until I truly felt in my heart that people feared God. Now I realize that pieces like this one are preaching to the choir at best, and a complete waste of time at worst. How can we ever hope to evolve a species tethered to this idea with so much intrinsic fear? I am heartbroken over realizing how we live. This is not freedom.
Heaven is not believing in Hell. Hell is believing in Heaven. You know, they say in Heaven, love comes first. Could we make Heaven a place on Earth?
Not until we put our species above the tyrannical, narcissistic, prankster-like prick in the sky. That won’t, can’t, happen until we all have the freedom to look up at the clouds and extend a middle finger.
I’m not holding my breath.