I do try, I really do try, to be neutral about religious matters, but everything I see in the world that has religion as a basis just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. In response to modern societys tack away from Religion, the Pope has fired a religious thunderbolt across the bows of the unbelievers in his assertion that the “Fires of Hell are real and eternal”.
On a more sombre note, Heaven, apparently, is not a real place. It’s not some ethereal nirvana in the sky, “but that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life”. So, if Heaven doesn’t exist, where does God live? In the hearts of the true believers? In which case it must be getting pretty cramped for the old fella in there. Expect to see some extremely white furniture going cheap on Ebay any time soon.
So, where is the upside for the Christians? Transgress, and it’s the fiery pit for the rest of time. Think good thoughts and…..what? A lifetime of towing the party line with the promise of “receiving your reward in Heaven” down the drain.
The Pontif’s attempts to inject some good old-fashioned God-fearing back into us are naiive. Pope: “Hell really exists!”, Us: “We don’t believe you.”, Pope: “No, it really exists!”, as if he expects us to go “Shit, it really exists? Oh well then…”. Those are the kind of playground arguments which didn’t even work back then.
This did give me this insight, which I think is a good one.
God is merely the frontman, the deification or beatification of an ideal, the logical progression of generations of mothers saying “Behave, or the bogeyman will get you!” to their errant progeny. In order for this to work, you need to believe that the bogeyman exists. Similarly, for adults, they have to believe that God exists and punishes the transgressors, for whom eternity in the fires of Hell awaits.
God is real. People believe in him. That makes him real. If people believe that a piece of paper is worth £10, then it is. Religion is merely a mechanism to keep people on the straight and narrow. Jesus was invented to show people what the straight and narrow looked like. God is there to pick you up if you stray but a little and to smite you down if you stray quite a lot.
That is why God is portrayed as Jesus’ father, instead of the other way around. For centuries, “holy” men were dealing out divine retribution for transgressions, when people had no idea what the rules were. So, Jesus is invented to provide this guidance because, to be quite honest, the holy men were getting quite tired dealing out retribution. Jesus, or the concept that Jesus embodies, should have been around first. Show them the way; if you build it, they will come.
However, God is a “goody”, and any good story needs a good baddy. Enter Satan. His role in this is unclear. If God is Ye Mighty Smiter, what does the Devil do? Well, he entices the people into wickedness, tempts them from the straight and narrow path onto the wide and windy road to Hell. But Lucifer really represents human nature, those leanings within us towards the animal that still lurks within us.
So, there we go. Religion reduced to its roots. The world is a stage, and even God, Lucifer and Jesus are revealed to be merely players. But The Ideal holds true, even if the play has lost its way, even if the players have lost their voices.
Religion is the bureaucracy that renders the ideal powerless. Embrace the ideal, the giant upon whose shoulders Religion stands.
What is the ideal? Honour. Live your life with honour. But do it because you want to, because it is the right thing to do, not because the Pope threatens you with the bogeyman.