Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hoping for a Better God

I have a friend who’s recently become a Christian and she introduced me to a woman who conducts Bible studies in people’s homes. I guess she’s like a traveling saleslady for God. I know it’s a pretty lame cliche that people facing death suddenly find God, but I’ve always been interested in religion and philosophy, so I thought I’d go along and meet this woman who my friend thought could answer my questions.

As with all my attempts to explore religion throughout my life, I was disappointed. The problem with talking to Christians is that they already believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible and they can’t get out of their world to talk to those of us who are a bit more skeptical. This Bible study woman’s train of logic went something like this: There is only one God and Jesus was his son and accepting Jesus as our saviour will save our souls. How do we know this? Because the Bible says so. How can we believe what the Bible says? Because it was written by “the hand of God”.

I find this circular logic extremely frustrating because there’s no way to argue someone out of it. It’s based on a premise that presupposes itself. No matter what I said, she couldn’t get out of this circle. She just kept backing up everything she said with one source: the Bible. It’s like saying that I know Santa Claus is real because the Easter Bunny told me so.

But one thing that became clearer to me after this three-hour conversation with the Bible lady was this: Christianity isn’t about having a world full of morally upright, kind people. It’s about a God that has created a world and wants to be acknowledged and appreciated for it. It’s not enough to live a life according to the values that are expounded by Christianity (love, kindness, generosity, etc.). If you want the rewards of Christianity (eternal life), you have to give God credit for what he’s done for us by believing he sent Jesus to save our souls. I have a problem with this. It seems a pretty petty and human trait to want this kind of validation and adulation.

I took a course in world religions in high school and I remember thinking that the one thing that all the religions had in common was they taught us how to live a good life and encouraged values that would make for a peaceful world. Where they differed was in the definition of a good Christian versus a good Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. This is all very simplified, I know, but the basic belief I got out of this was that it didn’t matter which flag you carried as long as you lived the values that were common to all. Like political parties. I won’t call myself a Democrat or Republican, but I’ll vote for politicians who believe in socially responsible behavior that will allow maximum good for the maximum number of people.

So where does this leave me if the Christian God turns out to be real? In eternal damnation, I guess, because the only thing that might get me to accept this “only-through-me” policy of the Christian God is fear and desperation. But I still have hope that God has been wrongly portrayed by the Christians and their Bible, and this almighty and benevolent being doesn’t exclude people simply because they don’t toe the party line as long as they live the party values. That kind of God is worth believing in and hoping for.

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