5/10/2015 | Share this article: View CommentsBy WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~
My good friend, Carl S., came across some articles on religion in prisons and sent them with a note to a neighbor of his who works in one of those programs. The man, I shall call him Mr. P, responded in a letter with some very interesting views, so Carl shared the letter with me. Now, I’d like to share with you my take on Mr. P’s views.
Mr. P. wrote, “So, Carl, what is a church and what is not? . . . In my case, it goes deep into my roots: my mother, who faithfully took me and my sister to church every Sunday, and mother and I sang in the choir. My mother gave me all the love she could in every way she could, so God and church and mother go together. For me, church is God is mother. Nothing will ever change that.”
So, church provides him with pleasant memories and reminds him of his mother. Notice he never said anything about whether anything he “learned” in that church was true or not. It’s almost as if that really doesn’t matter to him. Then he says his mother gave him “all the love she could,” so, apparently, thoughts of church and God remind him that his mother loved him. Well good for him, but again that doesn’t say a thing about the truth value of god and church. My Mother also gave me “all the love she could,” but she never once took me to church or spoke about god, as far as I can remember. Frankly, I think my mother did me a much bigger favor than his mother did for him, for whatever that’s worth.
Later in the letter, Mr. P shows us exactly what he thinks about the truth value of things. He writes, “In one article an atheist says he didn’t believe in God because God didn’t answer his prayers. That’s like putting God in a Petri dish and testing him out. Is that a fair thing to do to God?”
I nearly spewed my coffee when I read that. Talk about ignorance! How does he think he is supposed to find the right god without testing any of them? Is he supposed to just accept the god he was taught about and ignore all the others? Does this work for the Hindu? Does this sound like the smart way to go about it?
I am reminded of a line in Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, “Stranger in a Strange Land;” "I've never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith - it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe." Indeed.
Apparently, one is not even supposed to question the existence of Mr. P’s god because, somehow, that’s unfair to god. How does this make any sense? Is it unfair to the salesman for me to ask to test drive a car before I buy it? Is it unfair to me for the bank loan officer to ask me for identification before he loans me money? Now, why in hell shouldn’t I expect a god to identify himself as a real god before I spend my life worshiping him? To NOT do so is clearly unfair to me, and sets me up to be scammed. Surely any real god could understand that!
Near the end of the letter, Mr. P. demonstrates that his religion isn’t just about happy thoughts of his mother, but involves a significant fear factor as well. He writes: “. . . without God and his love, I would at this moment be either in prison, in an insane asylum, or dead. I think you would agree this is a crazy world.”
He is very much afraid that he would lose all morality and judgment without his god-belief. Yes, it does sometimes appear to be a crazy world, but what does that have to do with prison, asylums, and death? Obviously, Mr. P simply cannot imagine what it might be like to not believe in a god. He is very much afraid that he would lose all morality and judgment without his god-belief. He either has spent little time talking with or reading about atheists or agnostics, or, if he has, didn’t pay much attention to them.
I think we can learn a lot about the mindset of many Christians from Mr. P’s letter. His religion and church have happy memories and associations for him, but he is afraid to test his god, to question this god’s existence, apparently for fear of upsetting that god and losing his religion, which would cast him adrift in a chaotic world that he feels unequipped to deal with on his own. This poor guy lives in fear and has no clue that it’s not at all necessary; that millions of atheists and agnostics live happy lives with no fear of prisons, asylums, or even death or the wrath of angry gods. Frankly, I have great sympathy for Mr. P. Thanks in part to his loving mother, he is a victim; a victim of indoctrination into false fears and beliefs, and it’s doubtful that he will ever find the courage to test his god and thereby set himself free.
Strangely, I started writing this article laughing at Mr. P for his silly beliefs, and now I am ending it feeling sad for him. There’s a lesson here for Mr. P, too; losing our religion doesn’t mean we must lose our judgment, our morality, our humanity, or our happiness. In fact, many of us actually gained a large measure of each as we gave up religion.