Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Okay To Need Jesus

This morning, John Loftus posted the following image to his Facebook page:

It's a thought I'm familiar with, and have hitherto been sympathetic to--I guess I'm still sympathetic to it--but I don't think I agree with it anymore.

This idea misses something that I think I also missed until I began working at the shelter I now work at. People--like that asshole Rick Warren--who state that people need God to be good, and state that if they did not have God they would not be good, are not good people. Belief in God does not make them good. Even with a belief in God, they are still inherently assholes. There are others, however--like a lot of folks who live and volunteer in my shelter--who are inherently good (they don't actually 'need' God to be good), who seem to use their religion as a vehicle for their goodness, or use religion as a source of strength to keep themselves afloat, and to keep themselves chugging along. It would be great if the people in the first category would see that it is perfectly possible to do good without their religion, but what business of mine is it to interfere with that? When it comes to the second group--those who use Jesus or Allah or whatever to find the strength to survive in this world--I have completely softened my view. In fact, I may have liquified.

There is a huge difference between someone who says 'If it weren't for God, I would be a serial killer', and someone who says, 'this world throws a lot of shit at me, and other people are hard to trust. Thank God for Jesus'. I believe Rick Warren when he says he'd be out doing all kinds of horrid things if he didn't have Jesus looking over his shoulder. In fact, who even knows what kind of horrid things Rick Warren gets up to? He's certainly said some horrid things. Personally, I wouldn't put anything past the dude. With the second guy, I am in heavy agreement; the world does throw a lot of shit at a person. Other people are very hard to trust. Shit, I'm not always very trustworthy. Wouldn't it be nice if there was some transcendent good guy out there somewhere who's love for us was guaranteed, and who would never sell us out for some kind of real or perceived political or economic advantage?

I know there's no God, and I hope for a day when belief in gods and demons are chucked in the cultural waste bin, but I never hope for a day when the kind of people we serve at our shelter are deprived of whatever they need to get themselves sober, get their mental illnesses treated, help them believe there is a chance in this society for someone who has not always made the best decisions and lacks the kind of personal resources it may take to bounce back from those not-the-best-decisions.

That day is far into the future, though, and I'm not inclined to look down on people who find the strength--however they do it--to make it in this scary, unpredictable, and unjust world that we live in. I believe that heaven and hell are a carrot and stick that mankind has cooked up--an opiate that keeps the masses hoping for a more just world on the other side of this veil of tears--but I don't think that's what a belief in some kind of god always amounts to.

People need to believe in themselves. We need others to believe in us, too. People need human sources of strength, and where there are none to be found, we will invent them.

So maybe if we hope for a day when gods and devils and fairies and goblins are a thing of the past, maybe we should step up for each others and ourselves, and become the people we need to be. If we don't want others to have to rely on imaginary friends to get them through the day, maybe we should try to be real friends to each other, and ourselves?

It's a much harder road, and will be very long in the making, but it is worth the effort, and will be much longer-lasting than simply shaming people out of their faith.

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