So yesterday I was doing my usual scurry back-and-forth from the studio (to paint) to the computer (while the paint dried) and caught a few snatches of the infamous Bill O’Reilly interview on Fresh Air. I unfortunately missed the point where he went batshit insane, but one of the bits I caught made me roll my eyes and snort more than usual. (Okay, they all made me do that, but this was the only one I caught in full.)
This was his statement on religion. He claimed to ascribe to that particular hedge-your-bets brand of faith. You know the one–“You might as well believe in a God, because if you’re wrong, you’ll never know it, and if you’re right, you win.”
Now, I respect people who have faith. (Well, some of ’em. I still think the snake handlers are crazy.) I may not agree, but neither do I actively disagree. As long as people don’t go obstructing science in an effort to protect some chunk of their mythology, or, y’know, killing people and taking money from the elderly and whatnot, it’s not my place to say whether they’re right or wrong. I cannot, on ethical grounds, believe in a Christian deity, as I was raised, and some of the behaviors perpetrated by that belief–like eschewing birth control–makes me want to scream and bite things, but with the act of belief itself, I have no gripe. It’s not my place to have a gripe. You do what works for you, and as long as you’re not hurting anybody, it’s no one else’s business.
However, that particular smug brand of “faith”–and I use the term loosely–irritates me. I am left saying, with the late Douglas Adams, that if there IS a god, and he’s impressed by that sort of thing, he’s not a sort I’d choose to worship anyway. Were I a deity–and we can all thank our respective ones that I don’t appear to be such–I’d be much more impressed by someone who didn’t believe in anything and tried to live their life well anyway, than that sort of cover-your-ass patina of religion. (I dunno, maybe you’re not allowed to respect mortals if you’re a god. Maybe that explains a lot.) But have faith because you believe in something, or don’t because you can’t. Don’t hedge.
Maybe it’s the fact that it seems less like a belief in deity than a fear of hell, something I saw far too often in my youth. (It was certainly true in my case–I realized early on that the whole notion of God bored me–my fear of eternal torment was much more immediate. I never felt any connection to a singular monotheistic deity, but I had a wonderfully vivid imagination about hell.) And if the only reason you believe in something is because you’re afraid of eternal damnation if you don’t–that’s not religion, that’s institutionalized cowardice. And that’s a sad way to spend your life. Faith ought to provide more than yet another form of existential angst. Believe because you want to, because you think it’s worth believing in, not because you’re afraid of what’ll happen if you don’t.
Ahem. ‘Nuff of that. Completely unrelated, they found fossil evidence of a fish the size of a blue whale last week. And that is just damn cool.