CID recently posted about a guy he used to know when he was a born-again Christian stalking him on facebook. CID talked a little about how this guy would target people who were lonely and vulnerable and use their weaknesses to pull them into the flock. I found this interesting because in recent times I had a couple of well-meaning Christians effectively try to tell me that Jesus was the only way to really recover from depression. The same old story that I am sure many of us have heard in varying forms before.
I know where these people are coming from. And on a certain level I have more respect for the bible-thumping fundamentalist than for the vague Christian whose beliefs don't boil down to much of anything. And don't even get me started on the "I'm not religious but I'm spiritual" crowd whose beliefs seem to add up to the wonderfully enlightened "I believe there is something out there..."
When it comes to Christianity, the bible is ultimately the big book of multiple choice, which can be used to justify anything from pacifism to slavery and genocide. And Christianity is a dualistic religion in which there is good and bad, and if you aren't going to heaven, you're going to hell. And if this is the case, any good Christian must do all within their power to prevent that from happening. Even saving one soul from eternal damnation is worth a lifetime of work. I get it.
I get it, but I don't buy it. I went to church until I was about 15. I found it to be a terribly boring place to be. As many of the churches in Australia are, it was in the process of dying, and the vast majority of the congregation were aged 60 or above. My main memories of it are simply of being bored on the hard bucket chairs. At some point when I was around 15 I started actually paying attention to the words of the hymns, and I was appalled. They were full of toadying towards god, terrible self-loathing, and an incredible amount of fear.
They showed a world in which there was a god who created the universe and everything in it, who had unlimited power and knowledge. Yet they also showed a god so insecure that he needed his tiny creations to worship and praise him, to accept him as the most important thing in their lives. For all these creations were wretched sinners, so loathsome and defiled that god had found it necessary to sacrifice himself to himself on the cross to forgive the punishment that he himself had meted out to their ancestors for disobeying him and eating from the tree that gave knowledge of good and evil. A talking snake was involved, and it was never quite clear how Adam and Eve knew that disobeying god was wrong before they had knowledge of god and evil.
The story didn't make a huge amount of sense. But the thing that struck me most powerfully was that even if all of these things were somehow true, the god depicted in this story was far from being worthy of worship. He was petty and spiteful, and prepared to punish forever those who decided not to believe in him. And the way everything he did was justified simply by the fact he was god never seemed really satisfying. A mob boss has power, and can compel obedience. But that doesn't mean he is worthy of respect. It just means he is a mob boss who can compel obedience.
I don't wish this to turn into too much of a rant. But I think that life is a very tricky thing, full of challenges, setbacks, and problems. People are flawed and selfish, lazy and illogical. But we are not damned. And despite being a depressive who has thought pretty of terrible things about myself, I fail to see how viewing myself as an evil wretch who can only be redeemed by the grace of the god who cursed my ancestors for theft of a piece of fruit is a step in the right direction.
I don't think there are any saviors. No angels. No demons. Just us. And that is more than enough.