On Easter, Independent Australia managing editor David Donovan reflects on Christianity — and what it truly means.
Today is the day that the Christian God rose from the Cross, so it is told. We celebrate this in Australia, customarily, with thin hardened chocolate and alcohol.
Yes, Easter is here.
People who know me well know that when I was 16 years old, I rode into a barbed wire fence on a motorbike and then rode 12 miles – maybe more – home on a damaged machine that wouldn’t get out of first gear, with two collapsed lungs, as I gradually succumbed to full surgical emphysema.
I survived. But I am lucky to be alive.
Of course, one of the key factors in my survival was that, during my ride home, I kept my spirits up by reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over again in my head. Regrettably, this detail has been written about in religious magazines, along with my ultimate survival, as being proof of God’s existence.
I have thought about this many times — about whether it really does prove that God exists. More so, because the reason I really recited this prayer was because I felt I was about to meet my maker — if he or she truly did exist. And, in fact, I was scared about whether the deity did exist — something I was not at all sure about as I lay there, and then rode home, apparently dying.
The truth is, even as I rode home on that decrepit motorbike – even when I felt like I was definitely going to die – I didn’t feel at all closer to God. All I was interested in was trying to survive under the most adverse of circumstances.
I survived, in the end, due to the most extraordinary confluence of fate — but, really, is that evidence of God’s existence? Well, maybe — or maybe not. That depends on your perspective. In my view, maybe not.
Firstly, I do believe in God. I have always believed in a God — or a deity — or a great spirit — or something beyond our mortal understanding. I have always felt that there was a reason beyond our ken, such that would explain how the universe could have come into being from nothing. Or, otherwise, something that might explain how it has apparently existed for all eternity. This unexplained and unfathomable mystery – that of infinity – to me indicates that scientific reason is not enough to explain our simple existence — or even our mere state of being. I doubt it ever will.
And, yes, in some ways, my survival from that quite amazing accident did confirm my faith in God — but there is a big qualification I must add...
That being that I have now reached the conclusion, with utter certainty, that all our significant religious faiths are palpably absurd; that co-ordinated spirtituality is nothing more than organised superstition.
If there is a God, as I believe there is, it seems to me strikingly unlikely that he, or she, or it, would adhere to or wish to promulgate any of the small-minded principles put forward by any of this planet’s major established religions. As I see it, all of them presume a degree of specificity about God and what the being wants that can only be supported by pure, unquestioning, utterly blind, faith — and pure, blind, faith is simply arrant foolishishness. You may as well believe in the Tooth Fairy, or Worzel Gummidge, or Little Green Men from Mars.
All this dogma about God’s vengeful nature, and strictures about only wearing certain garments, or eating certain foods, or doing this, not that, and hating them and, in general, about being jealous and unforgiving … well, if that truly is our God's desires — then we should reject that God and pursue our own more righteous and tolerant path. After all, we are sentient beings — we do not need an evil and small-minded God to appreciate ethics, tolerance or forgiveness. We do not need God to know what is right and just and true.
Fortunately, the God I believe in is not that vengeful God. It is the tolerant and kindly God. A God of forgiveness, of love, of compassion; a God who praises the meek and scorns the wealthy, who toppled the changing tables of the usurious; and who loves the poor and the downtrodden. A God, Jesus, who shines through history, like a beacon – if he truly existed at all, that is – as the first man to truly exhibit compassion and empathy in the entire history of our species.
Was Jesus God? Or even the son of God? Maybe. But then again, maybe we are all sons, and daughters, of God. Did Jesus heal the sick, walk on water, or feed the multitudes? I don’t doubt he did, but then again, I also don’t doubt that these stories are – like the rest of the bible – not meant to be taken entirely literally.
Sometimes, I despair. It is quite clear that we have lost our way. I mean, this man who stood apart from all others, who preached a gospel of truth and compassion for our fellow man, has been subverted somehow into a cruel parody. Now, people who have no tolerance or goodness use the name Jesus to preach hate and vindictiveness towards their fellow man — and intolerance towards those who have different beliefs. Jesus preached love and forgiveness — but the modern Christ lover seems to preach nothing apart from hatred and spite. This subjugation and perversion of Christianity is a true abomination.
I read the bible twice before I was ten, and I have read it many times since — and I have reached the conclusion that it can mean almost anything anyone may want it to mean. Those opposed to gay marriage, shellfish, pork, hopping on one foot or doing pretty much anything, apart from sleeping on the Sabbath, will find parts of the bible which will support their particular view — it doesn’t matter how wacky that view might be.
What has happened that we have so thoroughly forgotten the golden rule. As Jesus said, it all comes down to a single phrase: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6.31). In other words, we must tolerate others and love them, even our enemies, and be compassionate to all our fellow beings — that is the only real commandment. Be accepting. Show empathy. Religious strictures are, when you think about it, utterly abhorrent to this tenet of the Christian faith. All that God asks of us, in the final analysis, is to love our fellow man, to be good people, and to help each other. That is what we are asked to do — not to be small-minded.
If you believe that the only God worth believing in is a God of love; a God who would not give a moment’s pause about such irrelevant details as someone's sexual preference, what they wear, or eat, or do on a particular day — but is rather more concerned about the goodness in a person’s soul, and the way they treat and cherish their fellow man — well, it is time for you to turn the page on organised religion and embrace personal responsibility.
For there is as much chance of any organised religion explaining the Kingdom of God as the riches of the Vatican City fitting through the eye of a needle.
We are fools for wasting our time on such nonsense.
We need to spend more time being good to one another — and less time worrying about defining the particular acceptable way to slaughter livestock, or what to wear, or the people we are allowed to wed, or anything that closes our minds to a clear evaluation of right and wrong. Indeed, we need to open our minds towards each other, and not worry so much about God or the next life — if there even is a next life. We need to try to create a heaven on Earth.
I almost died, but I live, and I believe a God does exist. But I don't believe in the God preached at your Church on Sunday.