Please don't tell me what's going on Upstairs...

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One of the aspects of moving to a small town that took my by surprise was finding myself closer to God...

That is to say, closer to people who are closer to God. Or believe themselves to be. They seem to make up a larger percentage of our social circle.  I happen to think they are wrong, because I don't believe there is a God. But that's ok, because they think that I'm wrong. The difference is, I don't believe there is a God because I can find no evidence. The questions stack up pretty quickly for me (if the Bible is the word of God, how come he hasn't said anything worth writing down for the last two thousand years? etc.). But If I did find evidence or answers to my questions, then I would revise my view, that being the logical approach.

Those who hold religious beliefs, on the other hand, seem to me to thrive on the lack of evidence, and would not change their view regardless of what you put in front of them. What with them having Faith and so on. Which is fine. Mutual respect is still possible, and I don't view religious beliefs as a barrier to friendship, although I struggle to drop the topic completely from conversation.

Perhaps in moving from east London, one of the strongholds of the atheistic 'Liberal-Elite' (©every-Murdoch-newspaper-anywhere-in-the-world) makes the greater prevalence of religion here seem more startling. Incidentally, why does the Right continue to bleat about being victim to some kind of urban left-wing dominance? Enough with the siege mentality. You're in power.

But I digress. I should perhaps get to the point, as I'm sure you're wondering where all this is leading...

There are two areas of public service where I have concerns over the prevalence of religion.

Firstly, in schools. Obviously discussing religion in the context of history, art or social studies is fine. But presenting text as 'the word of God'? Do that in your own time, people. That should be a personal choice. And certainly an opt-in not an opt-out.

The other area where I would prefer religion be requested rather than proffered is during medical treatment, especially when one is a hospital resident. I speak here from personal experience. Indeed, my first night in hospital after breaking my spine involved an encounter with a nurse who 'encouraged' me to find Jesus, and told me all about a woman who had walked again after breaking her spine, thanks to the power of prayer (not sure why we were bothering with a hospital at all, really). The corollary of this notion is the same as the: 'they said I'd never walk again, but I proved them wrong through sheer determination' line, which is that the injured party needs to summon a cure through prayer or intensive exercise. Anything less than a cure is a sign of personal failure.

I have also been visited by chaplains (on both sides of the planet) who, on hearing that I am an atheist, would reply that they were fine with that and would be happy to come and just look in on me, should I feel like a chat. They never did, probably much to our mutual relief.

Recently, I heard the line that 'God only lets this happen to people who can cope'. To use a common contemporary acronym (or CCT): WTF? This makes Him Upstairs sound pretty unpleasant to those of us who don't have access to His long term strategy. If he lets it happen, why doesn't he just stop it in the first place?

Even putting aside the notion of some kind of Divine purpose, this comment upset me, because it's not true; it doesn't only happen to people who can cope. Some people can't. And watching them drown in the overwhelming torrent of loss, pain and frustration is tough for all of those close to them. Really tough.

I know that religion offers succour to many millions of people in times of difficulty. And if it works for you, that's great. I'm genuinely happy for you. But if you want me to respect your belief system, then please do me the same courtesy, and keep the mystical platitudes to yourself.

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