Sorry guys, girls and other genders (whatever that means?), you may recognise the title of this introduction from Mission Impossible, and I suppose that what I am asking may well be that, but let’s see what happens. I have to admit that I just don’t get it? I mean religion and all that. It’s not that I don’t know what it is about, I was brought up in a strict, Christian household, I attended their Sunday schools, church and all that, but couldn’t see what there was to believe in. My father was involved in the running of the church so we, his children, were told all the stories, had the bible readings etc. but as a child all I saw were the solemn faces and the abject boredom when the sermon came.
Yet in a recent TV program I watched the statistic that 20% of Brazilians now identify themselves as evangelical Christians came up. That surprised me; I mean one in five people? There is evidence everywhere that religion in our society is alive and flourishing, and I cannot help but wonder if I have missed something?
There was nothing joyous about the church I grew up in, and I saw too the contradictions as only a child can. The teachings about renouncing wealth that were flaunted by the list produced in the church magazine each year showing the highest donors, few of whom chose to remain anonymous. We were being taught that only our religion was the true one, but this was the 60’s and the world was opening up to Buddhism, Hinduism and a whole host of other religions. I could not understand how you had to believe in Christ to be saved, yet so many people in so many countries over so many years had never even heard of him so never had a chance. I saw too that the reason I had a Christian upbringing was because I lived in a Christian household in a predominantly Christian country. Had I been born in India, my religious training would have been very different, so how could I know if what I had been taught was even true in the first place?
What too of the plethora of Christian denominations? If there was one truth, why was there this variety, and how could they all be right? Then there is the difference between the old and new testaments. Why did the rules change when God is supposed to be omnipotent and the truth eternal? And, if he created everything, where did evil come from? Next came a big question when I was old enough to realise that this choice even existed. Which Bible? There is more than one Christian bible, and the books included or excluded from each differ. Why?
So, in my teens I decided to read the Bible (the King James Version, because that is what I was brought up with), because I had been taught that if you read this book with an open heart God would give you the answers. I came away from that exercise even more confused than before! Eventually though after a huge amount of thought I came to the belief that I now have. Being based on the refutation of what I was taught it’s pretty nihilistic. These are a few of the more important conclusions that I came up with.
Firstly, I have to admit that I agree with Creationists on one point. I am not qualified to decide which parts of the Bible are to be believed and which bits are untrue or are mere stories (parables excepted here of course, because that point is made clear in the book). This means that either the whole book is true; in every word and nuance, or none of it is. Here the Creationists and I part company, because there are far too many contradictions in the Bible for me to believe it.
Secondly, an obvious truth brought about by a recognition that the Bible is unbelievable. There are some things that you cannot know. Our knowledge is expanding, but neither I nor anyone else on this planet knows everything. For example on one key religious argument, creation. I have rejected the Bible, so do not believe that God created the world, but I have nothing to substitute in place of that. At a simple level, either God or something (the Universe perhaps?) has always existed. Just as Christians cannot say why God has always been there, I cannot explain why the other something has always been there. The only difference between Christian belief and mine is that I do not ascribe a spiritual element to that something. There is a second implication in this. All Christian belief is based on the Bible. If it is not true, neither is Christianity.
Obviously the discussion above is based on Christian belief. This is because I am familiar with it. I am open to trying to understand other religions (other than Klingon or some of the other more ridiculous ones), but if you would like to try to explain those beliefs to me you are going to have to start at a very basic level.
So, back to the title of this introduction. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to show me the error of my ways. If you can provide a good killer argument in favour of belief, I am more than happy to hear it, just don’t expect me not to ask further questions should the need arise.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
1) Keep it polite and non-confrontational
2) I have set the blog so that all comments are moderated to ensure that rule 1 is adhered to. However I guarantee that if your post is on subject, understandable, and does not break rule 1 it will be posted for all to see.
3) I’m using the name Stone here (as in Stone the Disbeliever; a Monty Python reference for those who do not know). I also thought this name had another angle, since Peter was supposed to be the rock on which Christianity would be built. So if you can come up with a good reason that will convert me from Stone to Rock, I’m waiting.