There has been somewhat of a shadow over this week. That is the shadow created when four planes and its passengers found their way into the twin towers, the pentagon and a field en route to the Whitehouse.
Many people have said it was the day when the world changed forever. I don't really think that is the case although I will admit that it changed the social, cultural and spiritual climate of both the UK and the US. What it has done for me is confirm that I really do not believe in God or at least not the God of the Bible or the Quran.
That may be a strange claim from someone who professes to have a Christian faith, but I believe that my own personal faith has only served to reinforce this position.
Since 9/11 we have seen a phenomenal rise in religious fundamentalism in the west. I think this has been for many reasons other than personal calling or religious revelation. The main reason is down to the main difference between humans and animals. Freedom.
I have recently been reading the very good book The Philosopher and the Wolf where Mark Rowlands talks about the difference between wolf and human. He mentions Jean Paul Sartres theory that humans are "being-for-itself" as opposed to "being-in-itself". Essentially what this means is that humans live to serve themselves and make choices accordingly. They manipulate everything around them and choose for or against certain aspects. They choose to be religious, they choose to be racist, they choose to not be, they choose what they eat or what they don't, they choose to live in a house in a certain way. Animals however are "being-in-itself" which means that they live according to their nature or evolutionary design. An example of this is the wolfs' mechanical intelligence in how it problem solves in reaction to its environment as opposed to a human that will change the environment in reaction to his or her needs. So what we see in humans is this freedom that is unique to evolution. The only issue is that I don't think humans are all that comfortable with it. We fear this freedom. We feel naked by it. We are scared of it. And if you don't feel scared by it then you are possibly missing something. We only have to follow primatologist theory that ape and human evolution occurred uniquely for us because we were obsessed and still are by sex. If that is the driving force of our evolution then I have to admit to feeling a little more grounded and realistic about human enlightenment.
After all the above point is Biblical. I don't believe for one minute that there was an Adam and Eve who literally ate something they were told not to, but it is a good example or illustration of our opinion of ourselves. We see it all the time now, especially when referring to genetics. "We shouldn't play God with this or that." The book Frankenstein is the famous story of what we think will happen if we get too clever.
So it is with 9/11 that we saw a reaction to this freedom from a minority of Muslim terrorists who shared their leaders view that the United States was Satanic. What followed was fascinating and very telling. The reaction of the West was not a cry for the maintenance of freedom. Instead there came a huge move back towards our own form of fundamentalism under the guise of freedom.
I will admit to having been petrified when the twin towers collapsed. My sense of helplessness continued through the news stories of people such as Kenneth Biggley being beheaded by Al Queda in Iraq. No where felt safe and there was nothing that we could do immediately to rectify it. In some ways it was a bit of a reality check but the reaction was not to open our eyes, it was to close them in our own fundamentalism.
Religion, time and time again, serves not to set people free but to trap them, envelope them in a false sense of safety. People are therefore more likely to turn to it when their world is less certain, when they feel unsafe, when they think their freedom has just bitten them on the arse. What people seek in religion is an understanding of that which cannot be understood around us and outside of our immediate existence. Our freedom comes with being able to look at that which we cannot understand and be cool with it, not by hiding from it.
So for me, the reaction I have seen in many Christian groups is very telling about how we use the idea of a God to make us feel vindicated, validated and free whilst limiting our overall mental, spiritual and physical freedom. Its much the same as wrapping a baby up tight in a blanket to reassure it. It's a return to the womb.
What we actually see in this Christian God is merely a human perception. God made in mans image. God becomes angry at the things that make us angry. He hates the behaviour that we hate. He loves the music that we love. Once again we have seen this behaviour since time began in the Bible. A turn to God when things are uncertain and the insistence of His support when we feel the need to eliminate large groups of people as a safety measure. Under this God we are justified when we use torture methods on people calling it "enhanced interrogation". In return for this loyalty and giving up of our freedom, we are fooled into a notion that though this life is crap, the next one will be awesome.
There's another reason I can't do God. Relationships are based on perception. The perception of two people who agree that their way of looking at their partnership is compatible. It may take on various forms of perception, to differing levels of success; but the most successful partnership is that where the two parties can percieve the other persons perception and thus mould their relationship to encompass the two. It is on this issue and in light of my previous point that any hope of a living, conscious relationship with any God is unachievable. Even with divine revelation, it is not achievable because there will still be moments when our own perception and image swamp what we have been shown. If we are aware of this, then it becomes apparent that the Old Testament is full of misconceptions about God. It is a book more about misconception than it is about success. Dare I say that the early Christians may have had an idea of this because actually they talk very little about God. But even then, it does not take long for the Church to feel safer in its human perception and start putting definitions and beliefs on this new found freedom.
So as someone who calls themselves a Christian, I cannot morally or ethically observe this God as being existent. A God that creates and then hinders, awakens and then keeps us blinkered. If this God exists then it is a God with serious mental health issues. A God that loves and then eliminates. I believe that the founder of the movement that grew into Christianity did not believe in this God either and it is reflected in the lack of concrete teaching about who or what or where God is. That is why I do not think belief in God in the way that has become tradition is not helpful to spiritual life as a Christian or in any religion. A concrete God that is defined can be shattered, shaped and manipulated and therefore defeats the very idea of what God is meant to be. Surely, therefore we are more likely to be in touch with the Divine if we relinquish our belief systems and celebrate our freedom in this quirky, apeish, loving, sex obsessed, artistic, thoughtful, philosophical, altruistic, selfish, conflicting freak of evolution that we are.
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