A belief in God is one more example of the monstrous egoism of human beings: to think that we are somehow singled out as a supreme species, Fallen but miraculous, central to the many wheels of infinite space, top of the food chain, with spiritual natures, capable of living in a state of bliss forever if only we acknowledge our own divine spark. And with that God becomes an idea to die for, to kill for, to punish and reward us, to improve or destroy us and for which we commit all manner of hideous crimes. All complete tosh, of course. In fact, God becomes a mish mash byword for any neurotic, daft or malevolent impulse we might have. An idea that dissolves into vapour and violence. It both elevates us with imaginary significance and belittles us with terrified servitude in its contradictions. And it propels us into pointless destruction and misery.
We lack the courage of other species, the eagle or sparrow that flies according to its own needs and propensities, the lion that hunts and sleeps and lives in its own magnificent nature, the dog that barks and runs and wags and chases and sleeps its time to death , and then only wants to depart without making a monumental fuss about it. Even a cockroach goes about its business without wasting time and energy on its knees muttering to some imaginary will ‘o wisp. This is what D. H. Lawrence meant when he said “If men were as much men as lizards are lizards, they’d be worth looking at.”
People get upset so easily about beliefs and the more desperate we become in trying to ‘respect’ everyone and not to upset anyone, the worse it gets because all humour, all rationality and common sense is thrown to the winds. Some people should be upset. They are idiots, and if they are on a god-fueled mission then they can be dangerous idiots. Take their threats seriously but not their dippy ideas.
If someone comes to you and says they believe God is made of custard and they have a book which proves this and on the glorious Day that is coming we will all become custard, except for the unbelievers who will become liquid shit, then you avoid eye contact and walk away. The custard myth is as reasonable as most mainstream religions, maybe more so. At least custard isn’t vengeful or punitive.
The Old Testament is a beautiful book. I read a page of it a day when I was eleven or twelve years old and I still love the poetry and the density and the bright images and stories, the violence and magic and sheer bonkersness of it. As a young man I actually ended up in bed with a girl far more beautiful than I deserved because I had read the Song of Solomon to her and she found it, as I did, damned sexy and full of provocative lights. Leonard Cohen said that the Old Testament is a big book about old men looking for redemption, which isn’t a bad definition. And it wasn’t written by God, by the way. A lot of people had a hand at different times in different places.
When Nietzsche declared ‘God is dead’ he didn’t mean there had been a God but that our idea of God and its city of values and beliefs that grew up around the idea was gone after the Enlightenment. Rationality, physical laws and the secularisation of beliefs had kicked God off the map and we would either sink or swim in our new freedom of thought and feeling. Our current disenchantment with politics is perhaps one reason why a lot of otherwise perfectly sensible people start believing all kinds of loopy tunes nonsense.
Not long ago I wrote a novel that predicted the current madness and terrorism. Lots of other people knew it was coming, but this was my take on it. It was inevitable given our ludicrous respect for everything and everyone but tolerance of nothing and no one. A terrible sort of political correctness masking an arsenal of hatred, envy and ambition. I point the finger with, I hope, vicious satire, but at least it’s a busy finger and it points at everyone – Christians, Muslims, Catholics, the BBC, Parliament, the whole caboodle of self interested self aggrandising institutions that both castigate and cause fear. Few get off the hook. At the heart of it is a love story that acts as a mirror to the madness and terror around it. Halfway through the young protagonist, a former monk, meets God himself, now retired, in a seedy bar in Rome and this scene ensues:
“I told, you, I‘m just a filthy old man. I used to be God. A long time ago.”
Jocelyn looked at the withered, decrepit little figure and smiled.
“God. The God? The Almighty. The one and only, holy of holies God.”
“Yup,” said God, and lit a cigarette to put between brownish crooked teeth.
“I don’t believe you,” said Jocelyn.
“No one did. That’s why I got fed up with the job. Waste of bloody time.”
“So I’ve given the whole of my adult life so far to worshipping and praying to you. Do you think I’m a complete fool?”
“Yup,” said God.
“Prove it. Give me a sign,” said Jocelyn.
God sighed. “Everyone wants a sign.” He slapped his hand down hard on the bar top, then lifted it. A fly was squashed into a little yellow and red pulp. He scraped up the mess with a matchstick, put it in his hand, closed his fist and blew into it, then opened his hand. The fly glistened, alive and re-energized, and then flew away. “That fly will now live for three hundred and twenty seven years; in twenty years’ time it will feed on the remains of an assassinated American president. In fifty years it will fly into the eye of an astronaut, who will consequently suffer from a mild infection, enough to make a mistake in his calculations and fly too close to the sun. His ship will evaporate. Cause and effect. Miracle and disaster. Whole bloody cycle goes on and on.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Jocelyn.
“Don’t start me on him.”
“You’re some sort of conman,” said Jocelyn.
“Give me another sign.”
Wearily God closed his eyes and concentrated, then opened them.
“I’ve just caused an earthquake in New Mexico.” He looked at the barman, who flipped on a small TV. CNN news was suddenly interrupted and the Announcer said that reports were coming in about an earthquake in New Mexico.