A Christian minister and his family used to live across the street from me. They were always saying things like “…then God led us to this wonderful house” or “With God’s help we found just the large screen television we wanted!” or “God gave us wonderful weather!” God was so busy doing things for these people. How does a person like that rationalize the death of their child? “And then God killed my little girl” just doesn’t have as pleasant a ring to it.
I was born a protestant, for what it’s worth. My parents introduced me to religion more because they thought it was the right thing to do than because they had any particular stake in faith. They wanted me to come to my own decision, they explained.
The concept of God does not come naturally to the human animal. The young child who inspired such stories as The Jungle Book and Tarzan grew up in the jungle without any contact with the outside world. He was found in his teens eating nuts and berries. His discoverers found that he had developed not one single notion of a “supreme being”.
I vaguely remember going to Sunday School and I accepted God in the unquestioning fashion of children, deeming it one of the many mysteries of the adult world, along with not being allowed to drive a car or say certain words I’d picked up around the school yard that were best left for grown-ups to understand.
Lack of interest led me away from Sunday School and I adopted what you might called a childhood version of “jail house religion”. I found it very convenient to call upon God when I wanted a “Stretch Armstrong” action figure or when I’d had a run in with the sidewalk after falling off of my bicycle. “Oh God… please help me get home.” I’d say as I walked the mile back with tear stained cheeks and bloody knees. For most of my youth my main speculation concerning God would be my occasional challenge to the Lord to prove His existence by meeting a condition of mine. “If you’re really there… make a red car turn that corner.” My small amount of faith eroded little by little as no red cars ever turned any corners. Perhaps if I’d gotten that “Stretch Armstrong” figure things would have turned out differently.
My faith was further eroded when I was witness to such things as discrimination due to religion and religious fanaticism… crooked televangelists… sex abusing monks… holy wars… and religion as a crutch…
…and religion as an excuse for murder.
And then there are all those questions.
Questions like “Why are we hear?” or “Why is there suffering and pain?” and “Why is there injustice?” and “Why do we have war?”
“Has God turned his back on us?”
“Is there any God at all?”
“What will happen to me when I die?”
I guess I’m just going to have to make the answers up. Because I don’t see anybody being able to tell me the whole truth, at least not while I’m alive.
Unless, of course, a red car happens to turn a corner somewhere…