Wrapped Up In Books


Unlike my alma mater of U of T, there is a tangible religious climate here at Aberdeen. The Christian Union, more colloquially known as the ‘CU’, is the largest student society on campus. Something about religiously-affiliated clubs always rubbed me the wrong way (Hillel-obsessed people at U of T, and even the religious divide of the Colleges within the University); to me they seem exclusionist and generally unappealing.

My friend, M, is a member of the CU. He invited me to a CU open forum which we went to last night. It was held in a pub downtown (strange) and had a panel of four people answering whatever questions you wanted to launch at them. Two of these people were a 30-something theology PhD candidate and a 50-something man who studied zoology but (I guess) theology in his own time. The other two were 3rd and 4th year girls; the former a theology student and the latter a history student. I was interested to see what they had to offer.

While I have many questions that pertain to the realm of religion, I felt that this wasn’t the appropriate place to ask them. More on this below. However, the two dozen people there offered up their questions which were to the tune of ‘What was God up to before making the Earth and everything in it?’, ‘Why does God allow evil to exist in the world?’, ‘Why do we bother praying if God has a plan for all of us?’, ‘When did you choose to be a Christian?’, and ‘How do you know that Christianity is the right way and all other religions are wrong?’.

I think it goes without saying that I have a problem with the grand majority of these inquiries.

The first question was answered thusly: ‘We should not scrute the inscrutable’ which is clever, but in a smart alecky way. Why not ‘scrute’? I think if we can question something, we ought to go forth and ask.

Next, God allows evil to exist because we’ve been given freewill and, in a perfect world with all of us acting as complete reflections of God’s image, we would not be happy (one of the girls proffered that we would be ‘robots’). Despite this, one of the speaker’s faith in everyone’s wanting to be as ‘good’ as possible was unshaken. I really wish I could’ve taken notes because memory fails me on how he expounded this thought; I think he mentioned something along the lines of ‘At all opportunities, we intervene where ‘evil’ happens’ -whether ‘evil’ be a child dying, a genocide, planes seeming to drop from the sky, etc.

The third question turned into one of the girls talking about wanting so badly for God to show her how to live her life. It went ultimately unanswered, and I think it’s a brilliant question. Really – what’s the point if it’s all on a blueprint somewhere else? A subsidiary of this question was ‘What happens when a child dies? Why would God create such a plan for one of her/his children?’ which is also worth asking. The other girl offered that maybe it’s to lead people back to God despite hating her/him for letting such a thing happen. The zoologist likened it to this: a bridge is built and lasts for years until one day, it is deemed to be weak and it collapses. Everyone rushes to say ‘Who was the engineer who designed this?’ but no one questioned how it came to be while it was all in good order. Only when things go wrong do we either turn to or away from God, he says. I guess this has some validity, but really why doesn’t she/he intervene if she/he is omnipotent?

I really am a religious novice, and I admit that the ‘choosing’ Christianity question baffled me. I never chose Christianity. I was baptized when I was a baby and was loosely brought up in the United Church. I sang in the church choir (poorly, I must add) and was confirmed when I was 16, but really I can’t say I know very much about the Bible or anything else. No other religion was ever presented as an option, and right now I have too many questions to commit fully to anything anyway.

The answers to the last question frightened me until the zoologist stepped in. The third year girl seemed to fervently affirm her belief that Christianity is the ‘only way’ because Jesus said it was so. I can’t recall if the other girl seconded this, but none of the panel besides Mr Zoology had studied any other religion besides Christianity. I haven’t read them (I haven’t even read the Bible), but I’m fairly sure any other religious text probably says that it’s the only way as well — so why take Jesus’ word over Mohammed’s or whoever else’s? I think examining the evidence is key in deciding which side to take (if any); it’s easy to make a decision if you’ve only reviewed minimal ‘proof’.

I mentioned above that I have my own questions when it comes to religion. Last summer I read a lot of non-fiction, much of which was anti-religious in nature. I shredded through Hitchens’ God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation among others. I read sections to my mom over the phone and had her hang up on me. In Harris’ book he mentions that if there is a God, she/he is a cruel God if she/he allows even one child to be raped or murdered. Ever. I have to say that I agree. I was raised to think that whatever God exists is a benevolent and kind God so unlike the one that the Catholics believed in – a God that ought to be feared. But really God’s passivity is what I fear, should she/he exist.

Over Christmas, my friend A asked me whether I would consider martyring myself for the cause of ridding the world of religion. We both figured that since religion is the root of a lot of suffering and evil in the world (terrorist attacks, the Mormon Church in many ways, Westboro Baptist Church picketing soldiers’ funerals and being generally awful, the prosecution of women for being raped in Muslim countries… I could go on) it would be a worthwhile endeavour. A, however, did chastise me for not proclaiming to be atheist. I don’t think I can commit to such an absolute statement. I’ve been brought up to think it’s an ugly word and I can’t shake that sentiment. I would like to hope there is something bigger than me that I can not only rely upon but also be angry at for letting terrible things happen. I guess it’s a way of slagging off my personal responsibility, but really that’s the best I can do for now.

So in the meanwhile I’ll just waffle about in the middle where the word ‘agnostic’ reminds me so much phonetically of agnus – Latin for ‘lamb’.

Copyright © 2009 WrappedUpInBooksBlog. All rights reserved.

I really hope I don’t regret posting this.


4 Comments so far
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I would argue that religion is not the reason for those acts. I think their religion is an excuse manufactured by those groups in order to provide pseudo-legitimacy to their outlandish and hateful acts and beliefs.

Religion, to me, has always been a moral system. I don’t know that I can explain my feelings on God (you know a lot about how I feel about this, actually), but I can say that I believe religion to me, means adhering to a basic level of morality – not in a sexual sense. I think the Bible, The Koran, and Torah all teach us to be kind and gentle.

It’s hard to argue against treating others with respect. Unfortunate that others try to pervert this beauty.

Comment by whitehotretort

Even as a very strong Christian, I have to admit that the problem of evil is probably the most difficult issue to deal with in Christianity. My answer is that God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering He allows. We don’t know what that reason is, but we can rest assured that He works all things according to His will.

Comment by Tim

Shoot, and I’m convinced that doubt is a good thing so long as you don’t stay there.

Comment by Tim

An excuse, for sure. But still, without religion they wouldn’t have a basis for their extremism in the first place.

I do try to be a good person and uphold the morals I was taught, and I think that should come before being a good Christian or whatever else. It should apply to everyone. I know a few people who are terrible but adhere very well to what their faith prescribes, and so they think that this will save them. It’s terrible. I think when people pick and choose what to read it can cast a very positive or very negative light.

I could write for ages about what my doubt encompasses – but I do expect it to be transient.

Comment by bohemianvegan

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