In many ways, God is quite important to some people nowadays.
Surveys show that not only are over 99.8 per cent of human beings believers in an ultimate divine being, but also that over 70 per cent of people list the destination of their immortal soul and the avoidance of a lifetime of unbearable torment in their "top five immediate concerns". Concern with the immortal soul compared favourably with issues such as wrinkles and mildew, ranking about equal with public transport bottlenecks, and not all that far behind impersonal telephone menus and red-carpet fashion.
Even our politicians find God interesting!
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is known for his piety and devout commitment to both his Lord and intact hymens; Family First Senator Steve Fielding is a fervent believer in the power of prayer to fill in the gaps when his prescription runs out; and the Prime Minister himself is known to regularly talk to God, although God is reported to find the conversations awkward and overlong.
So God, I think it can be said, has a reasonably significant place in today’s society. This is not only thanks to his regular role as creator and sustainer of all living and non-living things in the universe: he is also the subject of much furious and noisy debate among the intelligentsia of two vehemently opposed camps. On the one hand, the religious believers, a category which includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, and probably some of those people with turbans; and on the other, the atheists, who count child molesters and Stalin in their flock.
That’s right: on the question of God, there is by no means a consensus. Surprising, I know, given the completeness and perfection of the Bible as a source of truth — but there you go.
I found myself musing on God after this weekend just past. I had, you see, rather a frightening experience, following which, to be honest, I am still a bit on the shaky side. I attended the Rise of Atheism conference in Melbourne.
Finding myself in an enormous room with thousands of atheists, I began to feel a creeping sense of unease as I realised that these "atheists" not only didn’t believe in God, they didn’t even seem to be ashamed of it. They were almost proud.
Now, if I were an atheist — either through neglectful upbringing or a basic lack of manners — I would be quite keen to hide the fact, not to advertise it. Not that atheism is anything to be ashamed of, per se. Syphilis is nothing to be ashamed of either — but you don’t rent out convention centres to tell everyone you’ve got it. At least I hope you don’t, as to do so would be both indelicate and recklessly extravagant. As, indeed, is going about crowing about your atheism.
I mean, look at your Bible. If you don’t have one, borrow one from your neighbour or a passing policeman. Have a look inside. Note what it says about heaven, and in particular, about how you get in there. I’m not looking to throw spoilers at you, but I’ll drop some hints.
Nowhere does it say, "The only way to enter the kingdom of heaven is through not believing in god". Nowhere does it say, "Blessed are the smarmy little speccy know-it-alls banging on and on about DNA". Nowhere, you will find, does it say, "God loves those most who hate his holy guts".
In short, if you flip through your Bible, you will discover that being an atheist is a very very bad idea. Atheists, it is strongly implied, go to hell. And hell, according to latest research, is not an enjoyable place. It’s like going to prison, except instead of cells, you sleep in dark pits full of hot coals; and instead of internet access, you get your flesh torn off by savage birds; and instead of being raped in the shower, you get raped everywhere. It’s like what prison would be like if it was designed by Piers Akerman.
So, given this, why are atheists so intent on going to hell? Why do they turn their backs on god? Why do they ignore the impeccable logic of Pascal’s Wager, which goes as follows:
1. If you believe in god, and he doesn’t exist, you’ve lost nothing.
2. If you do not believe, and he does exist, you go to hell.
3. Therefore, gays can’t get married.
He was a wise man, Pascal, and a fine confectioner to boot. But his watertight arguments have made little impression on atheists, who prefer what is known as the Atheist’s Wager:
1. I like to have perverted sex and abortions.
2. I hate my parents.
3. Therefore, I will buy the latest book by Christopher Hitchens.
Is there a reason for all this reckless godlessness? A big, suave, silver-haired element of the reason, of course, is named Richard Dawkins.
Before Dawkins came along, there were hardly any atheists at all. Those who had adopted the title back then at least had the decency to conceal themselves in dark places, usually around the docks, keeping their dreadful business away from the public gaze.
But then along comes angry, bitter, needlessly abusive Dawkins, with his "selfish gene" and his "evolutionary theory" and his "there is no god" and his "please show me the evidence for your proposition", and all of a sudden atheists are everywhere, strutting through the streets with their chests thrust out, giggling at church signs and talking trash to the Pope. Have they no shame? Of course not: to have shame, you have to believe in god, from whom all good things, including shame, derive.
The baffling thing is why Dawkins has had this effect. Yes, we all know how knowledgeable he is about evolution, but we also know that evolution is only a theory, which is a fancy way of saying "wild, random, drunken guess". It just seems insane to think some jumped-up little ponce can scribble down some indecipherable gibberish about how everyone on earth is the granddaughter of the same tadpole, and millions fall over themselves in a mad rush to grind their boots into the face of western civilisation.
Of course, they will say it’s all because of the "evidence". "Oh, we just follow the evidence," they’ll chatter.
Well, the day when a dusty old collection of possibly fake bones are considered better evidence than a book of impossible majesty written by the creator of the universe; when an assemblage of half-baked theories about fish-monkeys carries more weight than the resurrection of the perfect man-god, as documented in over 60,000 historically verified contemporary documents; when a nerdy little microscope jockey spouting geological fairytales from the comfort of a publicly funded academic opium den is seen as conclusive proof more compelling than the many, many cases of cancers cured by Catholic ghosts; well, that is the day I hang up my laptop and buy a one-way ticket to the crazy-shack. Because that is the day all human decency departs this world, to be replaced with an unfulfilling tissue of pointless truth-seeking and petty humanism.
I don’t know, though, whether Dawkins is the only reason for this atheist boom. There must be something else causing this rash of moral lemmingism, this craze which is sending so many of god’s children hurtling over the cliff of disbelief to be dashed upon the jagged rocks of biological determinism, their bodies floating bleakly away on the dark tides of hedonism and edgy sketch comedy.
Is it that the church has failed to reach out to the community? Has it failed to keep up with modern times? Has it failed to make the Good News relevant to young hip trendsetters? Has it failed to make Christian rock funky and "radical" enough? Has it failed to sufficiently not have sex with prepubescent boys? Has it failed, as Jesus so eloquently put it shortly before being brutally temporarily murdered, to be a fisher of men? Not likely!
So it’s probably just the evolution thing after all. Damn those fossils. Damn them to hell.
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