The danger of religion, I worry, lies not so much in its proffered merits (to be saved, freed, and privy to the eternal truth), but rather in the unconscious characterizing of the non-religious. The non-religious are always thought to be lost or burdened by weights of worldly things – and unless they enter into religion, they shall remain in that almost pitiable state. “We’ll pray that you’ll find the truth,” says the earnest churchgoer. But as dearly and innocuously he meant his words, the non-religious shall always take it as an insinuation: that his entire, secular life orbits a great lie. How then can he help from feeling a certain indignation? Thus breeds the conflict, the animosity. The religious must then be careful to not let their convictions, their fervent convictions, rein their sentences. They must realize that as highly and proudly they hold the teachings of their church, as passionately as they presume them truths, there will always be others who think differently; and these others ought to be respected, just as the religious themselves would wish to be. This non-imposition of beliefs is the way to harmony.
Most ungodly of all is to believe that a person will be condemned to hell or some place of eternal suffering simply because he has refused to believe what many others consider sacred, divine. No benevolent God would punish a man for his instinctive employing of his reason and casting doubt on that which is doubtful. “Believe this or you will be damned!” is much too petty for the high-standing character of God. Furthermore, was it not God that bestowed upon man the gift of reason; and were man to use this gift to his utmost talents, and in an innocuous manner, would it not be distastefully unfair for God to punish him? Those who stubbornly remain in the aforementioned belief remain only in their own ignorance.
The atheists often aim their muzzles at the historicity of Christ, claiming that the man upon whom an entire order was built had never existed; that he was merely a puppet of the poet’s pen. The proponents, the believers, then take upon themselves the task to defend their messiah. “There are libraries of work on the subject of Christ and the traditions of the church have existed for centuries. This must surely mean something.” Indeed, it does mean something; but it will be fallacious to use it as evidence for the existence of Christ. The atheists, on the other hand, employing the argument of insufficient evidence, cannot disprove the existence of Christ either. It is a strategy equally fallacious. Thus rages a battle that will afford neither side a victory.
Might it then be more proper and more worthy of the atheists’ time to shift their sights onto the character of Christ and that esteem title with which he has been credited? Surely that would breed a more enlightening and ‘upbuilding’ discourse, instead of this pointless bickering over what lies hidden beneath the thick earth of history.
Very interestingly, I heard that a priest proffered in his homily a scientific explanation for the miracles recorded in the Bible. The first was when a soldier pierced the side of Jesus and water came out. The priest had said that there is a vessel (I cannot remember what biological term he used) beneath the heart which sometimes fills itself with water. And it just so happened that the spear tip punctured that vessel and water spilled out. It was no miracle; only a subtlety of science. The second was of the multiplication of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes. The priest had reasoned that perhaps the people present, having witnessed the kindness of Jesus, took out from their pockets and bags bread loaves and fishes of their own. Again, the miracle is demoted to no more than a fallacy of exclusion.
Obviously, this is dangerous; for it questions the very foundations upon which the Catholic church is built. Those miracles are what give believers hope and by saying all that, one is essentially depriving them of hope. I shall not go further into the multitude of consequences this may spell since my intrigue lies elsewhere from the obvious.
My intrigue lies in the character of the priests whom preached those explanations, whether carelessly or intentionally. If they can believe those scientific explanations, what happens to their belief in miracles? One naturally expects that priests have the utmost faith in the scriptures and take these reason-defying acts as interventions of God. But having brought in those arguments implies only the contrary. This then leads us to wonder if they have trouble believing in anything else, or everything else, that the scriptures have revealed. The Eucharist too perhaps? That would be most irreverent and appalling.
But we cannot fault them in any righteous way, since they too are human; curious and disposed to comprehension. No matter how much faith a person may bear in the truth of the scriptures, there will always linger a certain doubt. For how can we, as the reasonable people we are, believe, wholeheartedly, without the slightest strand of suspicion, in what lies so distantly behind the veil of time? Not to sound blasphemous, but suppose someone from that faraway past had falsely recorded, excited with mischief, some terrorizing of the land by malign monsters. Had that been the case, might we also believe in those monsters as we do now in the scriptures? After all, what miracles are to the reality, monsters are to observable nature. Again, I mean no disrespect at all to the church. I only wish to place reason behind our human suspicion.
This is why there is always a danger in believing the scriptures to be factual accounts rather than drawing from its essence. It must be understood that in faith, factuality is unimportant. What is factual is confined solely to the human realm. But faith, faith is above all. It should matter little whether the accounts of the scriptures were in fact true, for if we have faith in God, all we shall need is the essence of what has been revealed; be they inspired truths or mischievous lies. Everything that has been delivered to us by God will serve the construction of our lives, just as all experience serves the shaping of our characters. Faith seems to be the only certainty in life.