Monty this week started a new topic, one that perhaps many people think about but find no safe place to talk about: What do you do when your gods fail?
I know this seems like old-fashioned language. We don’t talk much of gods and devils today, or of a supernatural “over-verse” that somehow encapsulates reality (the “universe”) without being affected by it. As Carl Sagan famously said in opposition, “The cosmos is all that there ever was, all that there is, and all that there ever will be.” It’s atoms, and energy, and a vast, empty, and silent space.
I suppose it might be better cast in modern language. Perhaps it might be more meaningful to say it this way: What do you do when the political party you believed in shows itself to be hypocritical and abusive? What do you do when a relationship you trusted shows itself to be built upon lies? What do you do when a business you have trusted—perhaps even a business you work in, invest in, even represent—turns out to be nothing more than a few men making scads of money from unsuspecting, trusting fools?
I’m sure you can find more examples from your own experience, if not from web articles and TV exposés. We set up for ourselves to believe in a safe world where we understand what is going on, where there is payoff for doing the right thing, where the rules make sense to us. If we are fortunate, we have many years of this work-and-reward system. If we vote for a particular party and avoid some of the discrepancies, we are repaid with the satisfaction of knowing that our party is right. If we keep in a relationship with unexamined parts we can sail along to life’s end untroubled. If we turn a blind eye to the abuses of our business world, our social relationships, our churches and temples and mosques, our fraternal organizations, our unions—well, then, we will have a happy, fulfilled life. As long as we ourselves are not inconvenienced by what’s happening, as long as the rules work, we can convince ourselves that our gods are alive and well, rewarding us for our obedience and the shutting down of our faith.
I know. You didn’t think that’s what you’re doing. You were being honest about your lack of religion and skepticism towards the supernatural. You were thinking that by ignoring the sacred and emphasizing the secular, you were being true to yourself.
But I think that if you look at yourself, the nature of your belief, and the touching way you believe that your beliefs will result in something that no belief can result in—you will find you are actually quite credulous. You believe not with a lack of evidence—but in spite of the evidence.
People lie. Societies crumble. Businesses fail. Political parties speak one thing but pursue an opposite agenda. These are our gods, and they are proved not to be so much lies as they are simply untrustworthy—literally not worthy of our trust. Not worthy of us.
At least that’s the way I see it, because I believe we, as humans, are worth so much more than we actually understand. We are beings who see the universe of true and false, and then deduce what is right and wrong. We are worth more than these systems deserve, and far more than these systems deliver. They are false gods who claim to listen but either do not act—or act in opposition.
So “losing my religion” is actually a good thing. It’s a good place to be. It means we are ready to look at ourselves, what we believe, and what we think is really worth living for.
I’m on the edge of my seat to find out how it all ends. Because it’s just starting.