I’ve been thinking about–I’m hesitant to call it religion, but I guess that’s close enough–religion a lot lately, so I suppose it’s time for another post about it. I’m not sure what the consolations of religion are for other people–I suspect that it’s different for everyone–but there are definitely consolations for me, and they vary from day-to-day, week-to-week. The primary consolation, though, is always that my practice of religion helps me stay focused on love, on being loving, kind, generous, and understanding. It helps me stay compassionate, and I’m happiest in that state. Looking around at the world, though, I have to admit that there are a lot of people out there who don’t get that sort of thing out of their religion. They get judgment or anger or a sense of righteousness (paradoxically without actually being righteous…), and I have a difficult time comprehending how all of that could be personally fulfilling.
If we basically get to decide what kind of god we want to believe in–and with the vast menu of church and non-church options available to us, we pretty much do–what does it say about us if we choose to believe in a god who’s a total asshole? Does anyone really want to be the person who believes that God hates whole sections of the society he supposedly created in love? Doesn’t it rather take away from the “God so loved the world…” message if he only loved certain parts of the world, but the others can just go to hell? I just don’t get it. If love is really the crux of the whole thing, why do we humans get so unbearably focused on hate?
Perhaps I just answered my own question: maybe love isn’t always the crux of the whole thing. I mean, it is to me, but that’s my choice.
I love it when poetry (because hymns are poetry) sums up what I feel in a manner far more beautiful than I could ever manage. Here’s the text of the second verse of one of my favorite hymns (“God is love, let heaven adore him” from the Episcopal Hymnal 1982):
God is love; and love enfolds us
all the world in one embrace:
with unfailing grasp God holds us
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
then we find that self-same aching
deep within the heart of God.
That’s the God I believe in, and maybe it’s all delusion on my part–I’m OK with that, actually–but I’d rather delude myself to believe that beauty and love exist in the world than to believe that all is an awful ugliness. I know life isn’t nearly as simple as that, and there are as many reasons not to believe in God as there are reasons to do so, but wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?