Thursday, April 2, 2009

Good God, Y'all!

Very good Friend Of Elroy™ Emmanuel has asked Elroy several things several times, but since the administrative arm of the Let’s Ask Elroy!™ editorial taskforce executive saw fit to outsource the ‘reply’ functionality to a prison workshop in a north-west province of Murkistan it could be argued that the punctuality of this service has been marginally compromised.

So while this small but crucial element of Let’s Ask Elroy!™ has it teething problems ameliorated (something to do with thumbscrews), the Let’s Ask Elroy!™ editorial taskforce executive has taken it upon itself to address Emmanuel’s dilemmas and ease his existential disquiet, starting with this simple request:

1. Does god exist or are you a Dawkins espousing atheist?

Elroy likes old Dickie Dawkins well enough, but the problem with Dick is that he is a little too ambivalent, a tad too equivocal and shy for Elroy's tastes – why can’t he just make his mind? Why can’t he just say what he really thinks?

So Elroy is happy to declare that God does not exist, but having said that it all depends on what your definition of ‘God is – that’s right, God is relative. However, if you mean God as defined by doctrinaire Christianity, God as defined in his best seller the Bible and the question of whether it was fiction or non-fiction then no, God does not exist, God does not have a big white beard, God did not create the Earth in six days, God does not love Elroy, Jesus is not God's son and neither Elroy's life nor anyone else’s is preordained by Him.

Elroy gave up on Christianity at about ten years old when the local vicar took his class for Religious Education. Vicar Stamford was a groovy, sleeve-rolled young Anglican minister intent on dragging Christianity into the 20th Century and showing to the youth that the Bible was real, and so to that end he thought it was a good idea to admit to its faults. Oops!

‘When was Jesus born?’ he asked the class and so Elroy, always a sucker for the low-hanging fruit, stuck his hand up.

‘Me sir, no sir, me sir, me sir, sir, me!’

‘Yes! That boy! What’s the answer?’

‘Sir sir, Christmas sir, twenty-fifth of December sir!’

This was a shoe in. Elroy had made his stage debut in a nativity play as a sheep at kinder and had been starring in them ever since in every role possible – donkey, cow, ox – so if there was any question he knew the answer to, it was this one.

‘No!’ cried a triumphant Vicar Stamford’, ‘Wrong answer!’

Vicar Stamford was delighted with the classes reaction as he could now go on to prove how the Bible was a living, breathing document, but how could that answer be wrong? And if not then, when?

‘We think’ he continued ‘it was some time in October’.

What? He doesn’t even actually know? And that was that – Elroy figured that if the Church couldn’t get that bit right, how much more of their message was nonsense? And how much more was it prepared to lie about? If the Bible is the truth then it’s the truth, he thought, but don’t tell Elroy it’s the truth and then say it isn’t, especially after years of all that ‘It’s a sin to tell a lie’ routine. After that, chemical chance and random chaos made a lot more sense because at least no one was swearing blind that something was true when they knew full well it wasn’t.

However, it’s actually hard to know what parts of the Bible are true and what aren’t as it has many authors – it is a book not just written and edited by committee but by many committees, megalomaniacs, dreamers, charlatans and vested interests over the centuries, and Elroy can’t help wondering what happened to bits that were left out. What’s wrong with the gospel according to Thomas? Or Judas? Surely we should be given ALL the ‘facts’?

The Bible is a worthy enough tome, but it does seem to all things to all comers – it contradicts itself to such a degree that the Rastafarians use it to prove that Ethiopians are the lost tribe of Israel while the Klu Klux Klan use it to prove they have the God-given right to kill them. The Bible, we are told, is the inerrant and literal word of God and we must obey its every word – we can’t, apparently, ‘pick and choose’ – but even the most extreme fundamentalist draws the line at selling their daughters into slavery or stoning their neighbour to death for wearing a nice wool blend suit or eating a cheese burger (See The Book of Deuteronomy for details).

The Anglicans, among others, decided over time that this hardcore fundamentalism was repelling new generations and it thought it could attract the young ‘uns by updating the message, but what they really needed to update was the way the message was delivered – it wasn’t what was being preached in the chilly old damp-ridden, mouse-infested churches that was the problem, just that it was being preached in chilly old damp-ridden, mouse-infested churches.

It took the radical fundamentalist Baptists of the USA to exploit youth’s innate superficiality and wrap up their cold, hard, unforgiving God in a bunch of bells and whistles, color and movement, while the Anglicans thought that merely a softer, more metaphorical, more understanding God would fill the pews of their chilly old damp-ridden, mouse-infested churches but they were, as Hillsong has so emphatically proved, wrong, and yet again form triumphs over content.

Meanwhile, creationism has gone all PC and is now known as Intelligent Design, but that immediately throws up the question ‘Who designed the designer? The whole ID argument is really just an exercise in arrogance – its proponents just cannot accept that their magnificent selves could possibly have come about accident so they seek a explanation that they can cope with like, for some reason, an invisible and infallible sky being.

Why this make them feel better Elroy doesn’t know – he’s quite happy knowing that life is empty and meaningless and that our planet is but one of billions of others, and he’s more than happy with the notion that chemicals are capable of reorganising themselves in a billion different ways order to survive, and he’s more than happy with the idea that he is a collection of those chemicals.

Does this make Elroy any less moral than his religious peers? Do they have a monopoly on morality? No. Much as they might like to argue otherwise, the idea that the prohibition of murder, theft, adultery etc was a product of the Judeo-Christian tradition does conveniently ignore the tens of thousands of years of civilisation that went before and the fact that mankind has only got as far as it has due to co-operatio.

Still, the proposition that God is relative is easily proved by just counting how many religions there are in the world, not to mention those that have been. Their devotees will tell you that theirs is the one true path, but they can’t all be right – they can, however, all be wrong.

The most problematic of these are the children of Abraham, a triumvirate of trouble that is the cause of so much misery, suffering, pain and death, but as Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all branches of the same tree, why they can’t get it together and be friends? Celebrate the many things they have in common and not the things they don’t? What the fuck, says Elroy, is their problem?

It’s been done before. There are periods in history when Jews and Muslims lived cheek by jowl in glorious epochs of cultured learning, learning and so is it not possible for the Jews and Muslims to realize that their enmity is based only on some bizarre religious self-loathing and some real estate issues?

Actually, in the end they might have to, as Israel’s refusal to contemplate a two-state solution can only ever lead to an inevitable to a one-state solution and, the with the Palestinian birth rate being so much higher than the Israeli one, a one-state solution will mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

Conversely, the Christians and the Jews were at each other’s throats for centuries, but now look at them, bosom buddies, the richest Christian county in the world bankroll the only Jewish one with billions upon billions of USD, but it must be noted that the Christians adoption of Israel as it’s BFF is somewhat cynical – the Christians are only making nice with Israel until Israel eventually crushes Palestine, because it is only when the Jews are in control of the entire region that Jesus can come back and kill every motherfucker on the block that doesn’t agree with him, Jews included.

Really, the monotheists really have to stop wrecking the place, but with the the Christians and, by proxy, the Jews bombing the living bejesus out the Muslims, peace is getting further away as Daisy Cutters and Apache Gunship Helicopters are hardly going to convince the Muslims roll over and say ‘Gee! You’re right! What was were we thinking?’

Argue all you want, says Elroy, but do it like the rest of us over a bottle of claret and stop fucking up the world for those who do not buy into your nuttiness – you are not the only people on Earth.

That doesn’t mean that there is nothing out there and nothing going on that we do not understand – indeed, the more science investigates the more it discovers it doesn’t know, but that’s fine – the only real absolute is that it is absolutely wrong to believe in absolutes. Psychics, for instance, do some crazy stuff that is, on the face of it, unexplainable, but that doesn’t mean they are frauds anymore than they have transcended the plane of mortality, it just means that it is unexplainable.

Do John Edward and his cohorts really talk to the dead or are they just master magicians? If it’s all fraud then it’s a conspiracy on a mammoth scale, and if it’s not then maybe they have tapped into some sort of telepathic facility humans have lost contact with over the years – after all, animals do some spooky stuff too, so why not us? Or maybe Edward et al ARE talking to the dead – all we know is that there is something going on, but does that prove the existence of God? No, it just proves that we can’t explain it – a known unknown.

God, in the end, is whatever you want him/her/it to be. God is nature, God is the universe, God is a bloke with a big white beard who writes best sellers and has an uncanny knack for designing and constructing bio-mechanisms to a strict deadine, God is Allah, God is Buddha, God is the couch at the bottom of Elroy’s garden, God is a necessary invention, God is you and God is Elroy, so is there a God? If you want there to be one, yes there is. If you don’t, no there isn’t, and you’re not allowed to shoot me for saying so.