I was brought up in the Roman Catholic tradition. But you will not hear from me that I am a recovering Catholic or any other such silliness. The fact is, I highly respect people of great faith regardless of their religion. To say that I am recovering from some religion would be to say that religion was a bad thing which in my case is not true. But it is also fact, now, that I have become an agnostic. I do believe that there is some sort of power that permeates the universe but I cannot assign that to a supernatural being or any being at all. I am unconvinced but not unconvinceable.
When I was a kid I was informed of the laundry list of reasons I would end up in hell if I did any of those things. I did not question such things. I had problems with the Catholic Church starting at age 15. When I reached 21, or there about, I temporarily divorced myself from it. I looked around at other religions for a while and then settled back on Catholicism. It was the religion I was most comfortable with. Still, I was holding onto what I had been taught where God was concerned.
In Boston there is a corner, Tremont and Park Streets, that is known as brimstone corner. That is because the ministers who used to rule at the Park Street Church frequently elaborated in a “fire and brimstone” manner. That is, they were constantly reminding their followers of the terrible place hell is and how they were bound to end up there if they did not do as they were instructed. It seems that the Catholics were not the only ones preaching in such harsh terms.
I have since decided that if God does exist, and he exists at “the Father,” which implies parenthood, then he necessarily takes on the accepted roles of parenthood. That leaves only the question of what are those roles? As a parent I know that I love my children unconditionally and without exception. I could not more disown them or forget about them than I could turn lead into gold. But we are presented with the God character who does both! How does that make sense? Many are presented with this “vengeful God.” Really? Why would any parent want vengeance on his own children? Again, it is illogical. The only aspect of such thinking I find at all plausible is the one that offers a God who punishes his children. That is something a parent would do. But even so, were any of my children to break my most important rules I would never have a punishment that permanently pushed them away from me. What kind of loving person does that?
Now that brings up the “loving and forgiving God.” If there is a God this is the only incarnation that makes any sense at all. We as parents do not reward bad behavior but we do not ever condemn our children to anything that is remotely hopeless. Why would we? Would that not make us bad parents? Would that not be setting a bad example?
I do strongly believe in Jesus and his teachings. Now that may sound as a bit of a contradiction but I can assure you, it is anything but. Jesus was a real person who did walk this earth. He set as good an example of how to live a good life as anyone who has ever lived. He instructed people to follow his example and his example was always above reproach. You can take his philosophies and apply them in the absence of a religious following and you still have excellent advice.
I think all people would do better if they looked at the Bible as a collection of semi-historical recollections and philosophies. If you look at the Bible that way then it becomes very easy to explain and accept most things that are in it. The authors of both old and new Testaments were never the writers of the same. Remember, in those days, scribes were used to take down the words of authors. Scribes, being human, made mistakes. And the authors, even in their most conscientious attempts to relate events and the words of the people in those events, had to rely upon their own recollection. Being human, they did not have perfect recollections particularly of events they did not witness. Most books of the Bible were written long after the events described had occurred. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the Bible, I am only saying that words are most often the author’s own interpretation of events or of the words of others.
I do believe that if you read any paragraph, particularly in the New Testament, you must ask yourself what the overriding sentiment of that paragraph, or series of paragraphs is. Then you need to ask yourself, could there be a second or third interpretation of the same words. If you are honest about it, you necessarily have to agree that there are indeed many possible interpretations and that what we as an individual think to be true is all right for us but we cannot, in good conscience, decide that ours is the best or only interpretation that is right.
It is my belief that the major religion in the world today, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are far to rigid in their beliefs of what this God is. As of today, none have proven to me that there is a God, much less what we should think of such a being. They do not make a compelling argument about this “all loving” being. I honestly believe that their descriptions of this God, if he were to materialize on Earth, could easily be brought up on charges of abuse and neglect. But I cannot see that such a God can actually exist. My God sounds a lot like Jesus. I think he could also, if I understand him properly, be Mohammad.
Finally, I believe that if there is a God, he has had nothing to do with any floods, lightning bolts, military victories or losses, temples being built or destroyed, people being punished on Earth or people being rewarded. My God, if you could ask him the question would respond, “Look, I got everything started. I love each of you equally and no one more than another. I have never interfered with anything you have done. To the contrary, I have been interested in seeing how well you all play together. How do you think you have been doing? Have you been taking good care of one another?”