Heads God wins, tails you lose

I heard a nice chat on the BBC World Service the other evening. Roger Heering was naturally very worried that the people of Haiti might have lost their ‘religious faith’ due to the recent unpleasantness, and he and a woman from a faithy charity group talked about it. ‘You might think this would undermine it,’ he said to her anxiously, but she was quick to reassure him. ‘It actually seems to have strengthened it,’ she said in a pleased tone. They hugged themselves in glee, and then Roger Heering turned to the sports.

But that’s interesting, isn’t it – having all the buildings fall down and tens of thousands of people die and tens of thousands more lying around screaming in agony is another point for God. Well if that’s the case, what would be a point against God then? What would God have to do to make everyone decide God was a shit? Not just letting children lie under a slab of concrete for hours and hours crying in pain and fear and misery and then die. So, what then? It’s frankly quite hard to think of anything. If that kind of thing goes in the credit column, it’s hard to think of anything that would be considered a demerit.

So what, you could say; what business is that of mine? But it is, because people don’t just think there is this God, they worship it. It’s not a matter of recognizing the existence and power of the local warlord or Mafia boss, it’s a matter of bowing down to someone taken to be superlative in all the good ways and none of the bad ones. Well if torturing people to death is something a god superlative in all the good ways does, then torturing people to death is apparently a good thing to do. So actually it does matter if a lot of people believe that perpetrating horrors is a reason to worship someone even more.

Of course there’s also the usual thing of calling it a ‘miracle’ when one person is rescued while the tens of thousands of people killed or mangled are just ‘whatever.’ It’s the same with that ridiculous ‘saint’ in Australia.

When Kathleen Evans arrives at the pearly gates, she will have a simple question for St Peter: ”Why me?” The 66-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 20, who identified herself yesterday as the recipient of the second miracle bestowed through the intercession of Mary MacKillop, has no idea why she was ”chosen” to be cured of cancer. She only knows that 17 years after a non-small carcinoma was found on her right lung, followed by secondary growths in her glands and brain, she is free of cancer.

And that she ‘prayed to’ a nun named Mary MacKillop, ‘and she wore a picture of Mother Mary with a small piece of cloth from the nun’s garments pinned to her nightie.’ That’s what she knows. And the nun gets the credit for this one disappearance of cancer, and nobody gets the blame for all the other cancers that don’t disappear. Credit for the good stuff, a free pass for the bad stuff – that’s ‘religious faith.’

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