This is my open letter to God, who I don’t actually believe exists, but if I’m wrong and He (or She) does, then I think it’s time to prove it…
It’s January 8th, the day after 12 people were gunned down in cold blood in Paris. Nine of them were journalists, working for Charlie Hebdo, the satirical weekly magazine that never, ever shied away from poking fun at those who really didn’t like it. Two were police officers. One was a guest of the magazine.
Writers with far more intelligence than I will be churning out articles about yesterday’s events that will no doubt reach a much wider audience than this, but I’m still going to bash on regardless. You see, this morning I’m not just angry at the brainwashed fools who pulled the triggers. I’m angry at God. Actually, scratch that – I’m incandescent with rage at God.
I should make it clear I don’t have any sort of religious faith. I presume I was baptised but it certainly wasn’t a decision I was involved in. Sitting here, 40-odd years later, I’m an atheist with what I hope is a healthy sense of humour.
There will be some who will argue that I can’t be angry with something I don’t believe in, and they may well have a point. But for the purposes of this article, let me for a moment presume an all-seeing, all-knowing deity exists. Assuming that, I have a question for God, the subject of this open letter.
Where the fuck are you?
Seriously. For millions of people (irrespective of whichever religion they follow), your existence is a cold, hard fact. Unquestionable. But for millions of others the idea of there being a Supreme Being is a complete nonsense.
Humans have proved, almost since the very first of us scuttled across the planet, that we are a vicious race; suspicious of rivals and quick to resort to violence when threatened. Throw a dart at almost any point in human history and you will find bloodshed and brutality all over the world, from tribal wars in Dark Ages Britain to inter-tribal massacres in Africa.
It is a dark thread that has run throughout our history. A shameful one too, considering we never ever seem to learn from our mistakes. But another constant has been the unswerving belief that some higher being or other has been watching over us as we hacked each other to pieces.
How many men (and women) marched off to war, firmly knowing they had “God on their side”, equating that notion with the belief that they would be on the right – and therefore winning – side?
How many countries have been destroyed, legitimate governments toppled, lives shattered all in the name of God? How many more must suffer before this absentee landlord is either unmasked as a total fiction – or He (or She) actually reveals Himself (or Herself) to everyone?
It sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but imagine just for a moment that God turns out to be real. What would He (or She) say to all the nightmarish shit that has been carried out in His (or Her) name? Which side would He (or She) choose? Would those who toted the guns in His (or Her) name be as blessed as they believe, or would God look upon their acts with abhorrence?
It’s no surprise people have put their faith in God (in whatever form) for thousands of years. After all, it provides a safety net and a scapegoat all in one handy package. But what else have they received in return? Threats of Hell and damnation if they deviate from the rules laid down by men long since turned to dust, or promises of an eternity in Paradise if they kill unbelievers?
The Torah, the Bible and the Q’uran have long been a source of solace and comfort for millions, but again, and the vast majority of orthodox religions all have the same peaceful message: be good to yourselves and others. Turn away from violence and contemplate what effect your actions have on the world around you. If you live a good life, you’ll be rewarded. It’s simple, effective and tempting to sign up for.
Yet somewhere along the way, that message got twisted. Feverish believers seized the opportunity to tread on those who didn’t follow where they led, angrily pointed fingers at anyone who was different, who spoke out (oddly, as I write this, Jesus springs to mind) or stood out.
I’m not an extremist, neither were the men and women who worked at Charlie Hebdo. Nor, in all probability, are the millions around the globe who are targeted because they – according to the fanatics – deserve to die.
In among all of this fear and blood and horror and mess, wouldn’t any self-respecting God step in? Preserving a sense of mystery is all very well and good, but if His (or Her) pool of believers has started turning on themselves, rather than getting on with the business of worshipping, surely that’s got to provoke some sort of reaction from on high?
If God really does exist, how much more blood has to be spilled before He (or She) pokes His (or Her) head over the parapet and gives us the bollocking of our lives?
Sadly, I know my questions are unanswerable, which is ironically rather convenient for both sides of the religious debate. For the faithful, no proof of His (or Her) existence is required. For the unbelievers, no proof is going to be enough.
I stand by my personal belief that God does not exist and that we are the architects of our own destruction. Like squabbling toddlers, I think we have got an awful lot of growing up to do before we can consider ourselves a sophisticated species.
In the meantime, however, there’s always hope.
There’s the hope that the extremists around the world, from the far-right gun-lovers in the USA to the suicide bombers of the Middle-East, will be overcome. The hope that the madness that can come with religion can be washed away, the hope that the world’s leaders can step back from their bickering about money, realise we’re at a tipping point and no one is going to come to our rescue except us.
The hope that the better parts of humanity, the parts that allow us to create, to imagine, to bring out the best in ourselves and others, will be allowed to flourish in liberty.
And finally the hope that, at some point in the not-too distant future, all this will stop.