The notion that there is actually no God at all is fashionable at the moment. I can see why: people who actually care about peace in the world have grown quite tired of religious extremists fighting with each other over competing concepts of a Supreme Being. Too many innocent people are being hurt. You can’t crack a joke or draw a cartoon without looking over your shoulder. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we all stopped believing in things we can’t see and just got on with the real business of being nice to each other? Seems sensible doesn’t?
And so some very intelligent people, people who are actually trying to good for others, are suggesting that we simply rule out religion from schools, government, public life, industry, conversation, art, and things will get better.
They’ve taken the drastic step in North Korea of completely removing the word ‘God’ from the language. Korean dictionaries simply do not have the word. The idea is that if you remove the word, you also remove the concept from people’s minds.
Unfortunately, its been tried before in Soviet Russia. For 70 years. Bomb the churches; outlaw religion; and make propaganda that all believers suffer from poor mental health. Religion will dry up and disappear.
Only it didn’t. Religion went underground and became highly unfashionable. But the people continued to pray and believe. And when it was safe to come out in the open again, thousands flocked to the churches. It seems that belief in God is not a mere question of intellectual choice, a preference that can be influenced by a stronger, more logical argument. If that was the case then perhaps no-one would believe in God. Believing in something you can’t see or prove to someone else will always take some energetic defending.
But, like a thirst for water, or hunger for bread, the appetite for understanding an ultimate reality and the fascination with the possibility that our origins lie within that reality, and that a greater peace can be found there – these just seem to be an intrinsic part of human nature. Deny them and you deny a fundamental part of who we are.
Even if you think that humans are weak, but part of human evolution is that we all move toward a greater understanding of our weaknesses and learn to deal with them; and even if you think that mankind has reached that point when all childish beliefs have to be put away if they threaten our safe progress; still you would have some explaining to do.
You would have to explain why some of humans greatest achievements in many fields have been inspired or nurtured by the spiritual impulse. Remove religion from history and it all turns into a colourless, sterile, biological narrative.
All fashions come and go – even intellectual ones. When we see photographs of what we used to wear twenty years ago we laugh. So I also believe that in the future we will laugh at the Godless prophets of 2010 and their temporarily cool fashion sense.