—From CB—

In a Kurt Vonnegut novel I just read, there’s something called Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. It’s not a very nice church, but it’s founded on a principle I find myself in agreement with, this: the universe, as far as we can know it, is a unity. Its commandments are things like the Law of Gravity, thermodynamics, relativity, all that. No reason not to call that “God,” unless giving it a name implies the presence of an educated, infinitely powerful, confused something-like-a-human-being.

I have no quarrel with religion, though I know friends who’ve felt its bite. The crimes usually charged—war, totalitarian persecution, shame, etc.—would have likely come about for reasons more tangible than “the will of God.” There are incessant Facebook posts on the absurdity of the stories, but for me the absurdity comes only if you adopt the fundamentalist belief in their historical accuracy rather than the symbolism permeating any myth. Like any myth, you’re free to read in the meaning.

Of course, the adherents at least of the Abrahamic religions seem to see them applying to all humankind.

Growing up, perhaps what had the greatest impact on me was the Book of Job. As I read it, all attempts to explain reality—in this case, absolute disaster—are absurd. The whirlwind itself rules all: it takes away and it gives. And of course we try to make sense of it. All systems of belief—philosophical, scientific, religious—are attempts to understand what’s hidden under the rock in the desert under heavy bombardment—a human task as noble and inevitable as it is absurd.

For me, the value of a religion is solely its effect on the individual adherent and those directly in his path. It’s like a machine at the gym: if it keeps you in shape, it’s good for you; if it only gives you a bulgy butt or cracks your joints, you’d best lay off. And what works for one may cripple another.

I’m not immune to thinking something comic, as witness my lifelong writing of comedy. Yet for me the folks who slip on the banana peel are less absurd than the guy who thanks God for saving him when the other 300 passengers fall to their fiery deaths. Gratitude is good, but I doubt that Yahweh or Krishna or Dionysus or Spider Woman was directly responsible for saving his sorry ass. Call it dumb luck.

For me, I’ve never felt the presence of an afterlife. No question I don’t appreciate having to die, but an afterlife—for me, again, again—is one of those things you dream, the way my cats dream of catnip or getting squashed. When I’m dead I’ll likely be dead, despite whatever songs I sing.

That’s me. I’ve known many, many people—Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Moslem, Neopagan, Quaker, Unitarian, Secularist, and even actors—who have their own takes on what they believe and are decent human beings. Like all of us, they sometimes slip on banana peels; there may even be peels in Heaven.

Though of course you always think: suppose there IS an afterlife. Countless people have believed it; and I can’t say there isn’t, of course. I can only say I’ll try to live this one as best I can. It’s likely to be as in watching a movie you saw fifty years ago: you recall this scene, or something like it, but you can’t remotely follow the plot. It must be by Nicholas Roeg.



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