Saturday, 1 October 2016

Religion is normal

In casual conversation or when I'm out and about, I always hear people calling on God. 'Oh God!', they say, even over trivial matters. To make it more personal, they say 'my God!' Really, they do. Happens all the time. Exclamations of 'Jesus!' are also ubiquitous. With 'Jesus', the extra emphasis is achieved by adding his title, 'Christ' (Greek Christ = Hebrew Messiah = 'anointed one'). So, isn't it comforting that people are constantly paying tribute to the Judeo-Christian bedrock of Western civilisation by aknowledging the divine scheme of things and their place in it? No, just kidding. Of course that's not what they're doing. They're using the names 'God' and 'Jesus' as verbal filler. They do so, ironically, because they think these names are empty. Bet they wouldn't like their own names to be used like that. They'd get very angry very quickly if they kept hearing their name called, and kept responding with an attentive attitude of 'Yes?', and yet every single time it was a prank because the person calling on them not only ignored their gracious response but denied their very existence. We wouldn't tolerate it, so how does He? Truly, God's patience is unfathomable. But as Pascal said somewhere, more or less: we humans creatures have a God-shaped space at the core of our being that only God himself can fill. And it seems like our language cannot do without God either. We have devalued any formal talk of God to the point of ridicule, yet we still can't keep mentioning him, even if it's a debased, ejaculatory way. Likewise, society itself cannot do without God. This we see in the increasingly sinister focus on jugding, and indeed trying to criminalise, thoughts and conscience generally. In a sensible society, behaviour belongs to the realm of law, while the inner life is the realm of religion. Obviously inner life and behaviour are related but law can only deal with what is manifested as behaviour. The current trend of intolerance towards freedom of speech, association, etc is the direct result of aggressive secularisation. It is the invasion of law into the gaping hole left by the banishing of God from civic discourse. Religion is the normal mode of humanity. Trying to eliminate it from society is what allows law to grow into a monstrous version of religion.