For a long time I struggled with religion, having been for the most part unwillingly raised a Roman Catholic. I was barely ten by the time I spotted the inconsistencies and absurdities that belie any and every religion. Ironically it was the zealous teachings and protestations of the Marist Brothers about how and why other religions were wrong that started my own journey to enlightenment.
For a while I tried hedging my bets but it became increasingly plain to me that all religions are man-made and fashioned in such a way as to preserve a certain cultural and social status quo. Man has created God in his own image. The fact that He hates and likes the very same things you do is proof of this.
When I realised I could not accept the dogma that went with being Catholic and when I became old and brave enough to openly admit my apostasy, I decided to call myself a Christian atheist. Who could argue with the philosophy behind “love thy neighbour’ and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Yet this seemed to confuse or annoy people. They could not see how I could combine the terms “Christian” and atheist” in one sentence. Why not? After all, one could call oneself a Marxist or a Darwinian without feeling a need to deify the author of the philosophy in question.
For a while I was a Freemason, and at the time I rationalised their requirement that I believe in a supreme being by telling myself that the Greater Good of Mankind, or its personification, was a form of supreme being in which I could believe or at least to which I could in good conscience give lip service. Eventually though, I became a lapsed or non-practising Freemason. Apparently, it is said once a Freemason, always a Freemason. I can live with that. I still admire their philosophy and the work they do. As I do the Quakers.
My studies and musings eventually led me to believe that most people (and perhaps all?) need something to believe in if only to get some meaning out of life and to help them cope with its vicissitudes. In this sense, perhaps, God is a necessary personification of natural phenomena that govern the random and arbitrary events of the universe. In the best sense God would be an ideal to which we all could aspire. The sad fact is that far too many humans with personal agendas, character flaws, prejudices and other mental baggage have shaped this potential ideal in their own image.
So it may come as a surprise to some that I have been Ordained. Call me Reverend. Really. I am now officially a Pastor. Please believe me when I tell you that I take this quite as seriously as religion should be taken. I have a certificate of ordination and a letter of good standing which in any civilised country would entitle me to apply for legal recognition to perform the duties of a minister of religion.
I have found a Deity (or Imaginary Friend if you will) in whom I can believe. In whom I choose to believe.
I choose to believe in my Deity because his Gospel makes sense of the universe as it really is. I support the Church founded in His name because it is based on principles in which I can place complete and utter faith. The admonishments of the founder are more rational than the Ten Commandments and quite definitely encapsulate those wise words of Jesus that I quoted above. In order to become ordained one has to grapple with and come to understand the great Mysteries of his Gospel. There is no examination to pass and no thesis to write. The achievement is one of self realisation. Those who have achieved this enlightenment need only know it within themselves. They then inform the founder of the Church, who will ordain them, receiving a modest fee to cover the associated expenses of printing and delivering a certificate of ordination. Do not even consider suggesting that this is in any way less valid than how any other minister is ordained.
You may choose to mock my beliefs, which is fair enough, as I may certainly choose to mock any or all of yours. However I should like to point out that no one has ever been stoned, raped, murdered, tortured, subjected to inquisition, ethnically cleansed, or burnt alive, crucified, denied their freedom or medical treatment, or the right to love whomever they choose, in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The worst treatment you can expect from a Pastafarian is a joke at your expense.
My Deity has a greater sense of humour than Uranus, more logic than Xenu, more compassion than Yahweh, more arms than Kali, bigger balls than Thor and is tastier and more nourishing than the Eucharist. Above all being his follower does no harm, brings one some good friends, and as well as providing all the answers to the great Mysteries of life, is a great deal of fun. I carry no burden of sin nor any obligations of worship, other than to be the best and most decent, compassionate human being I can be. That surely is all any rational god should expect?
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