I read a lot when I was little. I think over 50% of the books I’ve read in my life were those I read before teenage. Our math teacher would find novels on my laps during math class, and my mum was always getting called to school because I was reading too many ‘Hardy Boys’ and not enough text books.
Last week, a friend told me that the bible is the best and deepest book they’ve read in their lives. I didn’t know what to say, I have never read the bible cover to cover, and while I know it’s holy to those who believe in it, I have new-found reservations about the application of religion that have me questioning EVERYTHING about what I grew up knowing as the absolute, unquestionable truth.
I once read a book called, ‘The Land God Made In Anger’, and it started with two men fighting on a South African beach, and it had too much sex and violence for a boy of eight. I’ve been thinking about that book a lot, and why the title has so many questions for me twenty years later. Why the shores of Africa were created by a seemingly angry God, a frustrated one. He, (She?) that filled these lands with beautiful rainforests, plenty of arable land and an intelligent, able-bodied population, with rare wildlife, with sunsets that appeared on magazines that sold millions of copies. The same lands he gave such beauty, he filled to the brim with poverty, disease, ignorance, blind loyalty to culture and backward practices and a leadership that was (is?) hell-bent on mortgaging off their country’s future for gated communities and cars with heated leather seats.
I don’t like to talk about religion, (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism), with most people because it’s from a “God/Allah created you, who are you to question him?” standpoint, and that is a slippery slope from a debate’s perspective. I grew up believing in a God that loved me, loved all of us, regardless of our differences. That black, white, poor, wealthy, sinner, saint, that he loved us equally. Until I got to an age where I asked myself why a God that loves us equally would allow disproportionate suffering to people that seemed to love and adhere to him the most. Black and Latino people who suffered under the yoke of brutal dictators, colonial periods that stripped societies of their dignities and installed regimes that set elaborate systems that ensured their wealth would be plundered, for an indefinite future.
That most of the poorest, most backward areas of this earth were places where there were more churches than schools, more churches than hospitals, where the clergy was wealthier than the congregation.
I think we were sold, and bought, a bootleg version of Christianity. Where societies judge adults who loved those they chose to more harshly than rapists, than predatory family members, than philandering and abusive spouses. Where the politicos’ excesses were put across as a test of faith, that stolen elections were excused under God choosing our leaders for us, that injustices were to be forgiven and that the challenges of cancer, illiteracy, ignorance, skewed allocation of resources, the denial of opportunities to uplift entire generations out of poverty were to be remedied with prayer and fasting and not long sentences and jail times.
One of the books I will read cover to cover next year is the Bible. I want to see what it says about God’s will, what he says about letting bad things happen to good people, what he says about applying his commandments for the good of those he loves. I want to be informed before I completely make up my mind about a God I feel has let down those his holy book says he loves most. Why those who break his commandments seem to do better than those who stick to them.
I feel that this model that most of us follow is superficial, and doesn’t see us make sacrifices to be true to ourselves. That we can religiously (pun intended) attend church, listen to sermons, contribute dutifully to church projects, and then drop that persona on Monday morning for a week of debauchery, unabated and unremorseful sinning, ethnic profiling, cheating, tax evasion, idolatry, fornication, adultery until the next Sunday morning.
There is a sizeable number of those who follow the laws of their religion for what it is, and I respect massively those who have a strong conviction in their faiths. Those who have studied their respective holy books and have a firm understanding of what their religion demands of them. Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to have a conviction as deep as they do, that I will no longer be of the opinion that this is the land God made in anger.