May your God go with you

by Rick Johansen

You learn something every day, don’t you? I know I do. Right now, my book of choice is The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs where the author lives his life for a whole year following the bible as literally as possible. Although I don’t do God as such I am trying to be as kind and respectful as I can be to those who do. Some of the nicest people I know are believers and I don’t want to annoy them by being horrible towards their God(s). Sometimes, it’s hard to take it all seriously, though.

I didn’t know, for example, that God was a wrestler. Not, I don’t think, in the Hulk Hogan/The Rock sense, but more Greco-Roman, taking part, as he did, in a match with Jacob. Although this did nothing to change my mind as to the likelihood of His existence, I thought it quite sweet in its little way. I think he may have won the match, too, but then you would expect him to, being God and all that.

We learn, if we didn’t know already, that God created Adam out of dust sometime in the last 6000 years – this strikes me as somewhat unlikely – and upon visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky we learn that dinosaurs lived alongside actual human beings when actual science has proved that actually they didn’t. Better still, there’s a full-size model of Noah’s Ark to tour. We are told in Genesis – the bit in the bible, not Peter Gabriel’s brilliant prog rock band of the 1970s – that Noah was nearly 600 years old when he built the Ark and was sometimes to be found drunk and naked with his sons. I am not sure the drunken nudity set a particularly good example to Noah’s boys, but I am sure they turned out right in the end.

The religious folk I know – and there are very few of them, to be fair – do not take the bible literally. This is probably just as well since the God of the Old Testament was the greatest mass murderer in history, a genocidal maniac, indeed. Strangely, the Creation Museum neglects to mention this bit. How odd.

Clearly, faith is important to many people. In the USA, which has to be one of the most religious places on earth, some 45% of the population believe in creationism, that God really did create everything. On that basis, He is also responsible for all those collapsing solar systems and galaxies and imploding planets. Indeed, God’s creationist skills are a little suspect given that over 99% of all species that have ever lived on earth are estimated to have died out. I guess people like to have something to cling on to.

Despite all my cynicism – did you notice it? – I am doing my best to be a little more kind and respectful to those who believe in someone who, to date, has passed me by. I know for many of you, the idea that there is nothing after we die is too ghastly to bear thinking about it, so having faith that somehow your spirit will survive your physical death can be comforting. This is why so many people, notably on social media, wish “happy heavenly birthday greetings” to the dead and when people die they will be “reunited” with those who have already died. “Together again.”

David Baddiel’s brilliant book The God Desire is an essential addition to the debate as to what happens after we die. Baddiel, an atheist (a Jewish atheist, to be specific) argues that he wishes there was a God because he is scared of dying. It keeps him awake at night. He wishes there was a God so that he could survive his own death and live forever, but the absence of any evidence to that end makes it impossible. I don’t want to die either but neither do I want to be constantly under surveillance by a supernatural invigilator, who doesn’t just know what I am doing, He knows what I am thinking, too.

But that’s just me, I am not you and you may well have faith. And if you do, who am I to tell you that you are wrong, that there’s no God, that there’s no heaven nor hell, that you will not live again once you have died? Indeed, I cannot prove there is no God any more than I can prove there are not fairies at the bottom of the garden. All I will say is that in my world both are equally unlikely.

The great comedian Dave Allen, who was a card-carrying atheist, always ended his TV show by saying “May your God go with you“. There was no disrespect intended, quite the opposite in fact. And like Dave Allen, just because I don’t believe in God means that you shouldn’t either.

In my world, everything doesn’t happen for a reason, we are here due to the unlikely accident of our birth and our sole reason for existing in the first place is to procreate. I still live by the old saying no one gets out of here alive, but if believing that somehow you will makes life more bearable, that’s just fine and dandy. And yes: may your God go with you.

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