Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Second Coming

Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wished he was certain of.

- Mark Twain

I'll admit that it's not exactly two thousand years, but sixteen months is a long time to leave a blog stewing. You know how it is - you put dinner on, settle down in front of the TV for five minutes... Three and a half hours and a Babylon 5 marathon later, smoke's billowing from the oven and the alarm's shrill wail is waking the neighbours.

All the flavour should have gone out of the meal by now. And yet... it's still here - and there're fresh ingredients in the pot, no less. I have to say I'm a little dismayed by the poor showing, though - the internet is not what I thought it was. Sixteen months? The entire blog should be buried in spam by now, but all I got was two offers of porn, a casino deal and a slightly confused US Ranger. Clearly my cult status is sadly lacking.

So perhaps a second coming is required. I'm told Jesus is running late, and the crowd are getting impatient. He hasn't even done a sound check yet! So now's my chance. A young, unsigned talent, waiting for his big chance to explode onto the faith scene...

No, I know my limits. The idea of being bottled off stage by hardcore fans of the sandal-man himself doesn't appeal, so I'll keep my god complex to myself and make do with a return performance in this blog. Rambling and eccentric as my writings are, perhaps in another two thousand years a scavenger picking over the ruins of Earth might come across them and draw some sort of spiritual enlightenment from them. Perhaps he might spread the word? Add a few gospels of his own? Pass the writings down the ages, with each generation mangling them further...? This is all veering a little too close to a Chris de Burgh lyric, so I'll abandon that train of thought before it derails.

Nonetheless, faith can spring from all sorts of places. If the bizarre fantasies of a second-rate science fiction writer can inspire a bunch of high-profile believers, perhaps there's hope for me yet. Now I think about it, though, your very own religion seems to come with an unpleasantly heavy set of responsibilities, and I can't even cope with paying the phone bill. Think of all the things done in the name of god (any god), and it'll set you weeping. Crucifixion, crusades and intolerance, and that's without the fire-and-brimstone half of the Bible. Don't even get me started on televangelism - there's a wealth of hypocrisy commited in the name of God right there.

Jesus isn't the only one, though. I'm sure even L. Ron Hubbard's looking down from the great Spaceship-Beyond-The-Veil to which all SF writers go, and wishing he could manifest a leg with which to give Tom Cruise such a kicking. In Hubbard's name, most likely a few hundred people in need of mental help will go off their meds. Tom Cruise told them Psychologists are evil, and he's a movie star. He must know what he's talking about!

Count me out, thanks. I've no particular desire to take the blame for future crimes, be they murder, genocide or simple religious idiocy. You see, that's what I dislike the most. With religion comes absolution, the idea that the buck can be passed to an entity that may or may not exist, and that I just can't accept.

I'm reminded of a story, most likely apocryphal, told of the German military towards the end of World War Two. Hitler had been on the receiving end of a couple of assassination attempts, and as a result the general order was passed that any officer suspected of plotting against him could be immediately executed, without trial, by whoever suspected them. A rather extreme precaution, and one open to the most horrendous abuse. Schütze Freidrich's Oberleutnant yells at him for having a quick smoke behind the barracks? Big mistake. What's to stop Freidrich, upset at losing his roll-up, yelling "You betrayed the Führer!" and putting a bullet in his commander?

Nobody has the right to unconditional absolution. Each and every creature on the Earth must take responsibility for their own actions. Anything else, it seems to me, is simple cowardice.