There are times when I wish I had faith in something other than the persistence of life itself. I was raised in the Catholic faith and, as a small child, listened intently to all I was told by my mother and the nuns who taught our summer school. Some of it didn’t make sense. Some of the beliefs I was adjured to accept (God is good; God cares about humans more than other life forms, giving us dominion over them; God will save, rescue, support humans from evil, especially US citizens; that my soul was in serious jeopardy if I attended a service in a non-Catholic church) flew in the face of my experience. I clearly remember being excited when I was told that, as I prepared for my first communion, I had reached the age of reason. I took that to mean some of my more pressing questions – those surrounding the efficacy of prayer, the virgin birth, limbo and purgatory, who determined what was good or evil, who was eligible for heaven and hell – would be answered. I was sorely disappointed. The more I questioned, the more evasive the answers became until I decided for myself that most of what I was told was simply made up. Despite, or maybe because of, college classes in religious history, world history, world literature, and psychology, as well as exhaustive reading over the last six decades, that hypothesis still stands.
It is my belief, in this dichotomous world, that man falls prey to being divided in makeup, embodying some of both male and female, intelligence and blindness, good and evil. Morals? Up to us. Belief systems? Up to us. Determination of good and evil? Up to us. I no longer imagine a being that gives two fig leaves about what humans do. We are simply part of a system that continues both with us and in spite of us, an ever-changing system that places no more importance on human activity than it does on any other natural process. It is both a freeing and a frightening train of thought, but it places responsibility exactly where it belongs – on us.
That said, in the current world political situation, part of me longs to believe in a Jesus figure, a man so imbued with zeal that he still has an effect on mankind some 2000 years after his death. I want to cherry-pick Bible selections, make a super-hero of the man who in Matthew 21:12 overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove them off with admirable wrath and a whip. I would send him to the Mexican border and put him in charge. I’d pray him off to Syria, to Yemen, to Russia, to the White House with his cleansing ardor. And in the best of all possible worlds every mother who ever loved her child would follow with me behind him, afraid but strong, gathering the children, reuniting them with their families, holding the orphans, feeding the starving, comforting the bereaved. It’s man’s inhumanity to man that most influences my belief that it is us, we humans, who simultaneously hold the happiness and sorrow of the world in our hands, our minds, our hearts.