Wed, 18 Jun 2008 | norman

Can you throw out the bath water, but keep the baby?

People look at the world around them, or ponder their own existence, and ask questions that have been asked for a very long time. How? And why?

Many answers to the How questions involve gods or a God. e.g. The world exists because God created it.

Deities provide more useful answers to the Why questions. e.g. Why do I exist? Because God is good, loving and righteous, and God created you in order for you to be good, loving and righteous too.

My beliefs differ.

I believe that the How questions are answered by the laws of the universe. e.g. The world exists because the laws of the universe resulted in it.

The Why questions are a little more involved. I believe that in order for our society to survive, and certainly to be worth living in, the majority of us needs to be good, loving and righteous. Furthermore, I believe that, for many people, a belief in God can help with this.

I also believe that these traits are important to instil as early as possible. They certainly don't always occur without dedicated parenting and care-giving. In fact our civilization is characterised by a pronounced lack of goodness, love, and righteousness. We really have been real bastards in the past. And a lot of us continue to be real bastards, sometimes without even realising the damage our actions are causing. People need to be shown how to behave from when they're born and throughout their lives. They need groups to help them achieve their goals. And they need groups to help them instil goodness, love and righteousness in their kids.

The best group to do this, more so than Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Live Aid, Bono, Oprah, Ronald MacDonald, Mickey Mouse or Barney the Dinosaur, seems to me to be the church.

Yes, the same "Bride Of Christ" has been responsible for the umpteen crusades, the Inquisition, and the support of the annihilation of the Aztec and Inca civilisations. They believe that although their beliefs are unprovable, they are the only true beliefs and that it is their duty at least to try to convert all who disagree. Their means of doing so have often been most un-Christlike. And it's not just the big things that, in my opinion, discredit them. They still teach kids the story of Noah as literally true: As if there had never been a rainbow before the Flood; as if it were physically possible to keep two of every single kind of insect on the Ark (including the ones only found in Hawaii), let alone every kind of animal, where the Ark must surely have been more like the TARDIS from Doctor Who than a boat. And yet they tell kids not to lie.

But who am I to point fingers? Siobhan believes in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. And to the great credit of Christians, they also teach people to care for the sick and the dying ... and they do this by caring for the sick and the dying! Nurses are called "Sister" because originally they were nuns. The church spread literacy across the world, and in doing so empowered the oppressed. They started Sunday School as a way to uplift the inescapably poor. And they are family-orientated, so the good things they do they teach others to do from a young age. In fact the most caring atheists I know come from devout Christian homes. Christians have done some horrific things, and they believe some ludicrous stuff. But many are good, loving and righteous, and you can tell not by what they say, but by what they do.

I want some help instilling those traits in my kids, because I am not the person I would like my kids to be. I could use some help being more like that person, and I'd like to teach them how to work as part of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, where "greater" refers to its ethics. If I could raise caring adults, and caring adults who believe what I believe would be a bonus but not a requirement, then I think I would have been a good father.

I wish there was an organisation, which would help me raise my kids, whose members try really hard to be the kind of person Jesus was -- a hero of the disenfranchised for whom no amount of self-sacrifice was too much -- without having to profess things that I don't believe.

Does anyone know of such an organisation? Does anyone want to start one? How about The Organisation for the Active Promotion of the Best Society From Every Age through the Application of Goodness, Love and Righteousness Without Believing Extremely Unlikely Stuff, or TOAPBeSFEAAGLaRWoBEUS for short?

I'm open to other ideas for the name.

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