I think it’s time for a rant. There’s something that pastors and other Christians tend to say that bugs me. It’s the idea that “this world is hurting and lost.” During my years as a Christian, I must have heard this countless times. If I had a nickel for every time I heard it, I’d be a millionaire, I’m sure. But why does this get repeated so often? When was the last time these people looked outside?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that there are a lot of hurting people out there. Bad things happen, and they cause pain. There are definitely a lot of sad and hurting people out there; I’m not trying to deny this. But on the whole, this is not my experience of things. Most of the people I meet seem to be happy, at the very least. Maybe they’re all faking it, but that seems a little unlikely. On the whole, people seem to take life in stride, and be fairly optimistic about things. And this is the case no matter whether someone is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, non-religious, or atheist. I’m part of an atheist, agnostic, and freethinkers club on campus, and the people I meet there certainly seem to be happy with life. We joke around, we have deep discussions, and we all have a great time about it. If life without God leads to pain, hurt, and sadness, then something’s not right here. Moreover, I’ve been in both camps. I’ve seen life “with God” and life “without God”. I know my evidence here is anecdotal, but as a rough estimate, I’d say that I’ve seen just as many hurting Christians as hurting non-Christians. I’d be willing to bet that if you did a big survey, the percentages would end up roughly equal.
In support of their statement, though, I’ve heard some Christians who will talk about people who drink excessively or do drugs in order to deal with their problems. Of course, it is an unfortunate reality that some people do these things, but seriously – pointing to alcoholics and drug addicts does not let you generalize that to the rest of the population. Are they trying to say that everyone without God is an alcoholic? That doesn’t seem to work. Maybe it’s just that everyone has that “hole in their heart” that people fill in different ways. Oh, please. Give me a break. That sounds like it actually means something, but when you really think about it, it’s just a meaningless cliche. Yes, okay, people have needs to fulfill, and they do fulfill those needs in different ways. But a hole in their heart? It doesn’t seem so. Christians who use this phrase like to say that it’s a “hole only God can fill”, as if that makes it clearer. But there are plenty of people who are living without God, and they are doing just fine. Yes, they still have needs to fulfill, and they do that using social interaction, achievement of meaningful goals, and loving and being loved. Those are the real needs that humans have. And yes, some people use God to fulfill those needs. Religion can provide all three of these. But that doesn’t mean that it’s the only answer. That’s just ridiculous posturing in order to make a specific set of beliefs more attractive. It’s the same as Coca-Cola trying to convince you that you “need” to buy their drink, and nothing else will quench your thirst like it can. In other words, there’s a “hole in your heart” that only Coca-Cola can fill.
I just get sick and tired of hearing that somehow life is completely meaningless and miserable without God – or more specifically, without the Christian God. I think that the evidence clearly goes against this statement. It’s not fair to take a small minority of people (the grieving, the depressed, the alcoholics, etc.) and try to generalize that to the rest. There are plenty of non-hurting non-Christians, and plenty of hurting Christians. So if God is supposed to stop you from hurting, why is that the case? The excuse for this is that God doesn’t stop you from hurting; he just helps you through the process. Well so what? Who cares? There are plenty of people who make it through the grief of losing a loved one, going bankrupt, or experiencing other forms of pain, and they may never even think about using God for help. You want to know what the best way to deal with grief is? Find a social support system to help you. It can be family, friends, a support group – it doesn’t matter who it is; it just matters that it is a person or group of people who will show you empathy and support, and help you through the process. Now if you find this support in God, fine. But don’t try to tell everyone else that their support systems won’t work, that somehow God is the only option. Not only are you not telling the truth, but you may actually be doing damage by convincing someone not to rely on the support of others and instead try to only use one source, a source that really just might not work out too well for them.
So here you go: people in general aren’t depressed and miserable, God doesn’t prevent hurt from happening, and he’s not the only option for support through hurt and grief. I think that sounds like a much more reasonable view of the way things are. People have a need for love and support, and those without that social support are much more likely to have a difficult time when things go wrong. But life goes up and down like a roller coaster. Giving up God is not like falling off a cliff. It’s the same roller coaster ride. So instead of insisting that your method is the one that everyone should use, why don’t you just find a friend and enjoy the ride?
Alright, rant over. I think that was therapeutic. I guess I just needed to write that down to deal with the grief of hearing bad cliches…