By James A. Haught
One of my friends is a devout churchgoer who tries to reform my heathen ways. He sent me an e-mail saying:
“God is love – period. He offers us eternal life through his son Jesus Christ who represented God and his love for mankind while he was on Earth. Jesus was crucified, died, buried and rose from death to eternal life by the eternal power of God. Jesus represents all of mankind to God, Jesus’s father and our father. We are one in Christ and Christ is one with the father. Because of this new relationship or new covenant with God, we will experience eternal life with Jesus and God our heavenly father. We will live with eternal bodies in a heavenly realm outside of time…. We know it happens at the point of our deaths, giving all of mankind eternal hope that our physical lives will not be lived in vain, without meaning and purpose.”
Those rapturous words bear strong meaning for my friend, giving him a focus for his life. But I ask myself: Does he never consider that it may be just a fantasy concocted out of words, with no actual reality?
I think churches and theologians build make-believe imagery, with no tangible evidence to support it. It’s merely a house of cards consisting of rhapsodic words, but no substance. They make a word picture of “eternal bodies in a heavenly realm outside of time,” but the realm itself isn’t real.
Actually, the “God is love” label doesn’t fit the Old Testament monster who killed multitudes of Egyptian children at Passover and drowned nearly everyone in Noah’s flood. And it doesn’t fit the divine creator who designed everything including cancer, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Nor the creator who designed tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes – and crafted hawks to kill rabbits or cobras to kill children. What sort of loving creator is this?
Stop and think: Thousands of different religions have existed – from Aztecs sacrificing people to an invisible feathered serpent to Hindus praying over models of Shiva’s penis, from Jehovah’s Witnesses awaiting the Battle of Armageddon to Mormons who think an angel showed golden plates to a convicted swindler – and each faith can be considered a mere fantasy made from words.
It’s easy to invent word fantasies. A bizarre example is the QAnon hoax involving hundreds of thousands of Americans. Here’s the tale:
Back in 2016, a far-right crackpot identified as “Q” spread a phony Internet report that Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats, along with Hollywood liberals and Jewish left-wingers, operated a secret child sex ring. The report spread to many “fake news” websites, being posted and reposted by thousands. Versions said the evil conspirators served Satan and the New World Order.
One report said the child-traffickers met at a Washington pizzeria called Comet Ping Pong. A gullible North Carolina believer, Edgar Welch, drove to Washington with an assault rifle and fired shots inside the restaurant. He said he had come to save the kidnapped kids. He drew four years in prison, and admitted he had been “foolish and reckless.”
The QAnon fantasy has spread wildly on many websites. Different hosts ban it, but it leaps to other sites. President Trump has made more than 200 “tweets” that seem to abet the hoax. Yet intelligent Americans realize it’s just a fantasy concocted of untrue words.
Supernatural religion is vanishing among educated western people. Someday, maybe, those who believe in eternal bodies in a heavenly realm outside of time will be only an odd fringe, like those who believe the QAnon malarkey.
(Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He has written 12 books and 150 magazine essays. As a blogger at a dozen websites, he has 1,200 essays online.)