Mon | Sep 24, 2018

Michael Abrahams | Validating a ‘dangerous’ dude

Published:Monday | July 9, 2018 | 12:48 AM
Abrahams

About a year ago, I befriended a Christian lady on Facebook. Unfortunately, our interactions were short-lived. I recall her saying that Jesus is God and asking her to preface her declarations with “I believe that”, or “according to my religion”. But she refused, adamantly insisting that what I suggested was unnecessary, because Jesus was, in fact, God, and that was that.

She eventually unfriended me, but not before declaring that I was a “dangerous person”. I laughed it off at the time, because I do not consider myself to be even a ‘toops’ harmful.

However, recently, at least two Christians have written letters to the editor of The Gleaner in response to my column ‘Why the Bible is a dangerous book’, also claiming that I am dangerous. Both suggested that I did not know God, should humble myself, and they asked for God to forgive or have pity on me. One even made an ominous forecast, telling me “those who you influence to lose their way will have you to blame in the end with their blood on your shoulders”.

What these gentlemen and lady probably do not realise is that their utterances validate my concerns regarding the Bible and religion in general, not just Christianity. The issue they have with me is that I dared to question and doubt the veracity of their holy book, which, apparently, is a no-no. And this is exactly why the Bible and religion are dangerous. No book, religion, ideology, philosophy, or cultural practice should be above and beyond scrutiny or criticism.

The self-righteous attitude of my detractors, demonstrated by their claims that I did not know God, was par for the course among many persons of faith. Many claim that only they and fellow members of their church or denomination truly know God. But with thousands of belief systems on the planet, common sense and honesty would facilitate the realisation that the existing dogmas and doctrines differ significantly, and therefore cannot all be right.

Therefore, many who confidently posit that they know God and are following His directions are either deluded or being dishonest. For example, millions of Christians forbid the eating of pork and the wearing of jewelleryand tattoos, claiming these actions to be sinful and an affront to God, while there are millions of other Christians who claim that there is nothing wrong with doing these things. Unless God has a split personality, it stands to reason that there are millions of people misrepresenting Him and misinforming members of His flock.

People of faith need to be honest and humble enough to admit that no matter how devout they are, or how strong their faith is, their religion is guided by belief, not fact, and that belief can be wrong. With thousands of religions in existence, it is the epitome of arrogance to claim that yours is the correct one without even attempting to understand the beliefs of others. But this is how many Christians and other religious folk behave. For example, recently, a Christian I know remarked that Muslims worshipped the sun, and another said that Buddhists worship cows. I had to tell both that they were wrong.

And this is what makes religion a nuisance to many of us. Convincing yourself that your way is the only way stifles objectivity and critical thinking. Labelling people who question a belief system as being “dangerous” is tantamount to demagoguery. It incites people against those bold enough to think for themselves. In doing so, religion is often a hindrance to progress.

But progress contributes to the improvement of quality of life of our fellow human beings who inhabit the planet, and it is because of progress and critical thinking why some of you reading this right now are aliveand able to access information on the Internet. No society has ever progressed without people questioning and challenging social norms and religious dogmas, thinking outside the box and effecting paradigm shifts.

For those who consider me and my type to be dangerous, genuine truth-seeking spooks them out. Their thinking is confined to a box, and once others dare to venture outside their box, whistles are blown, and alarms sounded. Their arrogance and insecurity cause them to be hostile to anyone who questions their doctrines.

They fear being proven wrong, as the resulting cognitive dissonance would make their heads explode. So, as a pre-emptive strike, they cry foul and vilify those of us brazen enough to take them on.

Many Christians believe that their religion is under attack, failing to understand that the reason why their beloved religion has gained such a stranglehold on us has been through torture, intimidation, fearmongering, indoctrination, brainwashing, murder and genocide. Also, many who object to the Bible being questioned have never read the entire thing. For the record, I have.

We all have a right to believe what we want to believe. Like my Christian friends, I believe in the existence of a Creator, but am honest enough to admit that it is a belief and not a proven fact. And I am okay with that. It would be wonderful if persons of faith would admit that their beliefs are merely beliefs, too, and not use them to judge others and dictate how they should live their lives.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.