The Gift of Faith
I'm often asked by sinful agnostics: "What's so good about your stupid religion anyway?"
And while I agree that people who ask such questions should burn forever in hellish torment, I also think it's a question that people of the Church should be able to answer in some detail and with great gusto.
To assist any who might want help, I've listed below a few examples of where the gift of faith can be beneficial.
Some people are quite dangerous. In most cases the reason for this is that they aren't aware of just how dangerous they actually are. These dangerous people are often under the impression that they are 'not such a bad bloke' and just have 'a bit of a temper', whereas in reality they are unstable individuals who are unable to control themselves to the degree we expect from our fellow human beings. These individuals would be perfectly suited to life in a pack of baboons - where hierarchy is built on constant aggression - but fail miserably at coping with the more complex demands of social cohesion in an advanced human civilisation.
But here, in the unthinking land of the baboon, religion can help. Indeed the general lack of critical analysis found amongst these creatures is a positive boon when it comes to laying the foundations of faith. Premises must be accepted after all, and a neglected mind is far better at believing what it is told without question than one which has been kept in regular use. Which is handy when you come to think about it, considering some of things we are going to ask these people to believe are really quite ridiculous.
Similar to football, the Bible is a book of two halves; the Old Testament being jam packed with God's brutality and wrath, and the New Testament a more subtle medium of thought control through fear. For the Baboon the Old Testament is where we start. Firstly the Baboon must be assured that they are one of God's chosen. People like to think they're special, so this always goes down well. Once the baboon has grasped the idea that's they're on God's side, we should point out how God thinks those who are not His chosen should be treated. Exodus and Leviticus are powerful sources here. The ideas of being intolerant, mob rule, and having divine backup will all appeal to any baboon.
Once the baboon's trust is established it shouldn't be hard to slowly wean them onto the New Testament. Most baboons are short on people who love them, although they would rather break someone's face than ever admit it. The enticing idea that there is actually someone who will always love them however much they punch their wife will dig itself slowly further and further into their head, until they come to cling to it with white knuckles.
Of course the baboon will still be as dangerous as they ever were, but we have actually improved things with religion here. You see, now that the baboon is one of the faithful it is unlikely that anyone will want to talk to them for fear of being bored to tears, thus reducing the baboon's social interaction with the rest of humanity. The less time a baboon spends interacting with people, the less likely they are to damage them; their window of opportunity is greatly reduced. Simple logical stuff. There can be no debate - religion can be beneficial when used on the dangerous.
We should be aware however, that religion can also turn mild mannered folk into dangerous nutters howling for blood. It is important to understand this unsettling fact, in order to be able to avoid ever talking about it - it makes God look bad you see, and we can't have that!
Many people are very lonely, and while God cares about this deeply it would appear that He can't be bothered to do anything about it, so it's up to us to see if we can help. Unlike the LORD we don't have special supernatural powers with which we could create people magic best friends to enrich their lives; our efforts must be more practical.
We could always try making these lonely folk 'pretend friends' from old clothes stuffed with straw, and draw a smiley face on a paper bag to use as a head - but these crude representations of people seldom lend themselves well to forming a long lasting healthy relationship with a living human being, and can attract mice.
It is much more effective to use the lonely person's own brain to sort their problem out. Think back to when you were a child - did you ever have an imaginary friend? I had one called Horace, who used to play with matches and smash our neighbours' windows - my he was a card! Anyway I digress, the point is that with an imaginary friend a person is never lonely, and this is a technique that religion can employ to help those who are desperate for a little companionship.
You see, God is the ultimate imaginary friend! He never actually does anything after all, and you most certainly never see Him or hear Him do you? That's right; He might as well be imaginary for all the good He does! He won't stop your pets getting killed by speeding cars or bolts of lightning from blasting your head clean off! When was the last time He stopped a war, or famine or rescued everyone from a plane crash? Let's be honest, He really is worse than useless when you get down to it.
But for the purposes of an imaginary friend for the lonely, God is perfect. So here again religion can be useful. They can read all about their new friend in the Bible, although they might need some guidance on some of that stuff about how women are unclean at certain stages in their menstrual cycles and homosexuals deserve to be murdered. I always tell them that God loves us all but gets cross sometimes. I mean no one’s perfect, are they?
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
That's Mark 10:25, and like the rest of the Bible it's not meant to be taken literally, at least not when it doesn't suit us! Oh yes there's a great deal of skill involved in sorting the parts of the Good Book that should be taken literally from those that should be shrugged off as one of God's little jokes, or a passage He inspired on one of His off days. It's worth noting though, that even on an off day, God can still make fish swim upside down and spin the world backwards - should the fancy take Him.
Why, if God wanted to He could turn all the birds into gold and make lamp posts leak sweets! He could create socks made from mustard and balance an ostrich on an emu. Pray with me now my children:
"He's bigger than me, and He's bigger than you,
He's bigger than me standing on top of you too,
He's lovely as a house filled with jam and ice cream,
And even when He's burning you He's not being Mean!
Oh LORDY! Oh LORDY! You can't keep the Good LORD DOWN!
Singing Oh LORDY! Oh LORDY! You can't keep the Good LORD DOWN!
Now the rich can be greatly helped by religion, or should that be that religion can be greatly helped by the rich? Yes I think that makes a lot more sense. Churches cost a lot of money to build you know, and God does like a nice Church! The running costs can be considerable too, so please don't be shy with the cash when the collection bucket comes your way during service. I hope I don't need to mention those everlasting burning fires of dreadful Hell again do I?
Yes God loves the rich - and even if He didn't, I think you might find that slipping Him a few notes in a handshake would do wonders for His mood. There's an old saying amongst the angels: "God likes a Bribe." And that's true that is.
So there we have it, quite enough well reasoned argumentation about how religion can be beneficial. Enough to win any debate I should think. However, if you find the agnostic still manages to come across sounding more sensible, comfort yourself in the heart-warming knowledge that they won’t sound so bloody clever when they're on fire - the bastards.