As a typical newspaper is full of doom and gloom, the point of my column — and perhaps I should have explained this earlier — is to attempt to lighten the general despair with fun and laughter, even on serious subjects.
Just last week, I wrote a stimulus-package column that provided laffs galore for those headed to the poorhouse. For some reason it didn’t go over very well.
Today’s topic is even more perilous and challenging: The existence (or not) of God. Ironically, this discussion is prompted by the 200th birthday Thursday of Charles Darwin, who, although not here to blow out his candles, still causes unholy heck for a minority of Christians who should have evolved by now into a people more sophisticated but no less faithful.
Of course, the existence of God is the fundamental question of life and, more to the point, of death. After all, eternity is such a long time that it is difficult to imagine it other than an interminable span resembling something between a public television station fund drive and a speech by Jimmy Carter.
While I write as a believer in the Christian tradition, I am not here to pretend I am holier than thou, having been the popular choice for Sinner of the Month at my church on several occasions.
Nor am I here to proselytize, although when I am an usher on Sunday I could get you a good seat and just a nod from me will make the guy with the offertory basket give you a discreet pass if you happen to be short of cash.
But the greater question is not which religion has the official way to heaven — all the major faiths claim a monopoly — but whether belief in a divine power makes sense. I argue that it does while freely admitting signs to the contrary.
I’m afraid that among signs to the contrary are members of the faithful themselves in their various disputatious religions and sects, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, you name it.
One might suppose that an all-knowing Almighty might have set up a less fractious community to believe in him but perhaps heaven is like the Chautauqua Institution — a wholesome and lovely place much in need of some bracing disorder to look upon with interest and prompt some celestial water cooler talk among the angels.
The cause of faith has also been ill-served by the religious strife that has been the norm throughout history, I love my neighbor more than you do, no you don’t, yes I do, bonk, take that you heathen swine. When I consider the hatred of gays that consumes some allegedly religious people in these American latter days, I have a big-hat-no-cattle sort of reaction — plenty of Christianity, not much Christian charity.
A nonbeliever might easily get the feeling that being in some religions is a bit like belonging to a country club where a member can feel superior to nonmembers without paying too much attention to the bylaws.
There’s also the question of incentive. Do we really want to be in heaven with some of those evangelists on radio and television, the ones who seem more intent on saving our wallets for themselves before they save our souls? As for me, I want a heaven with cold beer and slobbering dogs and no angels wearing sensible shoes. I want a heaven where the Pittsburgh Pirates win regularly — OK, that’s probably asking too much in the way of miracles.
I can only assume paradise is a good place. What else can I do? It seems sensible to leave everything up to him, including everything we don’t understand — and that includes the science offered by Darwin and others as it seems to contradict the Bible, although perhaps it doesn’t, looking as we do through a glass darkly.
This I think I understand: The logic of the heart is different from the logic of the head; while the existence of God can’t be proved scientifically, it can’t be disproved either.
Searching souls do find the essence of goodness in myriad places: sometimes in church, sometimes under the star-fretted cathedral of the sky, sometimes in solitude, sometimes in the laughter of a child.
Yes, every week I attempt to lighten the general despair with fun and laughter. But there are no jokes enough for that task if there is no God. He must exist. Consider this: Charles Darwin, explainer of the mechanism of God’s creation, is buried in Westminster Abbey, surely a divinely approved irony.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com. For more stories visit scrippsnews.com)