Monday, April 18, 2005

Irreverence

The weekend seemed to have passed by pretty quickly for me. Saturday was mostly spent at home studying, as my exam is about a month away. I managed to get some revision done, so it was not too bad.

Before I continue, I would like to make a disclaimer. The following are my views and is not intended to offend anyone, especially the Christians. You are welcome to continue reading or to leave the page right now.

On Sunday, I had agreed to go for an activity, which involved some sort of contribution to society. My colleague told us that we were supposed to go out to the streets and distribute food to the homeless, poor, vagrants, addicts, etc. The place is located in Old Town; it’s a yellow house on a corner lot. They called themselves Street Ministry, whereby the purpose is to reached out to the people on the streets and show them God’s love; to bring them the message of Jesus and that they are still cared for and not neglected. The place is run by someone named Steve. As I found out later, he himself was a former drug addict and had been in and out of prison a number of times, till he found God’s love and that changed his life.

As you would have known by now, I am not a Christian. I have nothing against the religion, but it’s just the way the followers are doing their bidding, or as they call it “God’s work”. When I arrived there with my colleague, one of the first things I was asked was, am I a Christian? Fine, perhaps Steve wanted to know which church I attended. By the way, this Street Ministry is, in a way, under the auspices of Damansara Utama Methodist Church. I don’t think I was overly sensitive, but I was put off by his strong Christian message about Jesus’s love. While he was explaining about the things they do, I kept feeling that he was directly addressing me and trying somehow to convert me.

I agree to a certain extent that these people are doing a good job and helping our fellow men and women. But why is it always done in the name of God? Before we started to pack the foods to be distributed, they said a prayer. Before we went out to distribute, they said another prayer. Both times, it was to bless the food and the hands that received the food. Can’t we be doing this out of compassion for fellow humankind? Why must it that this act is to show God’s love instead, and not our love?

Everything, every act, every result, that is good is attributed to God, and so is everything bad. How is God helping anyway? By paying the food, building the house or recruiting more people to help? When something proceeded smoothly, why it that God is given thanks and not because of proper planning? When do humans ever take accountability? If that is the case, are we not responsible for what we do? Then for what purpose is the concept of heaven and hell, where humans are rewarded or punished for what they did, since we are not responsible?

The people on the streets are there because of a multitude of reasons, all of which are human causes. Poverty, lack of education, lack of strong morals, abandonment by family members, etc. God did not cause all these. I quote from Epicurus, a Greek philosopher

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?


Furthermore, Steve also tries to spread the message of Jesus. I supposed he was saved, and he wanted to share the good news about his saviour. The intention may be good (and I have come across many who try to spread the word of Christ at whatever opportunity that they have), and they are following what is said in the Bible, which is to spread the Gospels.

However, I feel this kind of thinking breeds narrow-mindedness, whereby they feel that they are right and all other beliefs are inferior. Because they truly believe that the Bible is the word of God, they don’t seem to respect diversity in beliefs, thinking that God must be on their side, sometimes verging on fanaticism. I remember reading somewhere, supposedly said in jest by some aborigines, “Initially, they had the Book and we had the land. Now, we have the Book and they have the land.”

My belief is to love others and do what is right, to make the things around me better. To quote Thomas Paine, “I believe that religion consists not in believing or disbelieving, but in doing justice, loving mercy and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy”. You might then ask, how do I know what is right? Any one would know what is right or wrong, if he has grown up with proper guidance from parents, attended school and basically has interacted with fellow human beings.

I don’t have to be a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist to do good and help others. I am doing it for the sake of doing, to help my fellow humankind. Why? Because in the short time we spend on this Earth, to quote Einstein, “everything we do and think is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain”. Everyone will die one day, so why not make my life, and the lives of people around me, better in any way that I can. I don’t expect to get anything in return, but the satisfaction of having done something good. The feeling of helping others, especially if I have been there myself, is truly invigorating. I suppose this is what others go through, cancer survivors or people with AIDS, the need to share their stories and to help others who are suffering.

No doubt Christianity and other organised religion have done good and improved society’s welfare. But to think that Christianity is the only way or to do something to show that God really cares, with the intention of converting others, I don’t think that it should be done that way.

There has to be respect for other people’s beliefs and disbeliefs.

1 comment:

Scorpius1014 said...

Have you read my posts on sgboyx where I am trying address the issues you identified? I am not in disagreement with what you say. There are some truths in what you said. I will try to address them one day. For the moment I wrote a couple of things all over the place. You can start with the webpage link behind my sgboy id. Would appreciate your comments to what I wrote too.

PS: How you and Sam coming along? Maybe you ask Sam to read what I wrote and ask for his views, which I am also interested to know.