I woke up this morning thinking about the Bible. People ask why I don’t sleep well. The bags under my eyes? it’s because my brain is trying to kill me so it can slip off and find a new host, one that will feed it beer more often, expanding waistline be damned.
Anyway. The Bible. More specifically, it’s publishing/marketing department, i.e. organized religion, hereafter referred to simply as The Church, because I like to pretend it’s the 15th century sometimes and there aren’t 8000 churches, most of them occupying dilapidated storefronts, as if spiritual enlightenment were something you could find as easily as orange juice.
Every other year or so, the media retreads a story about some godly scientist who has just discovered the Religion Gene or the God Chromosome for the umpteenth time, and so now we have proof that humans have an innate need for religion and therefore, God exists, so take that, all you smug atheist bastards. My thought, as I staggered out of bed and wandered naked towards the toilet was that, as per anything having to do with religion or the numinous, unquantifiable experiences we humans have as a byproduct of our giant buzzing brains, is that this argument has it backwards.
It’s not religion that people like, it’s the Bible, specifically the emotionally gratifying (if completely effed-up) story it tells. The Bible tells the so-called greatest story EVAR!!1!1!eleven!111! A debatable point we can arguer at length later. Of course, the only reason the Bible is considered the Greatest Story EVAR told is because for about 1000 years, the Church, that publishing house in charge of marketing this First Among Bestsellers, went to great lengths to ensure it had no competition. Imagine Stephen King’s publisher setting fire to Dan Brown using copies of The Davinci Code as fire starters. The warm flames, the screams of panic and desperation as that fat-headed cretin is eaten alive by a ravenous flame beast fed on his own drivel…
The Church cornered the market on storytelling for a large chunk of written history, and quite a bit before that, since most stories that survived antiquity were framed up with the same basic structure of fall and redemption. because hay, it’s a tidy little arc and makes sense, right? At least, emotional sense.
Humans don’t have a religion gene, we have a narrative gene. It evolved a million years ago, when we were still living in the savanna, and needed to make sense of the world around us. Back then, the world could kill you. You needed to stay one step ahead of the other animals and over time, we started to notice patterns, the shape of shadows in the tall grass, the faces of predators, the way they hunted and moved and left for seasons but always came back. That flocks of birds could swerve on a turn, like one mind guided them. Today we are still hunters and gathers, trying to find meaning and arrange it into a story, because a story is easy way to remember the important stuff, arrange facts and dreams and wishes. Story creates a structure so that we can make a laughable attempt at understanding the vast and complex world around us. Stories allow us to imagine the happy endings that reality always, always withholds.
That’s a pretty solid thesis, right? Too bad it’s bollocks. I made it up, as a way to try and understand why the gibbering half-apes I share the planet with think that a three thousand year old book of shepherd poetry is all the excuse they need to hate gay people and treat women like shit. That an anthology of fairy tales whitewashed by editors with an agenda can be used as the first last and only reason why a gang of perverts can rain fire down on foreigners and rape children to satisfy their darkest desires.
Because the alternative is that there is no reason. That the world is vast, unsympathetic and full of animals who will kill you soon as look at you, and some of them wear neckties and comb their hair. I need some way to understand this tragic sitcom we call life and since there’s no other option, I have to come up with my own explanation. That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.