Friday, April 08, 2005

Consummation devoutly to be wished?

The other day I was walking along the street, looking at the omnipresent images of John Paul II and watching the people’s long faces when I was struck by a thought. Let me put it this way. Imagine you have a beloved uncle whom you haven’t seen in ages but kept on seeing on television. He hadn’t been well for many years and was clearly suffering. Then, one day, you find out that he had gone away and that he is now feeling as well as ever. The only problem is that you wouldn’t be able to see him on television anymore and it would be many years before you’d actually get to meet him in person again but, once you did, you would never be parted again. Would you cry at this news or would you throw a party, joyous with the news that your beloved uncle is now feeling fine?

Why is it that Christians grieve at the death of the Pope? Surely, they believe that he’s gone to his rightful rest in heaven and, even now as we discuss who is going to be the next conservative to try to hold back progress from his throne in Vatican, he is already looking down on us from the right-hand of God. Given what Christians say about heaven there can’t possibly be anything but joy at that turn of events. The only source of sadness might be the knowledge that they will not meet again for years but to grieve at that knowing the Pope’s respite seems shamelessly self-centred. And even in that case, if one believes in heaven one shouldn’t grieve. After all, what is a dozen years or two compared to eternity?

No. The realisation I had was that the Christians, for all their talk, don’t generally believe in any of this. Their actions unveil their thoughts. They may try to convince themselves to salve their fears of death but, in the end, they fail. When faced with death they are just as aware of its irredeemable finality as atheists and so, they cry for the unrecoverable loss. The death of the Pope has revealed the emptiness of the beliefs he spent his life defending. He may have actually believed in them but it is clear that almost no-one else does.

I think that this is something to be well remembered and to be recalled when a Christian starts to mouth their platitudes. They do not believe in them either. And their desperate attempt to convince others is nothing more than a sublimated effort to convince themselves. Atheists are in the majority, it is only that most of us are not being honest with themselves.

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