In the beginning there was homo sapiens, a bipedal mammal with an opposable thumb and an amazing ability. He used tools, but other creatures used tools. He communicated, educated his offspring, and formed family groups – but so did other creatures. What made homo sapiens unique was this; he could create real things from ideas. One day, he looked at a stone, and the stone was special to him. Maybe it was a lucky stone, maybe it looked like something familiar to him – but whatever it was, he put the stone on an altar and worshipped it. Mankind has worshipped stones, the sun, fire, water, and air. He has worshipped animals. He has created pantheons of gods and goddesses, some in his image, some not. He created the notions of good and evil, and invented morality. And all this was good. It was necessary. It was part of the creative process of inventing civilization.
What I’d like to know is when the creation started to become the creator. When did the Word become Law? When did the object of worship begin to give orders? When mankind worshipped fire, water and air, these elements gave no orders. But at some point, the gods became excuses to murder.
Sacrifice. At first animal, then human. Blood was needed to feed the greedy gods. Sacrifices became more ritualized, more important. All over the world, these bloody sacrifices took place. What is interesting is the scope – it wasn’t one or two sects, it was nearly every single religion in every single human community. Beheaded, hanged, strangled, skinned, burned, drowned, buried alive – the sacrificial victims were virgins, children, warriors, elders. Does this mean that religion, in those days, was bad? Did the people worship the wrong god? How can god be wrong?
Religion changed. The gods people worshipped changed. Nordic, Greek, Roman, Egyptian – these are the most familiar, but there were and are thousands more. One god, many gods, religion encompassed them all. And now, in our time, they have boiled down to several major religions. Some are old. Some are very new. Ask a Mormon if his god is ancient though, and he will say yes. Each religion believes their god created the world. More nuanced people will say it’s a metaphor, but they still believe in the myth of creation. They believe that first there was God, and then there was Humanity.
I believe that humanity is a mighty force, and that we created the idea behind God. All that is good and evil in the world is mankind’s creation. All the wondrous music, art, literature, scientific discoveries – all of it is man’s creation. And he would never have created if it hadn’t been for the spark of genius within him that also created God. Everything – the brightest and the best humans have to offer comes from the same elan of imagination that created the gods. And everything that is the darkest and most horrifying comes from the same source. Good, evil, God, the Devil…why can’t we admit that mankind is wonderful and terrible? Why can’t we take credit for the amazing things we credit God with? We don’t have to live in a world without religion – if we believe in God, and have faith in him/her, then he/she must exist. But we have to stop using God as an excuse. We have to stop the extremists of all religions from hijacking our world.
I believe that there is enough mystery and imagination to enable us to believe in anything: horoscopes, holy words, the afterlife, parallel universes, ESP, and we are also capable of critical thinking and the precision of mathematiques. We have reasoned away bloody sacrifices, but we still watch their shadow children: murder mysteries, films full of blood and gore – war, horror…even the news only interests us when a disaster happens. We are both sides of religion, and if you believe in God, then you have to believe that everyone has a part of God within them. And if, like me, you are an atheist, you can still believe that the best part of mankind is the part that created God.