Right Opinion

Musing on Religion

Burt Prelutsky · Mar. 30, 2020

My late wife would chide me for always prefacing my remarks on religious matters by stating that I wasn’t religious. I would explain that it is a very sensitive area and I thought it was only fair that I lay down my markers on the subject. It wasn’t as if I was bragging, the way far too many atheists do, proclaiming their moral and intellectual superiority over believers.

I never even considered identifying myself as an atheist or even an agnostic because I felt they both carried an anti-religious connotation.

Although born into a Jewish family, my parents weren’t religiously observant. My grandparents were, which meant that when they came over at dinner time, they brought their own hard-boiled eggs, apple and celery in a paper bag. Because ours was not only not a kosher household, but we had bacon in our Chicago ice box, they couldn’t even eat off our plates.

As an adult, Judaism never held any appeal for me. It always felt foreign to me, perhaps because it was written in Hebrew and because its most devout followers, men like my grandfather, walked around in black frock coats with very long beards and didn’t speak English.

Christianity seemed much more American to me. My first problem with even considering becoming a Christian was the necessity to believe in the myth of the virgin birth and all the other things that have to be accepted on faith.

My other problem was the more important one because it was in total conflict with my own belief system. To me, the important lesson that religion bestows is that we should live in a decent, ethical way. That has always been my belief and I have tried to the best of my ability to live according to what I believe are Judeo-Christian precepts.

But when I am told that in order to enter Heaven, or more importantly, deserve to enter Heaven even if Heaven doesn’t exist, I have to believe that Jesus Christ is my savior, I have to bow out.

If a good person is barred from entry while someone not as kind or generous is welcomed in, I’m sorry to say it, but that sounds to me like a god who is vain and egotistical, the very things I have been led to believe Jesus finds odious.

But, there is one other thing. Since I believe in free will and the notion that people are responsible for their own actions, I’m uncomfortable with the idea that someone sacrificed his life for mine two thousand years before I was even born.

So far as I’m concerned, if anyone’s religion helps him to lead a better life, I’m all for it. If it doesn’t, if he merely uses his faith as a disguise to conceal his true nature or employs it as a club to use on others, he’s a hypocrite.

Just in case you’re wondering, I do believe in a higher power. As hard as it is for me to picture or even imagine what or who it is, it’s even more difficult for me to conceive that butterflies, babies, dogs, the Grand Canyon and I, were all just happy accidents. Well, the first four, at any rate. I happen to know that after two sons, my parents were actually trying for a daughter.

A recent meme put the virus-inspired lockdown of millennials in some perspective: “Your grandparents were asked to fight in a world war. You’re being asked to stay home and wash your hands.”

I was surprised to hear that the Chamber of Commerce opposed President Trump’s “Buy American” initiative, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been. That’s because so many of its most influential members are multi-national companies whose one and only allegiance is to the bottom line, and, well of course, their CEO’s annual bonus.

It doesn’t necessarily make them evil. It’s simply their nature. They’re like the scorpion in that famous fable that stung the frog giving it a piggyback ride across the pond, thus drowning them both.

After I mentioned liking the first 61 books I read by Alexander McCall Smith before hating the 62nd and realizing how fortunate I was that it wasn’t the first one I picked up, I heard from Ralph Barnett.

Picking up on my theme that we often make life-changing decisions on the flimsiest of evidence, Ralph Barnett mentioned reading a story where the author suggested we consider the encounters with a person as simply a frame in their life. Comparing it to a frame in a motion picture, the author pointed out that we’d never judge a movie on a single frame. Otherwise, we’d miss out on a lot of good films. And, likewise, a lot of people.

It’s true, but how would one put it into practice? If what is revealed in the single frame is a person you immediately dislike for whatever reason, are you supposed to spend more time with him on the chance you were mistaken? At least with a movie, if you miss out on a good one, no big deal. If you hear from reliable sources that it’s great, you can always catch it on TV.

Although the homeless loons and drug addicts are getting scant attention these days, Ed Rolanty pointed out that while the rest of us are supposed to avoid getting within six feet of another person, these hundreds of thousands of derelicts are living on top of each other, and all the while urinating and defecating on our streets.

Even without the virus, it strikes me that if human beings are going to behave like dogs, they should be treated like them. If I were in charge, I would consider euthanasia to solve the problem. The dilemma is that most of these sub-humans are congregated in liberal enclaves, and I’d be hard-pressed not to extend my solution to those living indoors as well.

A friend of mine is upset because Tom Brady, late of the New England Patriots, has signed to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He feels it’s a slap in the face of Patriot fans.

Although I’m not a football fan, I let him know it would make a difference to me whether he was moving to Tampa simply for more money or if it was because he really loves to play and the new team was promising he’d be a starter and not just a backup as he’d be with New England.

I was reminded that years ago, Kirby Puckett’s contract had ended with the Minnesota Twins, and both the Yankees and the Red Sox were courting him with big money contracts. Although at the time I was a Boston fan, I wrote Mr. Puckett a letter.

I pointed out that he had already earned enough money to last his lifetime and the lifetime of his kids, so whether he signed a deal for $5 million a season or $10 million a season, between his agent’s commission and Uncle Sam, it wasn’t going to make that much difference. But if he left the Twins and became a hired gun for either Boston or New York, if he didn’t start off hot, he was going to be booed off the field.

However, if he accepted less money to stay with Minnesota, when he quit playing, the fans would be so appreciative, he could get himself elected governor.

He re-signed with the Twins. And although I never heard from him, I knew I had swayed his decision.

He never became governor, but the team did erect a statue of him outside stadium gate 34, the number he wore during his 12 year career, played entirely with the Twins.

Some people have managed to retain their sense of humor even amid the shortages of pasta and toilet paper.

Janet Hooper shared a meme reading: “Tom Hanks survived four years on an island as a castaway. He spent a year in an airport without being able to leave. He caught AIDS in Philadelphia. He was in World War II and saved Private Ryan. He went to Vietnam and rescued Lieutenant Dan. He was on a boat kidnapped by Somali pirates. He survived Apollo 13. He landed a Boeing on the Hudson River. If that son of a bitch dies of the coronavirus, we are all screwed!”

It occurred to Bob Hall that “We are three to four weeks away from finding out everyone’s actual hair color.”

My friend Dr. Harry Maller let me know “It’s not a PanDemic, it’s a DemPanic!” And because he’s just that kind of guy, he admitted he didn’t come up with the line, but spotted it on a web post. But I have every confidence, knowing him as I do, that he would have thought of it if he’d chosen to take time off from saving lives.

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