Catholica editor, Brian Coyne, has been mulling again in the midst of the decline in religious practice, if there might be a very practical reason why so many human beings in so many different cultures down through history have invented the idea of religion and a supernatural being. Did God invent us human beings, or, did we need to invent God (and religion)? Do we need some place, or being, where the inherent injustices and unfairnesses of life are finally reconciled?
What goes around, comes around. Or does it?
Sweeping across news sites around the globe today is the story of a notorious woman, Colombian drug lord, nicknamed the 'Godmother of Cocain', whose real name was Griselda Blanco. She is thought to be responsible for at least 40 murders murders in Miami's drug wars, and possibly as many as 200 over the span of her life. She has been gunned down outside a butcher's shop in Colombia. There's a score of stories in most of the mainstream media around the world and you can choose any of them HERE to get an overview if you're not yet familiar with the story.
Last night on the BBC world service I was listening to yet another story of the anarchy in parts of Africa about private militias making life hell in various regions for many people [LINK]. For those of us brought up in a religious and civilised context it is difficult to fit our minds into the minds of people who live by the law of the jungle and might is right. The stories have had me wondering, yet again, if one of the logics as to why religion was invented — and, more especially, the belief in an afterlife — is that we all yearn for some place of final justice; a place where the injustices of this life might be reconciled when we can see that they haven't been reconciled in this life? In other words, what I am arguing is that leaving right out of the equation the notion of a God whom we all might be responsible before, we human beings almost need to invent ideas like a Final Judgment and Hell and Purgatory simply to give us some 'peace of mind' that ultimately there is some 'final justice' where the crooks of this world will finally be brought to book even if all the police forces, laws and criminal justice systems in the world cannot control them in this life?
Here's a small section from the Guardian's version of the Griselda Blanco story that caught my eye...
So it seemed only fitting that the manner of Griselda Blanco's death on Monday reflected the brutality for which she became notorious – gunned down in the street by a killer on a motorcycle as she left a butcher's shop in her hometown of Medellín, Colombia.
Blanco, 69, was credited with inventing the motorcycle ride-by killing during her years controlling southern Florida's fledgling cocaine trade in the late 70s and early 80s, an era in which she pocketed billions of dollars before being convicted of three murders, including that of a two-year-old boy. Detectives suspected her of dozens more.
"It's some kind of poetic justice that she met an end that she delivered to so many others," said Professor Bruce Bagley, head of the University of Miami's department of international studies and author of the book Drug Trafficking in the Americas.
"Here is a woman who made a lot of enemies on her rise and was responsible for the deaths of untold numbers of people.
"She might have retired to Colombia and wasn't anything like the kind of player she was in her early days, but she had lingering enemies almost everywhere you look. What goes around comes around."
I have long wondered how much truth there is in the expression "what goes around comes around"? It seems to me one sees many instances in life where crime goes unpunished — or inadequately punished — and where unfairness is never restored. Griselda Blanco might have been killed instantly, or in the space of minutes, and without anywhere near the suffering she had inflicted on so many. She may well have reasoned she got the good end of the bargain?
The inherent unfairness of life...
Life, in so many ways, seems inherently unfair. As I wrote recently, at its very core, nature seems based on this hierarchy of higher occupiers of the food chain having to kill lower occupiers of the food chain for their own survival. For many it literally is a game of chance whether they survive or are killed to satisfy the survival needs of someone further up the food chain.
Is it entirely preposterous then that some in the human family extend this into human behaviour and behave in animalistic or barbarian ways towards members of their own species believing that "might is right", and "survival of the fittest", is the natural order of life?
It leaves me wondering, as a philosophical proposition, that human beings effectively needed to invent the concepts of God and religion simply to retain some sense of sanity and to escape the inherent unfairness and injustice of living?
I wonder if God and religion is perceived somehow, or projected, as the "great umpire" who restores order, fairness and justice to the inherent disorder, unfairness and injustice that seems inherent to Creation? God did not so much invent us as we needed to invent God to remain sane and have some kind of social equilibrium in our lives?
In putting these questions I am not so much trying to play the role of Devil's Advocate but I am trying to reason though in my own mind why religion, and the concept of God, might not have a heck of a lot going for it? I'm not thinking so much in terms of what God can do for us but why we need some concept of a "Guardian in the Sky" and "Final Arbiter of Justice or Fairness" or a "Supernatural Referee", otherwise the whole of society might continually revert back to the Law of the Jungle and the Survival of the ones with the biggest muscles, the loudest voices, or the most powerful guns and explosives.
What are your thoughts on these matters? I hope to stir this conversation a little further today in our forum and would welcome your responses in THIS STRING on our Forum.
Brian Coyne, 05 Sep 2012
What are your thoughts on this commentary?