Friday, November 2, 2007

The Theology of Exile

Experience creates doctrine and is the foundation of all so called ‘theology’. The meaning of the word ‘theology’ is ‘the study of God’, but in actual practice ‘theology’ is a description of the lived experience of religious people. In this world there are only two logical expressions of ‘theology’, the first being ‘the theology of exile’ which describes a world where religion has been totally forsaken and abandoned completely by God, which provides an intellectually satisfying explanation of observed reality if we conclude that God does exist. The second satisfactory theology is no theology at all, in that no God exists, and this is a theology that agrees with lived experience of many people, and is in most cases the actual belief system of even many religious people who never ask for loaves because they know based upon bitter experience that no loaf would be forthcoming and public humiliation is all one could expect for being foolish enough to ask. For this reason religious people say their prayers and then they get down to the real business at hand, lobbying Caesar, or doing the work of God themselves because if they don’t do it no one will.

The theology of religion is a theology that categorically rejects the concept of ‘exile’ and ‘punishment’ and attempts to create a mental frame through which to interpret the actual lived experience of the religious in such a way as to normalize and rationalize these experiences by resolving certain intractable contradictions. The exile is explained as being the product of ‘original sin’ that, tragically, has caused a great barrier to go up separating God from humanity. This concept then justifies the practice of a religion that has no God, for it is said to be the task of religion to build a bridge between humanity and God, a task assigned to religion by that absent God before that God left the scene after briefly intervening just long enough to create religion, and then disappeared never to be seen again.

The alternative to this doctrine of original sin would be to acknowledge that the real cause of the gulf that exists between humanity and God is religion itself. Religion is rejected and thus in exile, which would then give us a satisfactory explanation of the so called divine mysteries of God. Divine mysteries are resorted to in order to describe the intractable contradiction that exists between expected dogma (God as a very nice guy) and actual observed reality (God as a distant, remote ruthless prick). Where such ‘divine mysteries are found there we would also find exile, for the purpose of this ‘divine mystery’ is to simply deny the exile and claim that the contradiction is a lovely divine mystery of some sort or another.

The existence of a place called ‘heaven’ where ghosts go when they leave dead human bodies and is the abode of a god of the dead is also a signal indicator of the state of exile. It is either true that religion is in exile, and thus will never receive a thing from some god in this world, or it must be true, as the atheists insist is the case, that no god exists and that therefore religious people must resort to such fantasies as the delusion that some remote and very distant, ominously silent god type being lives up in a place called heaven while waiting for human beings to drop dead so that a ghost can come out of their bodies and join this god in heaven.

In order to rationalize the experience of brutal exile it is necessary for religion to take a theological lemon and add lots of sugar and so produce some more of that theological lemonade. Apparently it does not occur to religious people that those who are being very obedient to God would be found sucking a lemon when they were given a lemon to suck, and only the rebellious will be found squeezing lemons, adding sugar water, and then drinking sweet lemonade.

If religious people want to know for certain that there is in fact a god of the dead waiting for them after death up in ghost heaven they have no choice but to suck on that lemon and just wait until the very moment of death, or more correctly, for the very moment after death, assuming that such a moment actually does exist. No one knows. Does God exist? ‘Drop dead,’ says this God, ‘and maybe you will find out.’ Throughout the ages this divine mystery has been maintained by means of ruthless, merciless pitiless silence. Humanity can suffer and they can suck that lemon, says that God, assuming that a God exists. No one knows, and this is yet one more of those lemons that must be sucked until the lips pucker. Religion offers sugar, since a spoon full of sugar, it is said, helps to kill the mouth puckering taste of that bitter, bitter lemon.

“Drop dead,” says God. Therefore, since this is the divine message religion has received from God, and since religion is rebellious, which is why they get a snake or a stone instead of a loaf or a fish, it just logically follows that religion must once again reach for the sugar bowl and make some more of that lemonade out of that lemon. Religion must go forth into the world and with a rhetorical flourish, religion must preach the glorious salvation of the ‘Drop Dead’ gospel, encouraging everyone to accept religion so that they can ‘Drop Dead’ and become a ghost up in ghost heaven as per the mysteriously divine plan of God. Anyone can tell just how deeply reverent religious people are because even when God is being a son of bitch and a real mean miserly bastard by asking people to play that guessing game (decide, choose Jesus, yes or no, its your best guess) instead of complaining about that cruel tough minded old bastard, God, religious people praise and glorify that mean son of a bitch and obediently preach the ‘drop dead gospel’ to all humanity. It was the divine message : ‘Drop Dead’. Therefore what is required is spoonfuls of sugar, or even cupfuls and buckets filled with that sugar to make the sour taste of such a pungent lemon go down in the most delightful way.