According to the story, IT decided to confer the Truth on one person. Put aside for a moment your curiosity as to why IT as Supreme Being didn’t simply tell everyone. (The rumor is that most people couldn’t handle the Truth.) In any event, IT decided to share the secret with the chosen one – henceforth referred to as CO. (Feel free to substitute your favourite variation about the CO.)
Imagine, if you will, the CO, the chosen one being gob-smacked with the beauty and complexity of the Truth. The CO cannot explain it adequately but does a good enough job, along with some magic and other visual effects, to get the attention of a following. Others, noting the success and adulation being bestowed on the CO start to steal his act. These false profits gather a little bit of the Truth but their greedy mindsets prevent them from understanding the magnitude of the true Truth.
In what must be the greatest social experiment of all time, the CO tried to explain the Truth, while the others tried to sell their version of the truth. And in time, in the way of all mortal beings, the CO dies (or is called to his maker if you prefer). If Tim Cook couldn’t emulate the success of Steve Jobs at Apple what hope was there for those who tried to explain the Truth, as they knew it? IT told the Truth to the CO, the CO told the disciples but it is all rather overwhelming. And there is that problem with translation from ancient languages. So they distilled it into mantras, catechisms, slogans, rules, policies and procedures.
For thousands of years, people, who if we believe any part of this story, are weak vessels not worthy of – or capable of – understanding – the whole Truth, try to explain it to both a willing and unwilling audience. More and more money is put into marketing but with diminishing returns. Even the most devoted followers start, over time, to forget the hard stuff. It’s like mathematics – most of us can remember the rules but few of us remember the theory. So the rules become the sum of our understanding. We forget that BEDMAS was developed so that students could remember the order of operations without understanding the intricacies of numbers. And you can explain what BEDMAS stands for and still not be able to solve a complicated formula.
If you took physics in university someone likely explained their (or the textbook’s) understanding of gravity. I’m pretty sure that there is a missing appendix to the book that says, “We don’t really know what gravity is but it seems to be true”. As you can tell, I understand neither gravity nor physics. In any event, both the understanding of and the explanation of gravity are more than we, for the most part, can handle. But I know that someone who is reading this is proclaiming that they do understand it and that I am just too dumb to get it. That rather proves my point. In the meanwhile, things dropped continue to fall and I am okay with that.
Back to the chosen one’s disciples. They have tried valiantly to understand what the heck IT told the CO but it is easier to write rules. The Truth is reduced to incantations, prescribed behaviors and finally, ultimately, a reliance on faith, in belief. The personal failure of the disciples to explain is transformed to your personal failure to understand. Handy. (By the way, this is a trick sometimes used by some educators and many politicians.)
When all else fails – when it can’t be explained – you will have to simply trust the words of the long dead CO and hope that you have enough of the Truth – or truth-like lite – to make it through the day.
Over time we can’t even remember why the Truth was important. Maybe it is like understanding gravity – so awesome and amazing – but making no difference to our day to day existence. Just work with it folks. Things fall, get over it.
Me, I’ll go on enjoying the world and its people without understanding any of it. Maybe we are all code in the greatest virtual reality world ever created. Maybe there is a supreme overlord from another planet who guides us towards a future in which we stop killing each other for lousy reasons. (Then we can join the Federation.) For me, that’s the point. I don’t need to understand in order to carry on. I don’t need to believe that I have significance or purpose. I exist – and that is pretty darn cool. I have a cat who looks at me as though I am a puny mortal who should not be wasting time trying to understand the incomprehensible – and he may have all the answers for all I know.
So imagine, if you want, that there is a supreme being. Without diminishing the strength of your beliefs, without disrespect, why does it matter? There are and always have been true (lower case intended) believers who behave in ways that are morally questionable. Not from weakness, not because they were tempted by the very devil himself but because they were selfish, greedy or boorish. Personal responsibility – what a concept!
I can’t say that sex, premarital, extramarital or marital, is sinful, because I don’t believe in sin. It is difficult to find the point at which lying becomes a problem but I can’t say we should never lie or always lie. So for me, I try to keep it simple – do no deliberate harm.
And trust me, that is hard enough.