Before the blog gets inundated with outraged pieces on the brand-spanking new Crime of Blasphemy in Ireland, I thought I’d add something I’ve been working on for a few days.
This is reposted from my personal atheism-based blog
I have always reacted in a very offended way to people who claim to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus, or some such, and I finally calmed myself down enough to actually analyse such specious claims.
How is it possible to have a personal relationship with someone you cannot talk to, someone you cannot see, and someone whose thoughts, intentions and desires (if they could have any) you could not possibly imagine? Even if you could fathom such things, you would have little or no hope of getting it right, that’s for sure.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation of a mother having a thought experiment in her head of how one of her children would look and act and how they would think, now, 20 years after the miscarriage that prevented them from ever being born. Her idea of how the child would look would be totally arbitrary, maybe loosely based on some common familial characteristics, such as strong noses, thin eyebrows etc… If she had chosen not to reveal the sex before birth, as some parents do, she may not even be imagining the correct gender of the child. Her ideas of how they would act and think would also be completely subjective and arbitrary and subject entirely to the whims of the mother. They would be in college studying medicine, she would imagine. But how could she possibly know?
I think we would all agree that it would be pretty much impossible for this woman to predict any of those things with any level of accuracy, correct? It would also be ridiculous for this person to say that they have a ‘personal relationship’ with their child who died 20 years previously, where a ‘personal relationship’ would be defined as one where the two people involved would be able to share emotions, thoughts and discussions. This would be ridiculous, correct?
Well, okay, for argument’s sake, let’s take the hypothetical situation of a 50-year old woman who claims to have a ‘personal relationship’ with her husband of 20 years, who has been dead for the past 5 years (they married 25 years ago, so there’s no confusion). Since this woman has had at least 20 years of an actual personal relationship with her now deceased husband and has become accustomed to his thought patterns, his behaviours and his overall emotional processes, it would be far more reasonable for her to accurately predict the kind of thoughts that she could share with him. It would be more reasonable for her to have a fairly accurate representation of this man in her head and simulate conversations with him, correct?
In this situation, however, and likewise with our long-bereaved mother, all interactions that occur between the woman and her dead husband are really only just thought processes in the woman’s head. Since the man no longer exists in the physical sense, and there is no reliable, corroborated, substantive evidence for the existence of an afterlife, ghosts, spirits or the ability of mediums to converse with such entities (if humans somehow morph into one of these fictional entities after death, that is), it must be such that the woman is, in actual fact, having a conversation with herself, one part of herself admittedly simulating her idea of her husband’s role in such an interaction.
From this, we can gather that most (based on the margin for error with these hypotheticals I will refrain from saying ‘all’ though I believe that that would be the best grouping to use) people who proclaim to have a ‘personal relationship’ with someone who does not actually exist in the physical sense, are, in actual fact, having a ‘personal relationship’ with themselves. Or at least, with one part of themselves that is simulating their ideal of the entity they are proclaiming to have said relationship with.
So, with all of this in mind, why is it generally much more acceptable for people to proclaim to have a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus, or with the Judeo-Christian God, or with any other fictional entity for that matter, than to say that they regularly talk with their dead relatives (Who talk back). Many strong Christians will proclaim such things:
“Oh, I have a very strong personal relationship with Jesus. He helped me through many tough times in my life”
“I have a personal relationship with God. He is my guide, and he loves me very much. I would be lost without him.”
“I have always had a personal relationship with God. Even when I forsook him and acted wildly in my youth, God always looked out for me, and now that I regularly go to church and worship him, I feel like my life is in much safer hands than it used to be in my younger days.”
Since we have demonstrated that people who profess personal relationships with entities that do not exist (here I must point out that Jesus may have existed in the past, but no longer exists in the physical sense, and there is no reliable, corroborated or substantive evidence for the existence of any God(s), in particular the Judeo-Christian entity we are currently discussing) are merely having ‘personal relationships’ with themselves, would it be accurate to describe this kind of reliance upon a simulated ideal to get through life as some kind of co-dependent multiple personality disorder?
In the first hypothetical, we outlined that it was ridiculous to proclaim a ‘personal relationship’ due to the sheer practical impossibility of accurately imagining the entity involved, since there had been no prolonged exposure to the entity’s thought processes or behaviours.
In the second hypothetical, we demonstrated that even given a prolonged history of interactions, thought processes and behaviours from which to extrapolate the entity’s possible thoughts processes and behaviours given certain discussions or situations, since the entity no longer exists in a physical sense and there is no detectable or proven way to interact with the entity, the ‘personal relationship’ is, in fact, a prolonged thought experiment that occurs entirely in the imagination of the given person.
Combining both of these aspects of the issue, we can see that since no-one living today has any reasonable possibility of correctly representing the entity of Jesus Christ or God to any degree of accuracy. Since neither of these entities exist in a physical sense, and there is no reliable evidence around upon which to base any kind of hypothesis about other forms of communication with these entities, we can also say that anyone who proclaims to have a ‘personal relationship’ with one of these entities, or any other non-existent entity, for that matter, is actually proclaiming that they have a ‘personal relationship’ with themselves. Or at least with the part of themselves that is simulating an entity that thinks homosexuals should be stoned and that they can walk on water.
Based on this analysis, I hope I have made it clear that ‘Personal Relationships’ with God or Jesus are just as reasonable, just as sane and just as real as having a ‘Personal Relationship’ with Herbert, your bottom left bedpost, who is actually the re-incarnated form of Sherlock Holmes and helps you with your science homework.