“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ” 1 Corinthians 13
Religion is supposed to be our comfort when the hard times come. God is our rod and our staff, the Great Psalm declares; He will be with us and bear us up when we take that inevitable walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Another Psalm assures us that God is our refuge and our strength, although the people who were victims of all evils might dispute that. Let’s say plainly what Saint Paul meant when he spoke of that darkened glass. He meant we are supposed to take it all on faith. If our faith is strong, we’ll go to heaven, and we’ll understand the whole thing when we get there. As if life were a joke, and heaven the place where the cosmic punchline is finally explained to us.
Christ taught us to to turn the other cheeks and love our enemies. We pay the concept lip service, but when most of us are struck, we try to pay back double. Christ drove the money changers from the temple, but we all know those quick-buck artists never stay away for long, if you’ve ever sat yourself down to a rousing game of church bingo or heard a radio preacher begging for money, you know exactly what I mean. Isaiah prophesied that the day would come when we’d beat out swords into plowshares, but all they’ve been beaten into in our current dark age is atomic bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
And what do we get for our faith? For centuries we’ve given this church or that one our gifts of blood and treasure? The assurance that heaven is waiting for us at the end of it all, and when we get there, the punchline will be explained and we will say, ” Oh, yeah! Now I get it.” That’s the big pay off. It’s dinned into our ears from our earliest days; heaven, heaven, heaven! We will see our lost children, our dear mothers will take us in their arms! That’s the carrot. The stick we ‘re beaten with is hell, hell, hell! A Sheol of eternal damnation and torment. We tell young children that they stand in danger of eternal fire if they steal a piece of penny candy or lie about how they got their new shoes wet.
There is no proof of this after-life destination; no backbone of science; there is only the bald assurance, coupled with our powerful need to believe that it all make sense. Religion is the theological equivalent of a quick-buck insurance scam, where you pay in your premium year after year, and then, when you need the benefits you paid for so religiously, you discover the company that took your money does not, in fact, exist.
We came from a mystery and it’s to a mystery we go. Maybe there is something there, but it’s not God as any church understands Him. Look at the babble of conflicting beliefs and you will know that. They cancel each other out and leave nothing. Believe what you want to believe but I tell you this: behind Saint Paul’s darkened glass, there is nothing but a lie…
~ Stephen King (Revival)