We are now in an interim period in which the world has no pope; there is no one on Earth who is infallible right now. As TV host John Stewart observed, the world is now in the hands of mere humans, and you know how they tend to screw things up.
Next week, the College of Cardinals (I believe it is unaccredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges) will meet to elect a new pope. Maybe they will pick one that doesn’t have such a dichotomous nature.
Although Pope John Paul II was very well-liked and pious, he was also far too conservative for many. He brought much of the world together, while at the same time disenfranchising many U.S. Catholics for not effectively dealing with all those pedophile priests.
But Pope John Paul II was known as a prayerful pope. And during his last days he was the recipient of millions of prayers, perhaps for his recovery, one would assume. Prayer is, by and large, only 50 percent successful and this was one of the times the coin turned up tails for his followers.
There has been some research showing a weak correlation between prayer and healing of the sick. But like with all preliminary scientific studies, the results were inconclusive because there were too many uncontrolled variables.
The assumption by believers is that God is responsible for healing the sick after they are prayed for. But that creates several gaps in logic, such as why would he wait for someone to pray for another’s recovery before he healed them? It leads me to wonder if praying to, say, Mel Gibson would bring similar results.
Unlike the right-wingers who have it all figured out and insist on shoving it down the throats of us poor heathens by any means necessary, I don’t understand God and I don’t know what he wants of me, if anything.
Leaders of the devout have tried everything throughout history to win converts, such as creating the modern concept of Hell to scare people into attending, or bribery such as by building beautiful cathedrals to draw in the crowds, or intimidation such as during the Inquisition, or more recently, filling the airwaves with crybaby TV evangelists. But I have resisted their proselytizing and retained my spiritual independence.
Many others have done the same, but since we remain unaffiliated, we don’t have the loud voice of reason to counterbalance the well-organized and oft-televised soul saving of the evangelists.
I’ve been advised by some devout Christians, mostly family members, to find the answers I’m searching for by praying. That always seemed to me a little like trying to define a word by using the word in the definition.
And it isn’t like I haven’t prayed before. I’ve done it often. Maybe I wasn’t doing it correctly. Maybe there’s a certain format that few people have hit upon, which would explain why only 50 percent of prayers are answered. Maybe prayer has to be more public, such as in an open letter to God.
Dear God: I have some questions about you and religion that have been puzzling me and others for a long time. Please respond to this open-letter prayer as soon as possible by sending a reply to my current e-mail address. I’m sure you know it, being all-knowing.
Do you have a favorite religion? If so, tell me which one it is and that’s the one I’ll go with.
Is the bible really your unerring word? If it is, why are there so many contradictions and errors in it? I mean, if the creator of the universe and humankind can’t even make his word clear enough for everyone to easily understand, then how can we trust him not to have made a mess of the afterlife? As a writer myself, I think I could have done better.
And what about those Ten Commandments? Why 10? Why not 7 or 40 as everything else in the bible is divvied out? And why is it considered a sin by most conservative Christians for two unmarried, consenting adults to have sex if there is no commandment against it? Oh, and why are there so many different versions of the commandments, even in the bible?
Was Jesus Christ really your son? Is he the only way to get to Heaven, as most Christians claim? If so, what about the billion Muslims and the millions of Jews, not to mention all the Hindus and Buddhists in the world who don’t believe he was? Are the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants just so much flotsam and jetsam or are they your creation too?
Why have so many wars been fought in the name of the Prince of Peace?
And if you’re so perfect, why did you create a world that is so imperfect – twice?
Finally, God, if you're all-powerful and can do anything as most people claim, could you create a rock that is so heavy that even you couldn't lift it?