Facing The End Of The World With Cynicism

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I read a quote that said something like, and I’m paraphrasing, a skeptic would ask God for their identification. I’m sure this person was trying to make a very insightful point, or simply aiming for pithy or piety. There’s a place for that, I guess. Who am I to judge? Nobody. I’m nobody at all.

If, however, some random guy walks up to me and introduces himself as God then I’m going to have some questions. Scratch that! I’m going to smile, slowly back away, and call mental health services. This situation requires special, and compassionate, training. I hope he gets the respectful care he deserves, and I pray that he lives a happy, fulfilling, life.

Does that make me a skeptic? I don’t think so. Possibly. I don’t know.

When I read the quote, my first thought was, “No shit.” Have you ever walked down a sidewalk in any major city? People from all walks of life are vying for valuable concrete real estate. It’s a crush of humanity. Most people are trying to get to their destinations without interruption or delay. Others, however, show up with a purpose and a message. 

If you stroll on down that busy sidewalk you’re going to meet half a dozen deities, at least. It’s amazing! What are the odds that so many gods, from so many faiths, would all gather in a five-block radius? I’m not much of a gambler, but the numbers have to be astronomical. Incalculable? Do deities have conventions?

Obviously, I’m not a religious figure so I wouldn’t know the answer to that question. I’m not on a mailing list or anything. I would only be speculating. A guess, that’s all this is. Pressed to make an assumption? I doubt there’s a convention, and even if there was that begets another question. How would they occur, simultaneously, in every major city, town, or village?

Well, they are gods so I guess that alters the logistical landscape just a bit. 

If God walked up to me, on his way to the convention, would I ask some ID? Of course, I would ask for some credentials. I’d request proof of their divinity. I’d want something more to go on then a verbal proclamation. I could stand on that street corner and claim to be Her Majesty the Queen of England. You could say you’re the president of an obscure nation. Does it make it true? No! 

I would ask for some sort of proof, and that doesn’t make me a skeptic. It makes me a level headed fool who won’t be taken in by random pronouncements of prophecy. The end is nigh! Really? Again or still? I’m confused. It seems to me that end is always just around the corner. One hundred years later. One thousand years after that. There’s always someone who’s looking to the sky and hoping it falls.

Thanks, Chicken Little, look what you started.

Even if the end is upon us, there’s one question that I’d like to ask, if you’re not too busy. If you knew that the world ends tomorrow, next week, or in six months — What are you going to do about it? The sidewalk prophets always say repent or despair. It’s a little aggressive, don’t you think?

I’ve lived a half-decent life. I don’t need to repent that much. I don’t think. When we were kids, I got my brother into a lot of trouble, and he took the blame for a significant proportion of my shenanigans. That’s not cool, but I don’t think it’s that bad. We were kids. Oh, I stole a chocolate bar when I was seven, but I felt so guilty I returned it five minutes later.

Oh, wow, repenting feels good. Getting that off my chest did me a world of good. Whew, I feel so liberated. So, am I good now? I repented so that’s it, right? No hell and damnation. The slate is clean. I’d go for round two, but I haven’t done anything, to my knowledge, that would lead me to despair for all eternity, or perish in fire and water.

I’m a good person. Well, I think I am, but I could be wrong. I’m not perfect. I try to live a decent life. I’m kind, for the most part. I care about others, usually. I’m not a saint, but I think I’m doing okay. Nothing, hell worthy in my catalogue of earthly experiences. I don’t think there is, anyway. Can I check the database to make sure? It’ll just take me five minutes.

You know what? Never mind. I’m as good as any half-decent person can be, in the grand scheme of decency. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

So, assuming we’ve done nothing worthy of hell and damnation; what are we going to do about the end of the world? Stop it. Pray it away. Party like there’s no tomorrow. Or, live our lives and hope we lived it well?

You know, that whole thing started out as a mildly facetious rant, but now I’m actually asking for your thoughts. If you knew that everything was about to end, what does it change for you? Do you change? Does your life change drastically? I’m asking these questions with all sincerity because I’m genuinely curious. Or, is this too macabre given the state of our world right now?

I’ve seen a lot of end of days prophecies popping up on my friends’ pages. Biblical quotes spliced with images of current events. You don’t need to be particularly religious or have a background in theology to connect the dots. Basic deductive reasoning skills will serve you well enough. It all amounts to a collective cry of, “The end is nigh!”

Again. This isn’t the first time in human history that these calamities have arisen. The black death. Small pox. Racial riots in the 60’s. History repeats itself, and each time it does we think the world is ending. And maybe it is! Maybe this is a slow burn. Maybe speculating isn’t all that helpful?

I grew up in the church, the Christian faith to be more precise, so the imagery and the doctrine is etched into my cerebral cavern. Then again, there’s a lot of water damage and the images are fading so forgive me lack of specifics. Or, I’ve seen it so much that I’ve become somewhat numb, and a little cynical, to the message. I’m looking right at it, but I don’t know if I’m really seeing it anymore.

When I was a kid, though, that stuff scared the stuffing out of me. It gave me nightmares. Death, destruction, beasts consuming the earth. Copious amounts of suffering and screaming. It’s been a while since I read any of it so my imagery might a bit off, but I remember how terrified I was when I heard the stories.

I think it was the first time I asked why a God of love would let people get hurt like that. An age-old question. A question many scholars have spent centuries theorizing and debating. Is there a good answer? Maybe the answer that gives you a sense of peace and comfort is the only answer that matters. Maybe? What do I know? I’m still asking the question, and looking for an answer that makes sense to me.

As for the ghastly apocalyptic imagery, I was taught something quite simple and comforting: Live a good life, love God, treat people with kindness, empathy, and compassion. Do that, and you’ve got nothing to fear when it comes to judgement day. Maybe it’s too simple, and now that I’m an adult I should embrace a more complex idea.

Then again, we have this bizarre need to overcomplicate things that should be simple. It’s as if the complexities give it more credence and the simplicities cheapen it somehow. Why do we complicate things? Why can’t a childlike lesson apply to an adult mindset? Does everything have to have complexities to be valid, or could we find validity in simplicity?

That guy, waving his sign on the street corner, screaming the end is nigh. The people posting apocalyptic scripture juxtaposed with news footage. Does knowing change how you live your life? Will it change how someone else, who doesn’t believe, live theirs? Is the simple answer, not as comfort?

Am I asking too many questions again?

If I said I was a skeptic, a cynic, a photo or it didn’t happen kinda person — would you be surprised? If there’s a reason to doubt, to raise an eyebrow, or simply go hm? Then you can bet your weary sigh that I’m the person, in the back of the class, asking too many questions. Or, more passive-aggressively, I’m the one biting my lip, cocking one eyebrow and shaking my head so slowly it’s almost imperceptible.  

I feel like I should apologize, but I’m not all that sorry. My intentions aren’t to annoy, but to understand. A seeker of truth and wisdom with a nose for stone-cold baloney. Which sounds highfalutin and a tad bit egotistical. Seeker of what now? Geez, does anyone know a good proctologist? I need to remove my head from my back passage.

All I want to do is find a modicum of understanding, but when I’m met with a stonewall, I press my back against it and push. There have been plenty of times when I’ve asked a question and been told, “You have to have faith.” Why? How? In what exactly? You’re telling me to believe in an abstract concept without giving me actionable steps.

What do I do with that? How do I move forward? How can my faith grow when you haven’t told me how to have faith? Scary stories with monsters. Prophets on soapboxes. The end is nigh. Great, I’m sure they have their place, but how do they help me have faith?

I suppose, it depends on your definition of faith. Is it an inert gas that lives inside of someone and together they coexist as one? Is it alive and energetic? Engaged in a person’s life and the world around them. An active participant or a jovial spectator? I suppose it depends on the person, what works for you, and I certainly have no judgement either way

I need something that I can engage with, ask questions, and challenge. I need actionable steps or I start to feel stuck. For me, and this is just me, I need a teammate who will stand next to me when the sky falls or the robots take over the planet. This is why, when faced with a cookie-cutter answer or statement, I respond with cynicism and a hundred questions.

I’m not trying to annoy you or challenge your beliefs. I’m challenging my own because, in a world of information overload, it’s easy for beliefs to become corrupted or lost. If I sit idly by, blindly following faith down a dark alley, I know I’ll stumble and fall. The things I believe, the things I hold to be true, will break and with it, my heart will shatter.

Given how many prophets, deities, and spiritual gurus there are in a five-block radius. Given how faith is bastardized and weaponized in our society. It’s so easy to get turned around and inside out. If I don’t actively seek answers, ask myself hard questions, then I’m scared I’ll fall prey to those who would lead me astray.

For whatever it’s worth, if it even matters, I am a person of spiritual faith. I believe in God and love and compassion. I’m also a cynic who questions everything I believe, and everything my faith asks me to blindly follow. Cynicism won’t let me doing anything blindly.

Faith and cynicism. Strange bedfellows? Mm, probably. Then again, I think we’ve established that strange is my standard modus operandi.

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