Master or slave?

Christians would have you believe that everything is preordained by God but, if this is indeed the case, then ‘free will’ – in which Christians also believe – is an illusion.

Multiple times a day we have to make a choice between ‘A’ or ‘B’ but how can it be a free choice if the outcome has already been determined by God? And how much pressure do Christians feel – having to make the right choice (even with the smallest little things) if the wrong choice would mess up God’s plan – not only for them but for all mankind? No man is an island!

In fact, if you think about it, a Christian’s whole existence is essentially that of a mere pawn on a chessboard – with a seemingly infinite number of squares and possible moves! Either every move for every pawn has already been preordained by God or each individual man, woman and child on earth has a real and actual freedom to choose his or her own move – as and when the choices arise.

From a purely mathematical standpoint, the possible permutations of even a single person’s choices (over the course of, say, a life lasting seventy-five years) are so incalculable as to render the notion of theistic determinism improbable! The notion becomes increasingly improbable when the choices of the entire population of the earth (not just at the present time but right back to when Eve first bit into her apple and on until whatever point in time mankind ceases to exist) are considered. And the permutations of all these choices were supposedly included in the one and only original plan – drawn up by God even before the first man drew breath. I saw some seriously deep decision trees throughout my career as a Computer Scientist but both the width and depth of the decision tree for God’s plan would take the proverbial biscuit if the permutations of billions of people’s free choices were to be depicted!

The simultaneous existence of preordination and free will is a concept which demonstrates the very essence of mutual exclusivity. It is, at its core, an utterly irreconcilable paradox.

I have neither the time nor the ability to discover if the plan I have for my own life coincides with God’s plan for me! So, I am left with little choice but to carry on regardless and with as much humility as I can muster, consider the life I live as being closer to that of the master (of my own destiny) rather than a slave to some predetermined plan.

It is in our nature to desire a sense of control over our own destiny. Without that sense of control we tend towards catatonia, numbly accepting whatever fate awaits us. Determinism, however stochastic, leaves us kneeling at the feet of some omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent planner, heads bowed in prayers for guidance, forgiveness, mercy, understanding and redemption – a cowering crowd of quivering pawns, awaiting the hand of God to reach down and move us to our designated squares on the board.

If, in the end, I am wrong and I am indeed a constituent part of some greater plan – well, at least it felt like I had some sort of control over my own destiny at the time.

What are the odds God exists?

I was fortunate enough to attend a magnificent rugby match last October in Bordeaux. The local team (UBB) took on a much fancied Clermont-Auvergne side. Not having any real allegiance with either team, I tossed a mental coin before the match and became an instant Bordeaux supporter. As it turned out, ‘my’ team won on the night and subsequently took what was appearing to be an unassailable lead in the Top14 league a few months later. Unfortunately, they, like so many other teams in so many other sports this year, were unlucky not to be crowned champions when the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the competition.

The reason I mention the match last October is that, surrounded by some 30,000 other rugby fans, it is almost inevitable that one is uplifted and carried along on a wave of chanting and singing. I found myself insulting the referee when decisions went against UBB and, by the end of the game I was singing along with the local supporters with as much gusto and enthusiasm as I might have, had I been in the stands at the RDS in Dublin. As ‘Hozier’ might say, I had been ‘taken to church’. The analogy from Bray’s most famous son is closer to the truth of this article than might first appear. Take a bow young man!

In an address at Notre Dame University some years ago, atheist Sam Harris referred to belief in God as allowing, “perfectly decent and sane people to believe by the billions what only lunatics could believe on their own.”

On Sunday mornings, at the age of eight or so, my siblings and I would don our ‘Sunday best’ and traipse down to St. Patrick’s Church in Monkstown for mass. Yes, we did indeed have outfits reserved solely for appearances at Sunday mass, said outfits to be immediately removed on our subsequent arrival back home – before we were allowed out on the street to play with our friends.

So, seated in the church amongst hundreds of our fellow parishioners, we would listen to the hypnotic drone of the priest’s voice as he delivered the liturgy. We sang familiar hymns without attending too closely to the meaning of the lyrics. We would smell the alluring scent of incense and partake of a dry sliver of ‘bread’ that more often than not stuck to the roof of your mouth and could best be described as having all the flavour of cardboard. How any of us knew what cardboard was supposed to taste like is a matter for another day!

Mass would (eventually) end and we would emerge from the subdued light of the church into the near-blinding Sunday morning sunshine, energised and mentally prepared for whatever trials or tribulations chanced upon our relatively uncomplicated lives in the days ahead.

In my case I would race home and change into my rugby gear. Sunday mornings were made most exciting in those days by my weekly excursion to mini-rugby practice, around the corner at Blackrock College RFC’s ground in Stradbrook. After an hour of running around muddy pitches we were always treated to biscuits and orange. A rare treat indeed in the late seventies and early eighties, when the same fare would only be gifted upon us at home on the occasion of the annual Late Late Toy Show. Gabriel Byrne – take a posthumous bow!

Monday morning would come around all too soon. I would join my fellow-students reciting poetry, ‘ecoutez-ing and repetez-ing’ French verbs, bouncing basketballs around the gym for an hour at Physical Education (P.E.) and generally attempting to get away with as much youthful and harmless mayhem as possible when the inimitable Fr. Farquarson S. J. (R.I.P) wasn’t looking.

All of these activities, mass on Sunday, rugby training and school had one common thread. They were all performed in groups. None were performed alone.

As humans we are gregarious. We are in constant need of company. We enjoy being part of a like-minded group. It is good for our development as children to learn appropriate behaviours within group situations. After all, what is society only one big group of people comprising many other sub-groups? My rugby team was a group. My classmates were a group. The congregation at mass was a group – and so on and so forth.

Competent and all as I became at actively playing my part in a variety of group scenarios, as a teenager I also found myself developing a quiet contentedness when finding myself alone. In fact, so content did I find myself in my own company that I deliberately started to create situations where my thoughts were my own. As a fourteen year old I would go for walks at the seaside – a rare activity for other boys my age. They appeared to prefer ‘hanging round in groups like battle-weary troops.’ Chris de Burgh – take a bow!

Being alone afforded me the time, space and freedom to think for myself – without the ‘pressure’ of having to agree with the group mentality, without the ‘pressure’ of having to play the part assigned to me in the group. I could allow my thoughts to wander in whatever direction they chose – with the confidence that nobody would question my thinking or try to convince me of some other opinion.

The building of our own opinions should involve a combination of both group mentality and our own thought processes. A rounded view of the world is best formed with contributions from others as well as our own inner musings. It is critical that we find a balance between these two contributors to ultimately achieve a balanced view of the world. Too much of the group opinion renders us like sheep bleating in a field and too little input from a range of our peers is typically precursor to extremist views which rarely benefit ourselves or those around us, assuming, of course, that the opinions of the groups we frequent are themselves already finely balanced and equitable.

And thus I found myself in class at the age of fourteen, calling into question the teachings of one Mr. Fitzpatrick (his first name escapes me). An attempted interjection was summarily dismissed without explanation as he continued a diatribe on the benefits of belief in God for moral fortitude. I’m not even sure it was a religion class we were in but his rant is nonetheless as clear in my memory now as if it had just been delivered this very moment. So convinced was I that his refusal to allow me to air my opinion was going to continue that I stood up and headed for the door. He turned towards me enquiring as to my motivation for leaving. I informed him that I was no longer interested in listening to him if he was not prepared to listen to me. I further went on to liken his refusal to listen to an alternative opinion as being similar behaviour to that of an infamous German tyrant associated with the genocide of millions of Jewish people during the 1940s.

My jibe had more than a little substance to it. Corporal punishment had been outlawed in Irish schools the previous year but Fitzpatrick (please note my deliberate omission of the ‘Mr.’ as a mark of my continued disrespect thirty-four years later) was known to still favour (and practice) the clipping of the odd ear. In fact, he was subsequently dismissed from the school for continuing to administer said clippings, a couple of years after the new corporal punishment regulations had been enacted into law. I digress.

As I opened the classroom door to make my exit, something occurred to me with such clarity as to render me helpless to my next move. I was going to leave a lasting impression on this bully of a man. I turned to him, raised a straight right arm towards the ceiling at an angle of about forty five degrees and uttered the immortal words, “Seig heil, mein fuhrer!” The gasps from my classmates still reverberate as I recall the incident. Looking back on it now, I can see that I had reached a point where, not only was I starting to think for myself but, I had also found the ‘brass monkeys’ to stand up for my opinions in the face of authoritarian suppression. Little has changed in the interim except maybe my ability to recognise the appropriate time and place to express my opinions – however contrarian they may be.

Sam Harris, in the same speech at Notre Dame, opined that for an otherwise intelligent person to suggest that God is ‘good’ when good things occur but ‘mysterious’ when bad things happen is not only tiresome but also morally reprehensible. I would particularly like to focus on Harris’ use of ‘intelligent person’ in that statement.

He, justifiably and correctly, infers that people who are less intelligent can be forgiven for believing the Christian doctrine of God’s ‘mysterious’ ways. Otherwise he wouldn’t have included the ‘intelligent’ qualification. The statement would have otherwise meant that ALL people who believe and repeat this doctrine are morally reprehensible, which would have completely alienated him from his target audience. In this situation I think Harris is balancing his own ‘brass monkeys’ with the message he is trying to convey to his audience and the balancing act is performed to the detriment of the message. Reading between the lines, anyone who believes the Christian doctrine that God moves in mysterious ways (when things go wrong for humanity) either hasn’t thought it through for themselves or is being deliberately deceitful, perhaps for some greater purpose they are unwilling to admit. And I think we are now coming to the crux of the reason for the continued existence and proliferation of religious doctrines, be they Christian, Muslim, Mormon or otherwise.

People without the intelligence or time to think long and hard about the truth of religious doctrines simply accept, because they have a need to believe and must accept, what they are told. Whereas, those with both the time and intelligence to do that thinking should absolutely never come to the conclusion that religious doctrine resembles any form of philosophical truth.

There seems only one conclusion. Religious leaders either lack intelligence or are being deceitful. I am firmly of the belief that they are being deceitful. They are some of the most educated men on the planet. They have read and thought extensively about their respective religious doctrines and come to the conclusion that the best solution for humanity is to allow (and urge) us to believe in God. Why? For the very reason I outlined above. The vast majority of believers have neither the ability nor the time to think things through for themselves and it is absolutely impossible, for those that do, to reach any conclusion other than that God, or any god, is a complete and utter myth, a fabrication created in the minds of men who condescendingly decided, on behalf of humanity, that it makes for an easier life to believe rather than not.

The question then becomes, should we, who have ourselves discovered the absolutely ridiculousness of the respective religious doctrines we have inherited, continue to pretend to believe – for the greater good of those following in our footsteps. Or, should we voice the truth we have found in the hope that those who listen search for (and hopefully) find for themselves a truer sense of what it means to be fallible and mortal?

Pascal’s Wager suggests that we are better off placing our faith in the existence of God, that the odds are stacked in favour of those who believe. If God doesn’t exist we have lost very little but, if He does, we have gained everything by remaining faithful. But, there is a glaring problem with the wager. One cannot, in truth, pretend to believe in something in the hope that the pretence will prove correct. If you don’t believe in something you simply don’t believe in it. Present yourself to an all-knowing God at the gates of heaven and request entry on the basis of your lifelong pretence at belief. How do you expect He will respond? At least you can vociferously argue that you remained true to your lack of belief, should you discover you were wrong and suddenly find yourself in need of a reason to back up your request for passage through the gates.

If the truth sets us free then I am free. Free from the wrath of a mythical God whose existence was ‘bullied’ into my psyche by so many priests and teachers (and, incidentally, my own parents) who either intelligently decided it was for my own good or unintelligently just carried out their duty as they saw it. I have long since forgiven each and every one of them for their deceit – whether intentioned or not. In respect of me, and me alone, they knew not what they were doing!

The gods – claimed to exist by the multitude of religions practicing their doctrines all over the world – are utter figments of the imaginations of those who created them and the leaders of those religions are highly intelligent men continuing to practice an insurmountable deception – having decided on behalf of humanity that it is for the greater good.

Most people have a spiritual need for those mythical gods to exist. I do not. I prefer to watch my fellow man run with a rugby ball, cheer on his efforts, advise him when I can, watch his progress and speak well of him when the final whistle blows. I may have flipped a mental coin before the match in Bordeaux but at least I was the one flipping the coin and not just supporting the team because I was born in their town. I may have been carried along by the raucous chanting and singing of the congregation in the stadium but, afterwards, over a burger and chips, my reasoned analysis of the game was based on a match I had seen with my own eyes.

I will always be a supporter of UBB, not because they won but because I left Bordeaux that night proud of their efforts in the face of massive adversity. Clermont-Auvergne are a vastly more wealthy team, with infinitely more experienced players in almost every position. In some small way I think we all like to root for the underdog and applaud his success when it happens. Unfortunately, in matters of religion the vast majority of us prefer to support the favourite. The odds for success, apparently, are better! Paddy Power – take a bow!

Ref: Sam Harris speech at Notre Dame on YouTube at time of writing – https://youtu.be/AcO4TnrskE0

Cut out the middleman. Stay home!

Back in prehistoric times, I imagine men and women sitting around their campfires at night would stare up towards the vast abyss with similar awestruck wonder as we do today. It is not unfathomable that the resultant questions which consumed their firelit conversations were similar to those we still ask ourselves millions of years later.

Granted the human brain has developed considerably since then, both in size and cognitive capacity, but it is nonetheless arguable that even the smallest and least-developed prehistoric mind was capable of capturing a very real sense of the absolute enormity of the visible universe in which the stars twinkle now exactly as they did when man first stood upright and walked the earth.

The realisation of just how seemingly insignificant his existence appeared to be when compared to the vast blanket of twinkling lights above him must surely have caused him pause for thought. In the language of the day, he may well have introduced his friends and family to a new phrase which they had never heard before – a phrase which described his pondering of the workings of the night sky. He may well have been the first philosopher but unfortunately, he was unable to document his thoughts other than sharing them with those around him and so we can only hypothesise as to what those thoughts might have been.

At some stage in our human evolution, men looked up to the night sky and used their imagination to invent gods – other-worldly entities which went some way towards explaining the magnificence which those men, using reason, could not. Whether this creation of ethereal gods first happened in prehistoric times or more recently is essentially irrelevant. Deities were (and are) the product of human imagination – which takes over the thought processes when reason and logic fall short. The moment when the human mind realises that something is unknowable is the moment when the line between reality and imagination is crossed – and god’s are instantiated to fill the void. The search for reasonable explanations to the unknown (having trawled exhaustively through everything that is actually known and still not finding universally-acceptable answers) has plagued mankind since first he strung a sequence of thoughts together. Where reason and logic fail, imagination succeeds.

The list of gods invented and worshipped by the ancient Pagans, Greeks and Romans is almost as infinite as the stars in the night sky. Those gods are now all virtually obsolete but there is a characteristic which is common to the lives of all who put their faith in god-like entities, from the Pagans, Greeks and Romans right up to the present day. That characteristic is subservience.

Whether from outright fear of the unknown – death, for example – or a good sense of empathy for others (particularly children), the invention of a god (or gods) facilitates relatively easy answers to the great philosophical questions. Where do we come from? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? What else is there? The simple religious answer to all the seemingly unknowable questions is ‘God’!

At this juncture I would like to offer a round of applause to those who ultimately conclude that whatever god they worship is in fact the answer – having first searched the stratosphere for all other possibilities. At least they have paid their dues. I accuse everyone else of ignorance or laziness. But, I immediately qualify that accusation by saying that in many cases, their ignorance or laziness is through no fault of their own. If a man is not capable of reading, he can scarcely be justifiably accused of not having read the work of the great philosophers or theologians. If a man is busy working and taking care of his family, he can scarcely be accused of being too lazy to do all that reading. The man (or woman for that matter) that has the time and intellectual capacity to question religion but nonetheless accepts it without question is either lazy or ignorant – or both!

It appears then that most people, who find each day quickly filled with the tasks of living, don’t have the time to investigate the big philosophical questions for themselves – much less take even more time to assimilate all the information they have consumed and form reasonable conclusions based on their findings. They must, necessarily, turn to someone (or some thing) who has actually spent that (not insignificant) time doing the research on their behalf. Ladies and gentlemen, please show your appreciation for the religious institutions of the world as they take the stage to present their vast and various theories on life, love, the universe and everything. Break out the popcorn and sweets. We could be here a while!

Actually, this won’t take as long as one might imagine because all religions have a common thread at their core. There is no real need to delve deeper into their respective teachings at this stage. Suffice to say, regardless of which you choose to ‘follow’, all religions make a single (and seemingly straightforward) request of their respective congregations. They present their doctrine and ask that you accept it in full – without question.

This is where I part ways with every religion ever invented by man – which is to say every religion ever invented. To expect me not to question a doctrine I have initially chosen to follow (or have been introduced to as a child) is the epitome of arrogance. Surely if the doctrine holds up to detailed scrutiny its proponents would be more than happy to have it examined. My suspicions are immediately aroused when I am told that I have already been provided with all the evidence and the case is closed. What if I disagree with the way in which the jury arrived at the verdict? I am deliberately using a legal metaphor here because in any reasonably developed justice system a verdict should always be available for further scrutiny. For a justice system to render a guilty verdict and subsequently lock away the case files is a criminal act which necessitates its own trial! The legal metaphor doesn’t end here. Religion is on trial in my little WordPress courtroom.

In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract posited that:

individuals have consented, either explicitly or tacitly, to surrender some of their freedoms and submit to the authority (of the ruler, or to the decision of a majority) in exchange for protection of their remaining rights or maintenance of the social order.

While Rousseau was discussing subservience in a societal context, it is clear that a similar sentiment can be applied to a religious context. We consent to the doctrine of our ‘chosen’ religion without question. It’s a contract which we spiritually ‘sign’ either knowingly as adults making an informed decision to follow or unknowingly as children, whose illegibly-scrawled ‘signatures’ are, notably, not yet legally binding.

While I may be accused of comparing the indoctrination of children into a religion as a contract which is not legally binding, the practice of excommunication from the Catholic Church for breaking any of its ‘contractual’ rules is still considered a viable punishment. In 2009, the Brazilian mother of a nine-year-old rape victim was said by Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho to have incurred an automatic excommunication when she consented to her daughter having an abortion. It is clear from this and countless other incidences of excommunication that the Vatican still considers its global congregation to be under some kind of ‘contract’, the breaching of which may well result in the most severe consequences. Incidentally, the doctors who performed the abortion were also included in Bishop Sobrinho’s declaration!

Anyone who has ever had a legitimate job has signed a contract of employment. The same cohort of people will also, at some stage in the course of their employment, hear or be heard to say:

‘He’s the boss – what he says goes!’

It is true. If you want to keep your job you keep your nose clean and do as the boss tells you. You accept the way things are done at work because you want to get paid at the end of the month. Whether you have the freedom to discuss your concerns with the boss is an important distinction. Pure subservience means that while you may privately question the authority of the person or institution to whom you are subservient, you never publicly express those concerns. You are subservient in your quiet acceptance of the way things are for reasons which suit your own objectives.

Similarly, you go to the polling booth on election day and vote for your ‘favourite’ politician – to represent your concerns at both a local and a national level. You are subservient to the laws enacted by government and stay within the rules in exchange for your other ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’ being protected by the justice system. As long as you are reasonably content with the life you lead you are unlikely to object – at least not publicly. However, should politicians renege on the promises they made at election, you will typically become frustrated or disillusioned by them and may even take to the streets in protest. At a minimum you are likely to review your voting options at any ensuing elections.

So, we are subservient to our boss at work, to our government (both local and national) and to the doctrine of our ‘chosen’ religion. There are many more aspects of life in which it is plausible to suggest we display subservient behaviours. Let’s keep it at the macro level for the purposes of progress and ask a seemingly simple question. What are the consequences of subservient behaviour?

The positive consequences are easily identifiable because they are the basis upon which we allow ourselves to become subservient in the first place. Political subservience allows us to live our lives while accepting that the government will take care of the issues which are above and beyond our own individual capabilities. Employment subservience guarantees we keep our job and get paid. Religious subservience provides us with a system of beliefs which typically enhances the quality of our spiritual lives. What about the negative consequences of subservience?

In all cases, should we come to a point where we disagree with or go so far as to break the rules, we typically find ourselves bowing our heads and asking for forgiveness. Who is standing in front of us when we do? The boss (Yes, sir), the judge (Yes, your Honour) or the priest (Yes, Father). Asking forgiveness is an admission of fault which follows from a realisation of guilt and each successive incidence of guilt chips away at our self esteem. One of the negative aspects of subservience is reduced self esteem or self worth.

It seems that we can live a reasonably peaceful and uninterrupted life within the confines of the law of the land or the rules laid down by the boss at work. The regulations are laid out in the statute books or the employment manual and we mostly just go about our business without any serious breaches. However, if we do breach the rules at work or the laws of the land, we have to be actually caught doing it before the punishment process kicks in – unless we are the most conscientious individual ever and feel obliged to hand ourselves in. But as conscientious religious beings we actually catch ourselves and report ourselves – to God – via the confession box. Guilt is a matter of conscience. It is our conscience that reports on us and it is our indoctrination by religion that fine-tunes that conscience to act as a ‘more-than-my-job-is-worth’ guardian of everything we do – a guardian who is always alert and on duty, even while we sleep!

The ‘Thought Police’ in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 were guardians of the collective conscience because the state didn’t trust its citizens to legislate for their own thoughts. Similarly, religions fine-tune the conscience of their followers over time to guarantee they become guardians of their own thoughts and deeds. It’s like a completely automated legal system. Commit the crime, catch yourself doing it, feel guilty, report yourself to the authorities and ask forgiveness. Regardless of how forgiven you feel following confession, the thought is always there that you will be back again soon. Actually, if you obey the rules of the church you will be back regularly with a similar list of sins. Imagine heading to the local district court once a month to inform the judge of which laws you broke! Confession became a farce for me years ago when, like the angel I was, I found myself making up sins in my head as I entered and closed the door of the confession box behind me. Bless me father for I have sinned. It’s been far too long to bother you now!

Through empathy, our interaction with others as adults instills in us a sense of justice and morality but that sense of what is right is primarily encapsulated a lot earlier in life, in the behaviour of our role models towards us while we are young. A conscientious parent will scold for erring behaviour and praise the good – always ensuring that the confidence of the child is maintained. A good judge will issue a sentence appropriate to the crime. Fair cop judge – you have me bang to rights! A reasonable boss will issue behavioural warnings (whether verbal or written) unless of course the offence is punishable by immediate dismissal. The following day the warning is all but forgotten – in the spirit of progress. But, what does the Roman Catholic Church do to keep us ‘in check’?

Well, should we break one of the ten commandments, we are threatened with fire and brimstone for all eternity – unless we bow our heads and ask for forgiveness. An equivalent judge in court would be issuing life sentences for, say, burglary. Similarly, dismissal from work as a result of being late some Monday morning would be the wrong course of action and likely result in a justifiable claim of unfair dismissal by the unfortunate employee.

When the potential punishment is known to be utterly inappropriate to the crime, we find ourselves emasculated to the point that we never question the rules, never break even the most inconsequential of laws or commit even the most menial of sins. Our human nature has left us with no protection against the damnation of hell except to always do the right thing.

But we don’t always do the right thing! For whatever reason, all of us at some time or another have broken the law, bent the rules at work, questioned the authority of our parents or even protested decisions of the state. It’s in our nature to be dissatisfied at the best of times, to tiptoe the wrong side of the rules all the while weighing up the risks of getting caught. It is human to make mistakes and it is equally forgivable. What we shouldn’t be doing is relying on the forgiveness of God’s middleman who is always working on the assumption that we’ll be back next week and who’s sentencing guidelines never extend beyond the saying of a few prayers. That’s a strange kind of punishment indeed! The ‘break-em-down’ with guilt and ‘build-em-up’ with forgiveness routine of the Catholic Church is a continuous cycle of psychological abuse that can ultimately be detrimental to self esteem! It’s so much easier to fall than to pick yourself up again. The net result of the abuse is negative – reduced self esteem.

In an effort to assuage their own guilt, Catholics repeatedly surrender their self esteem and become subservient to the courtroom in the confession box. Telling a priest your sins is equally as useful as shouting them to the wind. A problem shared is not halved in this instance. How can it be? He’s about to judge you and pass a sentence of ten ‘Hail Marys’, a ‘How’s Your Father’ and a ‘Glory Be’ – and say a prayer for him if you can find the time. How is that halving your problem?!

Your conscience is doing all the morality work for you anyway, whether you vocalise your wrong doings or simply sit in a quiet room and think upon them silently to yourself. Granting the Catholic Church the power to forgive the very sins they set forth in the ten commandments is worse than a folly. You were set up to fail the minute Moses chiselled the word ‘First’ into his tablet of stone. Your ‘loyalty’ is guaranteed – for life. That’s not loyalty. Where else are you going to go when you need to alleviate the weight of your conscience?

Fuck this subservient bullshit. Cut out the middleman. Stay home and forgive yourself if you think you’ve done something wrong that you might otherwise take to the priest, nay judge, in the confession box! It will boost your self esteem no end when you complete the whole process on your own and the boost in self esteem should more than counterbalance the guilt. Stay home and save yourself the trip to the church. If you need to include God in the conversation, by all means do so. He’s everywhere – not just down at the church. At the very least, stay home until this Covid-19 crack is over!