I have two children; one newer than the other. I was sitting in bed with one this morning – a cold grey Saturday in mid-November – and I started wondering about something silly. You see, this tiny ball of giggles and vomit could be anyone in the future of the world. She could be a doctor or an engineer; a writer or an artist; a palaeontologist or an astronaut. Just like her big sister could.
What crossed my mind was absurd because I am an atheist, firmly devoted to the non-divinity of a man called Jesus Christ. He may well have lived, but I deny the existence of the divine, so he was probably just a nice bloke, who did some really good things. Apparently, at the time of Christ’s life, there was a bit of a messiah-frenzy going on. Or at least that’s how Life of Brian paints the era.
There has been a lot of talk over the centuries about the second coming of Jesus Christ. I have never understood whether this was to call all of the faithful to the end times, so that they could all get the afterlife underway without all of us heathens, or just a drop in for a chat. Like I’ve said, he was likely a really good bloke, so popping in for a cup of coffee and a few lessons wouldn’t be out of character.
Where does my youngest fit in to all of this, I imagine you asking? What if she were the second coming of the Saviour? I mean, she’s not, and that’s impossible, but given that she could be literally anyone or anything, that’s part of the set. It’s a small point of intersection on the being anybody and anything Venn diagram, but it is there nonetheless. I mean, resurrection isn’t utterly unfeasible.
Look, I know that my daughter is not the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that her preference to lying in the “Jesus Christ Pose” is more about comfort than it is about divinity, but it got me thinking. And when things get me thinking they, more often than not, get me writing down some piffle for my blog. What would happen if The Lord really did come down for his long-awaited second coming?
I don’t think it would go well at all. I cannot imagine a scenario whereby the Son of God could set foot on this plane of existence and actually be believed by anyone: Even those with faith in the existence of the divine. I just think that we’re all far too cynical by half to believe that something so close to magic could be anything other than an attempt to fleece us all out of something important.
That’s why, as an atheist, I am slightly perturbed by all of this. It may have been but a silly passing thought, but the idea that we are so utterly cynical as a society that even Christians might not really grasp the veracity of the second coming of the Lamb of God worries me. It is indicative of how little faith we have in each other that we would doubt the truth of someone’s identity, just because we assume that they’re doing so either for nefarious reasons, insanity or for their own personal gain.
Or would we require such a divine being to prove themselves in a tawdry display of magic? Or would we require that they only come to us in the most biblical of arrivals, replete with a burning sky and a choir of angels? Or would the modern equivalent of that be something to do with Facebook Live or some such marvel of the modern era? I’m not saying that social media is bad; just that there is more.
This is the ultimate reduction of the thought: we are so cynical in our view of people trying to take us for a ride that we would even subject the Lord Our God to tests to ensure His divinity, else He find His divine behind in the nearest sanatorium, eating anti-psychotic medication as if they were sweets.
Thankfully there is no God, or if there is our Enlightenment killed Him stone dead, and we, as a human race, are much better off for it. Thankfully the only people purporting to be the Messiah – rather than a naughty boy – are the gibbering fools, the attention seekers or the con artists. It makes life so much easier to navigate when the nutters self identify like that. If only all criminals did.
I still look at the face of my child and wonder who on earth she will be. I have less wonder about her sister, because I can have a conversation with her, and explore who she is. Yes, she has the same limitless potential for a life well lived, but she is far less of a mystery. I imagine my girls as books: they both have the kinds of covers which make me want to hang on every word written, but I have read the first few pages of one of them. Sadly I doubt I will make it to the end of either of them.
There is still a bottomless well of mystery about us, and I love that. While it is true that we are at times too cynical and cold, there are also times when we are too damn sentimental for our own good. Society calls our daughters angels and dresses them up as princesses. This does no good for anyone.
We are more likely to be scared than excited, yet we are eager to keep our children stuck in a world of magic and superstition, because we feel it would be more fun for them. I have a daughter who is currently claiming to be scared of flushing the toilet because she has heard about a scene in a Harry Potter book where a ghost pops out of a toilet. She has a great imagination, but it scares her silly.
On the other hand, we are the scourge of the primary school because she told a number of her classmates that there was no such thing as God or Santa Claus. Words were had about the latter. We will allow children to believe in potions and spells because we love to see the wonder in their eyes. We let them live in the magic of Christmas because we love the sound of their merry excitement.
And yet what awaits them is a world of cold, dead darkness. We have ripped all of the joy and the wonder out of our own lives and replaced it all with shopping and social media. We are cynical and we are broken. Then again, if some imaginary friend did come back for a chat, we’d force him to give us all wine, bread and fish before we trusted him. Although not so much the fish; fish is too slimy.