Do I believe in God?

That’s a private matter. I keep my religion to myself. I’ll tell you a few things I don’t believe in though.

I don’t believe in the same God as you do if:

  • your God allows you to think yourself superior to:
    • a foreigner;
    • someone whose skin is a different colour from yours;
    • someone whose religion is different from yours;
    • someone who has less money than you do;
    • anyone, really;
  • your God says contraception is a sin;
  • your God says homosexuality is a sin;
  • your God allows their adherents to kill people.

The last one requires some clarification. “Thou shalt not kill,” but as my father used to add, “Nor shalt thou strive, officiously, to keep alive.”

He was thinking of the terminally ill, where it may frequently be a kindness to let Nature take its course, rather than prolonging a painful existence*. Not keeping someone alive isn’t the same thing as killing them.

However, it is also relevant to the abortion question: if a woman doesn’t want to keep her unborn child alive, for whatever reason, in my opinion no-one has a right to force her to do so. Not keeping someone alive isn’t the same thing as killing them. If the foetus is not viable outside her womb, that’s the end of the story so far as I’m concerned. It gets more complicated if it is viable: I’m inclined to think hospital staff have the right to keep the baby alive, and offer it for adoption, but there’s a lot more to consider here.

There are also questions about when it might be right to kill in order to prevent a greater number of deaths. Shooting down a plane loaded with bombs to drop on a city is pretty obviously the lesser of two evils. Exactly where one draws the line between that, and sending a bomber to bomb a foreign city, is less clear. That a line must be drawn somewhere is obvious, and it’s equally obvious to me that the line has been being drawn in very much the wrong place. This is a moral issue, but it’s also a pragmatic one: our country’s (and the US’s) activities in the Middle East in recent decades have increased terrorism rather than reducing it – as was widely predicted.

* It has been brought to my attention that this was not the context of the original quote. It was suggested that it was saying, far more cynically, that one need not help the wounded, poor or sick to survive. This may indeed have been the original intention, but it’s not obvious from the original poem: The Latest Decalogue, Arthur Hugh Clough. It has also been suggested that it’s yet more cynical, criticizing the religiosity of “do-gooders.”