Recently I was thinking about a documentary I once saw. It was about Merlin, that wizard of myth originally created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Towards the end of that documentary, it talked about JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It said that the two famous authors used to meet in a pub and talk about Merlin; and that characters in both their writings had a character based on him, the one Aslan, and the other Sauron.
I have since wondered whether the documentary got it wrong, and they were really talking about God. I know at least one of them was a Christian man, and by assumption, so is the other. But that thought didn’t sit well with me, so for a while, I pretended it really was Merlin.
I realise, though, that the reason Merlin sits better with me is because I know he isn’t real, and I’m also assuming other people do too. After all, I watched the documentary; I know he isn’t real. But the fact is, other people won’t have seen it. If those people suddenly started saying that Merlin really was the one who created Stonehenge — Geoffrey’s most famous tale, and one he invented to give Merlin some credibility — it would piss me off. Because I know full well (from another documentary) that Stonehenge was actually created in the late Stone Age by early man.
Another popular story about Stonehenge was that aliens helped. That one pisses me off even more; what does it say about how man sees himself? Do we think we’re capable of nothing? Stonehenge was a great human achievement, and far from the last. And we did it all by ourselves.
But I digress: what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think people believe in Merlin, but they do still believe in God. And that worries me, because stories have power, especially stories people think are true but aren’t. I write stories myself, but I would never try to pass them off as the truth. And yet, at the very least, the writers of the bible have done just that, in order to persuade — manipulate — people to act and think a certain way. They use fear of hell at the very least to inform this.
What pisses me off about God is that it gives people an excuse not to think for themselves. Like those stories of Merlin or aliens, it gives people something to alleviate either responsibility or pressure, and makes them complacent. Perhaps they want to relax, and maybe that’s understandable, but it pushes down our potential, it takes away from us what we could do, it takes away from us self-belief and puts it into something else, so we become little more than sheep or cattle, following a grand master. And I’m not okay with that.
I’ll admit once I thought I was worthless, when I was a kid I even imagined a God and thus believed it. And then when I was a teenager, I continued to struggle. But the point is, I wasn’t worthless. And the fact that we have to make up ridiculous stories just to cope with ourselves or our lives is insulting to me.
Monty Python’s The Life of Brian put it best:
Brian: You’re all individuals!
Crowd: Yes, we are all individuals.
Brian: You’re all different!
Crowd: Yes, we are all different.
Crowd Member 1: I’m not.
Crowd Member 2: Ssh!
Brian: You’ve got to work it out for yourselves! Otherwise–
Brian’s mother ushers him from the window.
Crowd: Ooh, that wasn’t a minute.
Brian’s Mother: Oh, yes it was!
Crowd: Oh, no it wasn’t!
Brian’s Mother: Now, stop that! And go away!