The Barren Field
"He's the help God sent."
That's the advice of an opinion columnist who offered an alternative explanation for a Christian sex-reassignment surgeon in South Korea who is ashamed of his own job and believes he is defying his god's will. But he's not really defying the god's will, says the columnist. The surgeon is the help that the god sent those people who want and need reassignment surgery.
That's touching, and it's sad. Set against the backdrop of the strength and hatefulness of the conservative Christian movement in South Korea (sound familiar?), it's even a little exasperating.
Is that the best a Christian can hope for? Benevolent ignorance? Is it really a bridge too far for a Christian to determine that "God's will" has nothing to do with what those Jesus freaks on the far right says it does, and that ethics is sufficiently derived from the natural world--and that we are our own agents in that world?
Are we musical notes on a sheet, meaningless without a performer? That's what Christians seem to believe. They would seem to hold that the music we perceive ourselves to make is not our own doing, that a divine performer animates us. But that belief runs up against the reality of the independent the human mind, which correctly perceives itself to be sovereign. When we make music, do we feel like inanimate notes? No, we certainly don't. That is why Christians are so insistent on the belief in what they call free will: It supposedly reconciles this obvious contradiction that we know ourselves to be free and yet are meaningless without the Christian deity to play us for the mere notations we are.
When I was a teenager I used to enjoy arguments about the existence of the divine (which usually took the form of the Christian trinity), because they were a way for me to better hone my understanding of and logical justification for what is ultimately an exceedingly simple real-world observation: All religious divine premises that I had theretofore encountered were wrong. In time I resolved things nicely and moved on, the field of debate having discharged its value. That is how I wish it could be for everyone, that we could engage and learn and then move on from what is obviously untrue and explore other questions in other fields.
But that isn't how everybody lives. As someone who has never labored under the delusion of a belief in some objective divinity, and who has long since moved on from finding the questions of divine influence on the world even remotely interesting, it is as if those who do believe are still caught as teenagers, stuck for their whole lives on the premise that their gods exist, and laboring endlessly to explain the world in accordance with that theory.
And what evil it works. Everywhere I turn, it is these religious activists--usually Christian or Muslim, since they are the most numerous--who are the main driving forces behind humanity's countless attempts to cut off the disfavored and the unwieldy from liberty and happiness. Name the most serious issues facing the world today, in the countries of your choice, and tell me who is driving those threats. Most of the time, religious fanatics are the sole or main force. The only engine of evil in the world that comes even remotely close to rivaling the behemoth of religious zealotry is that of the hierarchs who, through their minions of course, indiscriminately wreck the world and everyone and everything in it as a means to protect and enrich their profits, political authority, or military might. And, for them, religion is their first recourse--their weapon of choice for manipulating or repressing the public.
If there were no religion, at least of the sort that encourages people to tell other people how to live, there would still be woe and malice in the world. But our civilization would become immensely healthier, and happier, and stronger. Trans people would get sex reassignment surgeries without harassment. Sex reassignment surgeons would not believe that their healing craft is an act of defiance against their god. And news magazine columnists would not feel compelled to devise lies to help soothe the consciences of people who have nothing to feel guilty about.http://www.slate.com/blogs/saletan/2014/04/01/a_sex_reassignment_surgeon_declares_i_ve_decided_to_defy_god_s_will.html