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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

‘You Always Get What You Deserve’: Another Blatant Bloody Lie?

Major religious groups
Major religious groups (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last week, I wrote a post titled, ‘Work Hard and You’ll Succeed: the Biggest Lie?’ Today, I want to explore, with you, another blatant lie.

We’re told, frequently and with much volume, that we get what we deserve. I think this is an attempt by some to encourage the first lie in the minds of those as yet unschooled in reality. It’s also, of course, a saying completely founded in the religious concepts that underpin the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Their sacred texts explicitly tell followers that their rewards will follow from their actions.

But is it true? Do we, or indeed anyone else, get what we deserve?

Does the innocent child deserve to starve to death by an accident of geographical location? Does the winner of millions on a lottery actually deserve this piece of great fortune? Does the drug baron deserve a life of luxury and ease at the expense of those who suffer and die through his activities? Does the Chairman of a business empire deserve the exorbitant income he awards himself?

There are millions more examples of people receiving things they don’t deserve. In fact, I’d say that more people get what they don’t deserve than get what they do. In fact, I can think of very few people I know who have actually been given what they deserved.

I hear those of a religious mind-set yelling that we get our real rewards in heaven, paradise, or whatever other presumed afterlife they believe in. But such destinations are pure speculation. There’s no way of knowing whether they even exist except by taking that final step to enter them. By then it’s too late to discover that all your effort, good, bad or indifferent, has, in fact, resulted in you reaching the same end as all living things on death: i.e. the recycling of your components. If there is an afterlife, and it’s something we can never know since no one has ever returned with a reliable report, then surely the creator of such a splendid reward system would want us to be certain?

There’s little point in any deity permitting us to have doubts about such things, since these are supposed to be the very motivations that make us do the bidding of that deity. Yet the tales that are sold by the various religions are so different and contradictory. Surely any deity worthy of the name would at least remove the elements of doubt and dispute and provide a means whereby we could actually experience such rich rewards? Nothing else makes sense.

Of course, I understand that many are now yelling at me that I have to have faith. I’m sorry, but faith in something for which there is no evidence, let alone proof, strikes me as little short of imbecility. Does anybody seriously believe in fairies, a flat Earth, that Mars is inhabited by little green men or any one of thousands of such tales? We’ve dismissed the myths of ancient times, the tales of Zeus and his clan, Odin and his cohorts, Ra and his comrades, as early attempts to explain what was then inexplicable. A similar fate is already undermining current deities as reason and rational thought supersede superstition and folklore.

It isn’t that I deny absolutely the possibility of religious dogma having a basis in truth; it’s that I see such division in interpretation and I don’t believe it can be proven. The very existence of God is a matter we, as humans, will probably never be able to determine one way or another. If such a power actually exists, it must, by its very nature, be so far outside our experience and knowledge as to be incomprehensible. Any attempt to define such a power must inevitably diminish any reality it might possess. So, I take the only sane and reasonable attitude possible: I can’t know, which is why I style myself agnostic.

I’d like to say, ‘religious considerations aside’ and give examples of my argument on that basis but, unfortunately, the world in which we live is so deeply imbued in religious foundation that it’s impossible to escape its influence.  

But I will set a challenge.

Can anyone, without citing religious concepts, please provide more examples of people actually getting what they deserve than those who most clearly do not deserve what they get? I’m open-minded enough to be converted to a different view, if I can be given evidence that ‘just deserts’ is something more than a meaningless lie disguised as truth by those with vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Go ahead; change my mind.

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