No, it’s not a new KFC slogan, it’s an anecdote about something that happened to me about ten minutes before the time of writing.
First I shall explain some background. I am a secular boy. I was raised with little or no particular religion but, was fairly well guided in terms of moral and social education. I know the difference between right and wrong, which was taught to me through true life examples and the odd beating rather than through the medium of bible teaching. I graduated through various stages of scoffing at Christians, complaining that the reformation ruined Scottish literature for almost 200 years, and sitting in the back of Mr “Ned Flanders” Jameson’s Religious Education class and going “Satan Satan Satan!”. On the few occasions I was actually in church, I found the thing to be horribly false, and the act of prayer terribly redundant. The religion of the bible, which I considered to have been corrupted over centuries of rewrites and edits seemed to me to be of hopelessly flawed logic. How can a tract that teaches peace and unity be used to justify so much hatred and killing throughout history? How can there be a loving God when so much pain exists in the world? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t he just turn Satan into a pillar of salt? The answer to all of these questions, from a Christian point of view, is undoubtedly that it’s all our own fault, and God likes to smugly watch us destroy ourselves, and that he wouldn’t need to smoke Satan if mankind could just stop yielding to temptation for five seconds. I hate this image of God testing us, making us jump through hoops for salvation. It makes no sense to me and it never will. The idea of a heaven for the winners and hell for the losers of God’s little game is fundamentally unfair. And, since the Christian God is the only true God all the followers of Allah, Buddha, L Ron Hubbard and Shiva will go to hell regardless of whether or not they live the lives of saints. Of course though, all the other religions say the same thing. Place your bets now.
Suffice to say, from an early age I decided, if there is a God, the church is not his microphone.
Nevertheless over the course of my life I have gained some sort of internal spirituality. I don’t mean a belief in God. I don’t like talking about God. I prefer to talk about the Universe, which is a much less stigmatized synonym. I believe that there’s a deeper and more profound meaning behind things, and very often feel a spiritual connection to the world around me. Staring up at the stars, for instance, has always filled me with these conflicting feelings of simultaneous significance and insignificance. On one hand I feel incomparably small, and on the other profoundly connected. I think of scales – the distance from star to star, the distance between me and those stars, the speed of the light traveling from these distant specks meaning that most of them will already have grown full and powerful then exploded in celestial combustion, or declined slowly and burned out over the course of billions of years. Looking up at the sky, you can see the Universe in its sum totality, and know that you are a part of it. The very matter that makes up your body is the very same matter that makes up those stars. The same matter is in animals, plants, the planet Earth itself. There’s a litttle bit of open brackets god close brackets in every one of us, and everything around us. It’s this type of god I believe in, the Emersonian transcendental god in nature. I’m the great transparent eye-ball that sees all and perceives all, part and particle. Observing things and the relationships between them is the path to understanding.
This isn’t really something I talk about much. I don’t feel particularly strongly about ramming my point down people’s throat. I’m willing to accommodate other people’s beliefs, after all among my friends I can count dedicated Christians, die-before-compromise Atheists, a bunch of homosexuals and substance abusers, and a couple of Wiccans. Whatever, I don’t care, so long as you’re good people and don’t try and indoctrinate me into your way of thinking. I’m fairly laid back about it.
Which is strange, because last night I somehow ended up arguing with my girlfriend about it - even though neither of us is religious. How did this come about? Well, I’ll tell you. A Japanese friend of mine, a pastors wife (Yes, they have the Christ here too now) were chatting, and I mentioned I thought I was coming down with the flu, and she said “Oh, I’ll pray for you”. Later on I mentioned this to my girlfriend and said it made me feel a little uncomfortable. She said “So does it make you uncomfortable when I pray for you?” I didn’t even know she prayed, but I had to confess to myself, yes it does. But why? For one, I don’t think anybody has ever prayed for me before in my life, not even good old secular Mama and Papa Blackwood. Secondly, that’s just not how I relate my own experience to the world. I believe we make our own destiny, not accept handouts from the big guy. In short, why pray for a Cadillac when you could be trading stocks in order to buy one? True, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to influence events, but even in those cases I don’t think it would cross my mind to pray. You see, I don’t believe in god as a conscious organism, and I certainly don’t believe he speaks back to us. Of course the theory goes that he does all the time we just don’t hear him, but if that’s the case I think a man of his position could afford to yell a little louder.
Today though, something strange happened to me. I had direct contact with Our Lord. It was nearly bento time and I was hungry. People, my bento is not a bountiful harvest. Usually it contains a few varieties of sukemono and some piss-tasting seaweeds, and a croquette, with all the dry white rice I can eat on the side. Sometimes though, it is even worse and I am served things which no man should be forced to eat. Today as I gathered my bento close to me I looked down and thought. “Please don’t be pregnant fish again.” Then as an afterthought, I thought “I hope it is fried chicken”. Bearing in mind we have had fried chicken for bento on one other occasion since I began eating it every day 18 months ago. The chances of fried chicken were infinitesimal.
And yet, I opened up the bento lid and there it lay. A large slice of fried chicken in breadcrumbs, with two potato wedges sitting beside it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then it occurred to me… Holy Shit! I prayed a little! I prayed for chicken and it came true!” God was telling me I was wrong! Praise Jesus!
When I came down after my gratefully consuming my miracle-chicken, I considered things a little more objectively. What if it was really God telling me He exists? Then why would he do it through chicken? Must be these mysterious ways I’ve heard so much about. Perhaps God merely decided that in order to show me up he would answer the next prayer I made regardless of what it was. In that case, I’m upset because I should have prayed for something like INFINITE POWER or a million Great British Pounds. Or conversely, maybe God can only answer prayers regarding chicken. Why? I don’t know. The Ways of the Halls of Heaven are not for you to comprehend, mortal! Even more terrifying, the impossible miracle of the chicken had proven God’s existence, and since proof denies faith and without faith He is nothing, what if I had inadvertently killed God by believing in Him? Nietzsche was unavailable for comment due to a slight case of death.
So, after praying for more chicken and not being rewarded, and faced with either the prospect of having accidentally bumped off the Holy Father or a strange God who speaks to his children through processed poultry, I decided to resume my previous beliefs. I think the thing with the chicken was a coincidence. To my Christian friends, sorry guys, I still need proof. To my Atheist friends, don’t worry, I’m still down.
But, in my ten minutes as a dedicated Christian, I think I learned something. Maybe we don’t all share the same beliefs, or live or lives in the same way, but the best thing we can do is accommodate the beliefs of others and respect them. I believe now more than ever that we are all part of the same cosmic mechanism, all connected, part of the same matter. And you bet your sweet ass that if there is a God he would surely enjoy a megabucket from KFC.