1995 saw the debut of The Usual Suspects, a crime thriller told through the interrogation of con man Roger "Verbal" Kint. I was barely too young to be allowed into the theaters and too young to have the attention span for it, so it was a film that passed me by. However, I became quite familiar with one of Kint's most notorious quotes, "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," as that line, which itself is a modified quote of Charles Baudelaire's "The finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist," was passed around my church like God's own truth.
I'm a paid blogger for Towleroad. I've been a longtime reader of Joe.My.God. and Andrew Sullivan. I'm a huge fan of Dan Savage. Thanks to the advent of the internet I've become more informed on a variety of issues and topics than I ever would have imagined, and thanks to the aforementioned blogs I've learned more about religion particularly as an institution than my teenaged self would have been able to conceive.
I learned that many believe that life without religion leads to barbarism. I learned that wishing death on others, particularly gays, was something deemed defensible. I learned that priests and youth pastors seem to be some of the worst sorts of people to entrust your children with, and when they get caught the church will actually double down on defending them with breathtakingly abominable rationale. I learned that for all the passages of Jesus commanding his followers to love and be generous, there seems to be and endless deluge of greed and hate that not just comes from the religious fringe but is actually sanctioned by those at the top.
This isn't a new phenomenon, either. People hid - and still hide - behind the Bible to justify racial prejudice, the oppression of women, a hatred for Jews that I have never, ever been able to fathom, and a whole host of other atrocities.
I wish I could just lay it at the feet of ignorant misinterpretations and a twisting of teachings, but too much in the Bible is pretty explicitly brutal, either at God's own hand - the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the ravaging of the Egyptians, the flooding of the entire world - or at his command: David slaying Goliath; Elisha invoking God to send bears to maul disrespectful youths; Samson slaughtering a thousand men; the sacking of Jericho. Then there's all of Revelations, which if taken as anything other than a series of deluded fever dreams are the manifestations of a particularly Lovecraftian horror.
For all of the talk about how the Christian God is supposed to be just and loving and forgiving, the omniscient and omnipotent fatherly being beyond time and space engages in an unaccountable amount of hate and war and strife and murder. It's antithetical to what I was taught while growing up, and it's impossible to reconcile that sanitized fairy tale with the "reality" (such as it is) of the rest of the Bible unless one accepts the fact that a being that would slaughter his own creations for their flaws (that he made them with) and condemn them to eternal suffering for not believing on blind faith is an utter sociopath.
I lost faith in the church and religion long ago, but every now and then the spiritual tickles the edge of my mind and I contemplate theological philosophy and the like, and during one of those I wondered how people would consider such evils of a deity to be good and would worship it with love and unquestioning adoration. Kint's line came to mind. It was then that I realized he and Baudelaire got it wrong. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled wasn't convincing the world that he didn't exist; it was convincing the world that he was God.