Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Snake Pit

Snake skeleton. Seems to be laughing, doesn't it?

When I was about ten years old, I had an epiphany. I was in a museum, that of Natural History in South Kensington, I suppose, and was looking at the skeleton of a snake.
It struck me how similar it was to my own skeleton. It was, to be sure, no more
than a skull and a long ribcage, but I realised that the snake and I were quite closely related. We were 'constructed' on the same basic principles - literally brothers under the skin (or scales, in our case).
Why a snake's skeleton, rather than, say, a gorilla's should move me in that manner, I really don't know. But there we are.
It was also, I believe, the start of my skepticism about religion as I knew it.
On the face of it, there is no obvious connection, but connections are sometimes
subtle.
Later on, at the Big Boys' Catholic school, we were taught that snakes, along
with gorillas and cats and dogs and cods, would not be going to Heaven.
No, not even Major, my Granny's saintly old Moggie, who was my best pal.
Nor, for that matter, would Protestants, Hindus or Jews (Moslems simply didn't
exist for us). In fact, snakes, who had no chance at all of wriggling under the pearly gates, still had a better chance than Jews.
Jews had had their opportunity, and blown it years ago..
And those of us who persisted in doing newspaper delivery rounds on Sundays wouldn't be going either. We'd be consigned to the snake pit amid a seething and chaotic concatenation of Cobras and Calvinists and Cohens.
The notion that only humans merit eternal reward seemed to me then, and still
does, insufferable arrogance on our part.
Are we really to believe that God, over many millions of years, created untold billions of creatures, the vast majority never even set eyes upon by any puny human being, to live and die for no apparent reason?
If we humans (even the Jews) do have immortal souls that Pigs and Pythons and
Parrots lack, at what point were they inserted?
None of this idle speculation, is, of course, even remotely, an argument against
the existence of God.
But it does make one consider, if in fact He really does exist, what an odd sort of a chap he must be...

4 comments:

Jim said...

Is it me...?? I'm getting mixed signals...

Patrick O'Gara said...

The crucial question, buried in all this light-hearted knockabout,(dogs with souls? What nonsense!)is when according to Catholic teaching, did humans get souls?
Interesting side-issue; Did Neanderthal man ever get a soul? Even for only a few thousand years?

Tracy Saunders. said...

I made the decision to put my children in Catholic schools in Canada because I liked the ethos if not the dogma. One day my son -who was in grade 7 at the time -and I were driving home from a quality day out and he said: "Mommy. What's limbo?"
I had visions of low poles and backbreaking dance steps and then he said: "Mr. Wasilovich says that because I was not baptised Catholic I will go to limbo."
The next day, I gave Mr. Wasolivich one seriously Anglo-Saxon piece of my mind and took David out of that school toute de suite.
Perhaps I was wrong, but as I explained to David: "I don't think that God would put up a fence saying "Catholics Only" around Heaven, but if he did, wouldn't you really rather go someplace else?"
Not much chance then for your Granny's old moggy. Or me either.

Patrick O'Gara said...

Tracy, you may not know that Limbo has now been officially repudiated by the church about two years ago. Too late for me, though.
As a child I had the same thing happen to me in reverse, When I was told how lucky I was to have at least the (remote in my case) chance of going to Heaven and several of my local chums would not, I said indignantly, 'That's not fair!'
And the insidious rot of doubt and skepticism set in early...