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FDR was half right

I spotted the following on a sign outside a religious establishment earlier today (it doesn’t matter what religion it was – the expressed sentiment in my experience is valid across most denominations):

Fear of God is the start of wisdom.

“Say what?!” I thought to myself. “Boy, someone’s got that bass ackward. What does fear have to do with wisdom?” And then I was put in mind of another expression that equally throws sand in my mental gears: “Godfearing.”

Very often – especially in these problematic and reactionary times – I hear it said of this or that person, as if it’s a positive quality, “He’s a good, Godfearing man.” (Or woman; fear does not discriminate.) Now, it seems to me that if you’re a good, Godfearing person, and your particular deity is both all-present and all-knowing (as the biggies generally seem to be), then it makes sense that you are under the microscope – being observed, being judged – at every instant. (Sort of gives a creepy twist to Bugs Bunny’s question to Gossamer: “Didja ever have the feeling you wuz being…watched?”) Since you define yourself as “Godfearing” then by definition you live every moment in an unending state of fear.

GRUNDGGGE! (That is the sound of mental gears grinding to a halt.) Why would anyone do that to themselves?

Albert Einstein said “One cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” To that I add, “One cannot simultaneously be fearful and be happy.” The two emotions are simply at odds with each other. Whatever energy you invest into being fearful, is taken from being happy.

(Smartass that I am, I imagine some, sufficiently Godfearing, might take issue:
Them: “We’re not on this earth to be happy, we’re here to suffer in anticipation of a better life afterward.”
Me: Do you believe you’re doing a good job of it?
Them: Yes.
Me: “If that’s the case, then, are you happy in your suffering?”
Them: “Yes”
Me: “Gotcha!”)

Besides, I don’t wish to imagine any deity – male, female, both, neither, or other – whose function requires my fear. That way no wisdom lies, only unhappiness and – if I am sufficiently unhappy about my being unhappy – depression or even worse self-induced malady.

Franklin D Roosevelt famously said “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I reply, why fear anything at all – including fear itself? Ain’t nothing in the world says we have to, it’s merely something we choose to do on some level. And I ask, borrowing yet another quote from a very favorite Broadway play: “So why choose fear?”

Why indeed?


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