Mary Spence was a brilliant scientist and a committed atheist. She did not ever try to dissuade others from their beliefs, but she always felt a secret irritation when the subject of religion came up. One evening she came back slightly tipsy from a date and started a conversation with Texas Buddha who had agreed to babysit for her.
“I’m really not trying to change you because I love you the way you are, but I don’t understand why you can’t see that religion is born of fear. People only turn to religion because they cannot face their own death. You are the wisest person I have ever met. Why do you need the crutch of religion?”
Texas Buddha was in the process of playing peek-a-boo with Mary’s infant son Tully. After a moment he looked up, “This game of peek-a-boo works because fear and wonder exist on the same continuum in our brains. Look at Travis. He loves this game, but if I get too close he is startled and if I am too far away he is bored. If I find just the right balance, he is delighted. This continuum between fear, boredom and fascination underlies our entire consciousness.
Religion did not make up death as a marketing tool. Every human must deal with death as a fundamental truth about life. While many, if not most, people use religion as a way of not confronting death, some use other forms of distraction like business, entertainment, or maybe even science. Somehow, we must all come back to death as a fundamental fact about our lives. It is one thing to acknowledge with our heads that we will die, it is something else to fully absorb that fact with our hearts
Religion, at its best, is the ultimate game of peek-a-boo. In healthy religion, we draw close and pull back from our own death until we can look into our own grave and feel wonder not fear. Such religion is the ultimate act of courage.
Tonight you went to a scary movie. Why did you do that? Were you not, in your own way, playing peek-a-boo with death?”