The way they told me the story was something like this, though I’ll probably get a few things wrong.
There once was a perfect world, created by a Perfect Being, that was populated by all kinds of spectacular creatures. One of these creatures was a bit too smart for its own good, broke an Important Rule, and the Perfect Being had to ban this smart creature from immortality. In fact, we learned later, the Perfect Being had created a flaming ocean where the rule-breakers were going to sizzle for an infinite duration. That’s the only thing a necessarily Perfect Being could do about the havoc that rule-breakers were creating for the perfect world.
The only way this Perfect Being could rescue some of the rule-breaking creatures from the flaming ocean – after all this Being made them all and loved them all – was by birthing an even more perfect rule-keeping creature. This Rule-Keeper defeated the power of Rule-Breaking by never breaking any rules, even when that could, and did, kill the Rule-Keeper. This gift of death by the Perfect Rule-Keeper gave the Perfect Being the powerful magic needed to rescue the Rule-Breakers. This Magic gave the Rule-Keeper a new Perfect Deathless Life and made possible a new More Perfect World.
If this story sounds familiar, and my take on it a bit mocking, that’s not exactly why I tell it this way. Billions of perfectly sane people – contra Dawkins and his theory of “delusion” – have and many do still believe this story in every detail. Something about this story touches deep into the emotional core of people, people who feel ashamed of breaking rules and desperately want to be rescued from their own darkness.
Darkness, shame, and evil do seem to live in each of us. We get angry at someone and before we can stop ourselves we lash out. Often we lash out at people for things they didn’t do to hurt us, like get a reward that we wanted.
To be honest, this story of Perfect Magic isn’t one that I believe anymore. This world wasn’t made perfect by a perfect being. It’s always been messy and imperfect. It is still populated by spectacular creatures. One of these messy imperfect spectacular creatures of our world is love. In fact, far from perfect, love seems to be weak and frail, struggling for its very survival. Without love, none of us can survive, though most of us never get enough of that spectacular imperfect love.
There isn’t a flaming ocean for rule-breakers, death takes all of us in the end. Death can’t be cheated by Magic. We can only make the short lifetime we do have worthwhile by pursuing the only true Magic – Love.