COLUMN: An Alternative Alphabet

Life and Faith columnist re-examines the alphabet

A is for Apple. That’s how Alphabet books usually start — not with A for Alphabet — because Apples are red and round and make a striking image on the page.

And A is for Autumn. The time when apples ripen and — like the little piggy — go to market. The time when we set aside summer dreams, summer romances, summer indolence and settle into the labour of daily living.

A is for Adam, too — although I think “Adam-and-Eve” should be a single hyphenated unity. Whatever they did, they did it together. They had no choice — there was no one else to do anything with, or to.

Also because of that Apple, the second story of creation says, Adam-and-Eve were expelled from their summer garden and condemned to hard labour for the Autumn of their lives.

Although I think they got a bum deal. After all, God put them there in the garden. Naked. Young people, naked? What did God expect? Of course, they discovered sex. And then when grandpa God dropped by to check on them, they hid themselves and covered their nakedness with fig leaves, so God wouldn’t know what they’d been doing.

A might also stand for Adolescence, that time when your offspring reject everything that you value so that they can find out for themselves what they value. Adolescents have to try what they’re told not to do.

Adam-and-Eve were adolescents, after all. No one has ever suggested that God created Adam as an 80-year-old with wonky knees and erectile dysfunction.

Adolescence seems like forever when your teens are in it, and yet seems to have passed like a breath in the night when they become adults.

A is for Adults, too.

And perhaps for Agnostics, or even Atheists, who maintain an Adolescent Attitude of rebellion against the status quo all through their lives, as they question the values that their Ancestors took for granted. I write as one of them. Often we know much more clearly what we no longer believe than what we still hold true and dear, even if we can’t explain it.

Atonement, for example, a doctrine widely defended. The conviction that Jesus had to die to pay the price for generations of humans committing sins that grandpa God set up in the first place. Can you imagine a human mother having a daughter just so that she could kill that daughter to prove how much she loved all other children?

Assuming God were human, some of the things He did would make Him the most despised human in history.

As in, say, playing favourites in wars. Or in football games. Or drowning every living creature on the planet (the ultimate ecocide) because He was Angry about human misbehaviour.

A might be for Audit, finally. For the infinite ledger in which the kind of God I don’t believe in anymore keeps records of every good and bad thing I have ever done so that He can inflict appropriate punishment on me, eventually.

A is for Apple. And for Autumn, when leaves begin to fall. And maybe when we can let some Answers we’ve Accepted for too long fall away too.

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