Now that cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, dropped by his mega-corporate sponsors, and proven to be a profoundly effective liar and cheat, it seems as good a time as any to talk about how a man’s beliefs (religious or otherwise) mean precisely nothing when contrasted against his actions. Armstrong could have grown up atheist, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Mennonite (as one of his cheating teammates did), and those labels would have told us little of the man he’d become. Morality is linked to people’s religious beliefs in the same way it’s linked to their preferred brand of paper towels; it’s just not.
But you know me: I was curious. I had to know. So I Googled “Lance Armstrong’s religious beliefs.” What I found was a quote taken from his book, It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life:
“I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, wished hard, but I didn’t pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized.”
Darn. I had kind of hoped he wouldn’t land so close to me on that one. Now I feel icky.
Seriously, I can’t help but think that, for Lance Armstrong, “the end of the day” he talked about is now. “The Body” is us. And the immeasurable shame of his own making is far worse than any hell that could be conceived for him in some elusive afterlife to which, right about now, he probably feels like escaping.