Friday, June 02, 2006

Heathen Manifesto

“So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell..?” – Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)

The following is a true story.

My wife had a conversation with a former coworker during which she revealed that we don’t attend church. When she was asked why, she simply stated that she and I have problems with organized religion and don’t really accept the bible as unimpeachable fact. The man with whom she was speaking sadly shook his head and replied, “I really feel sorry for you both.” “Why’s that?” my wife asked. “Because you guys are going to hell,” was his response.

Thing is, this knee-jerk judgment-disguised-as-concern was coming, at the time, from a man who had TWO families, one of which was completely unaware of the other. I’m talking two “wives,” two separate homes, two sets of children. Yet, here he was, perched condescendingly in self-righteousness, pitying my wife and me for daring to question the unassailability of the Good Book.

This incident was not, in fact, the last of its kind. On several occasions either my wife or I have been proselytized to by someone who’s more concerned about my lack of “faith” than their own moral shortcomings. Without exaggeration I’ve had thieves, drug abusers, fall down drunks, adulterers, fornicators, liars, gossips, men who beat their wives, dudes who solicit prostitutes, women who neglect their children, and folks who generally feed their egos by treating other people like shit tell me that I need to get right with God. Apart from being insulting and not just a little hypocritical, it intimates that the Lord above cares more about whether or not, and in what way, I worship Him than He does about the actual behavior of His devotees. I don’t know about you but I find that troubling.

Make no mistake about it, I’m no saint and I certainly don’t expect everyone who preaches the Word to be completely above reproach. Yet, I can’t help but wonder what crime against humanity you have to commit to not be in the position to condemn me because I don’t spend a couple of hours a week sitting worshipfully on pews. Every time I see the buffoonish Bishop Don Magic Juan, the former pimp turned preacher and Snoop Dogg companion, I have to conclude that he is an extreme example of the shameless, repentant sinner who uses his professed relationship with God as a buffer as he sins again with impunity. After all, he is beyond man’s petty attempts to evaluate him. Who but the Almighty can judge him? I’m sure if I were ever unfortunate enough to have a conversation with the Bishop it would vacillate between concern for my soul and “hos” on the stroll.

I’d like to end this with one final revelation (for lack of a better word) that I’ve had recently. I don’t think most of these Christian backsliders really believe that they will one day have to answer to a higher power. They might have, long ago, convinced their unquestioning selves of this idea. But in their heart of hearts, I think this is a part of the dogma that they reject. Otherwise, they simply wouldn’t do half of the shit that they do. And they wouldn’t have the temerity to evangelize while they do it.

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At 5:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deep subject that requires a lot of intellectual thought. I agree with you in that just because you don't sit in a church you won't go higher up vs. hell. I was raised Southern Baptist myself and I felt guiltier leaving church than before I went. We do have a lot of hypocrites in this country and I really wish people would quit thinking that just because comments like you received would change others. Guess what if people want to go to church they'll go on their own terms no just because someone tells them they'll go to hell. Bullshit plain and simple! Yes I believe that everyone should have some spirituality in their lives but that could be yoga or reading the bible, torah or whatever. Religion and spirituality are two separate issues. People need to realize that just because you and your wife don't believe in their God does not condemn you to a life of damnation. Come on nobody is perfect, I happen to believe in God but even I know that every fact that we read, hear or perceive is simply not the gospel truth. I do believe that we are rewarded by him for leading "normal lives" but "normal" means totally different things to different people. Now there is no excuse for ignorance in those who choose to drink, use drugs, beat others because they will get their due someday whether it is from God, the police or by someone pointing the barrel of a weapon in their face. So I say to you and your family choose whom or what you believe in and continue to defend your choices, that is what this country is all about, the freedom to choose and the choice to listen to others.

At 4:23 PM , Blogger Clifton said...

You already know where I come out on this issue. This is one that has been big with me lately. I have been trying to understand how we as humans ignore the physical things we see and believe in words that don't reflect our reality. Some may call it a lack of faith. I call it a strong grip on reality.

At 7:56 PM , Blogger Sly Civilian said...

it's very interesting the ways in which religion can be used as a way of pre-empting judgement.

obviously, one fashion is by the morally decrepit but otherwise priviledged...

but there can be some really interesting rejections of state authority going on there too, where people who are judged their entire lives by the state/secular culture choose to affiliate and idenitify with a religious idenity to supercede that critism.

Paula Cooey writes about this in "Women's Religious Conversions on Death Row: Theorizing Religion and State." It's in the Dec 2002 Journal of America Acadamy of Religion. i thought about this in regards to the Bishop Pimp...who may well be as backslid as they go...but it raises the question...but why conversion made sense to him as a reaction to his situation? It might be a facade, but there's a reason why he (and these other folks) affirm these rhetorics in the face of their shortfallings.

At 9:10 AM , Blogger Mahogany Elle said...

Nice food for thought :) And, I looove this line. [[I’m sure if I were ever unfortunate enough to have a conversation with the Bishop it would vacillate between concern for my soul and “hos” on the stroll.]] ... Still gasping for air!!

Also, thanks for stopping by!

At 9:55 AM , Anonymous viece said...

That's interesting. Are you saying that the hypocritical people help shape your decision? Your Biblical argument I can see. A lot of people have problems with the Bible. I'm not too keen on the "pretenders" either. For example. Oprah was trippin because "people should not be wearing tennis shoes and jeans to church!" But she's living with her boyfriend of 20 years. I am really really happy that i have a black and blue past. It reminds me that I have no business telling someone else how they should live their life.

At 9:58 AM , Anonymous viece said...

BTW. I do believe in the Bible, and deity that is said to come with it. I choose not to be pushy or closed minded about it.

At 1:07 PM , Blogger Changeseeker said...

Thank you for this post. I totally agree. And it doesn't take a Bishop Pimp to back me to the wall either. Your standard ordinary television evangelist (sucking money out of my mother like so many vampires) leave me incredulous. I wouldn't buy a used car from these people (PRAISE! God) let alone ask them for spiritual(?) guidance.

I cringe and shrink inside whenever somebody starts raving to me about their "really WONderful" church where the "pastor" is SO different from all those other guys...sigh.

My pediphilic father and raving, leg-whipping mother were pillars in our church for the duration right up the time when he blew his brains out at 75 just before he could be arrested. Now, there's a tricky question: heaven or hell? I sure hope it's heaven because he and mom lived their whole lives in hell and saw to it that their five kids did, too. I've worked through the bitterness and the self-hatred, but I can't help but wonder if they might have been able to get some help in a situation where "we've prayed about it and it's gonna be all right" wasn't the instant--and only--answer to everything.


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