Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marching to the Bank

We agree with the comments on our recent blog, that pointing the finger without suggesting a better way is not the most helpful thing we can do. However. We continually point to a better way. All our work for the past 40 years has been an effort to articulate a different, non-materialistic, partnership-not-dominator, path. To that end, here is another highly critical blog. It's time somebody pointed out the Emperor's unmentioned absence of attire.

Marching to the Bank

An old song quoted by Bishop James Pike goes,
"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching to the bank!
Dum, dum, dum, DUM, dum, hear the shekels clank."
If you have wondered why the abrahamic religions are able to make so much money so easily, you need only recall three little words :
Guilt Shame Fear
The religions get an awful lot of mileage from those words. Let's look at each one in turn.

Way back in its earliest days, the Emperor Hadrian ordered his agents to study Christianity. His conclusion was, the religon was "so strict that it leads automatically to hypocrisy".
Christian religions make no allowance for our poor human foibles and failures. Instead they require that we show up punctually, pay our dues, and get forgiven. Time and again, we have seen politicians and now sports stars busy confessing their "sins" and paying their dues.*
A couple of years ago a very good friend of ours in our little town, well-known as a generous and friendly restaurateur, died of cancer. At the memorial service the minister berated the sheep with the message, "You too will die of cancer if you don't straighten up your act and attend regularly." This probably happened because the memorial service was the first time that church had been full since the Civil War.
Such Christian guilt-thinking recently reached a new low when Pat Robertson announced that Haitians deserved their earthquake because their ancestors had made a pact with the devil to get them out from under French rule. (No, we're not making this stuff up. We couldn't.)
In the past the Christian church simply sold indulgences. It didn't matter how you had sinned. Buy an indulgence, and it was a pass through the pearly gates--your own get-out-of-hell-free card. The more you paid for it, the briefer the time you'd spend in purgatory getting purged.
It was interesting to see the memorial service in Haiti where the church deacons passed among the attendees with their collection plates.
So let's move on to the second biggie.

This is probably akin to the ancient shunning that many religions visited on their parishioners unless they came back to church and confessed their "sin". Essential parts of the confession were an appropriate contribution and a maximum of groveling, spiced with juicy detail.
We don't really understand why you have to be ashamed of natural behavior, provided that natural behavior does not harm any one. Can you say "victimless crime" ? Can you say "manipulation" ? Of course natural behavior is usually forbidden by the inhabitants of pulpits. Many such people are too old to enjoy it anyway. Remember St. Augustine? When venereal disease (today's STD) made him impotent, he raged unremittingly against all sexual activity.

We have a friend who counsels sick and elderly--terminal--patients as part of an in-home and in-hospital service. He is a pagan with Druidic tendencies; he calms the fears of these poor people about where they will go when they "die". Of course the counselees also receive regular visits from the cucarachas (as Spanish-speaking nations call priests; cockroaches are black and creep around after dark). He often finds his counselees after such a visit literally terrified of what is going to happen to them and trying to figure out whether they should sign away their property to the church rather than to their natural heirs. If they sign it all away, the promise goes, they can at least get a pass to spend some time sitting on a cloud playing a harp rather than being roasted in eternal flame.
Of course eternal flames do not work as a threat to Eskimos. To Polar peoples, hell is a cold place; living somewhere that's eternally hot doesn't sound all that bad.

So that's it, boys and girls. Live a natural life. Have fun. Pay your religious taxes. You'll be all right. It really is a crock, you know.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* Yvonne: I think I'll get addicted to something, go through rehab (making sure it's an ordeal), and sell my story to the National Enquirer. I could retire.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Deadly Combination

Of course we are all concerned and dismayed by the devastation in Haiti. Experts knew that the capital, Port-au-Prince, was on an active fault line; the area had had bad earthquakes before. But the grinding poverty of the country and the corruption in its government have combined to mean that building codes have chronically been ignored; this has combined with overpopulation, caused mainly by the Catholic Church's no-contraception policy, to create a situation that has contributed to the disaster.
In among the aid being given out, we don't see anything from the much-vaunted Catholic charities. The aid may be there, but it certainly isn't very visible. Now Vatican city is a state unto itself, and it has the highest income per capita of any state or nation. Yet we don't see any vast pledges of money or help coming from Vatican City. And further, we are told apocryphically that the Church is still charging standard fees for masses for the dead and for burials. How two-faced can you get? (a) Don't send aid--and (b) profit from the death toll.
When will these people who call themselves compassionate Christians wake up to what their church is doing every day? Take one of Yvonne's one-liners for your own use, if you like:
Good people, bad leaders.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Life versus Death

Two large shrubs bracket our front door--two witch hazels. Today, just apres-solstice, one of them is sporting an actual bud. Such a sign of life returning is more than welcome, especially since the little fellow is peering from a heavy blanket of snow.
Wiccans are fond of saying that Wicca is based in Nature. It is true that we respect Nature and are more than happy to see its repeated cycles; but we (Frosts) think Wicca is based in Life, as contrasted with Death.
The abrahamic religions have made a good thing out of Death--a good thing for themselves. They have taught people to be deathly afraid that even the most minor "sin" in this world will get the "sinner" consigned to an everlasting hell. Provided you follow the rules and regularly attend church, though, it will be all better. Whee. Your reward? You will sit on a cloud and play a harp while you grovel eternally to a neurotic deity of insatiable vanity.
Recall Jonathan Swift's words:
It is impossible that anything so natural, so necessary, and so universal as death
should ever have been designed by Providence as an evil to mankind.
Death is as natural as being born. One birth, one death for each of us. That's what we are assigned. It's up to you, then, to pack between those two milestones everything you possibly can so that you don't have to keep coming back, going through the diaper stages and learning it all over again.
Life equates to survival. As soon as we are born, we start on a path of personal survival. As we pass through puberty, we begin to work hard on gene survival : first by producing children and then by trying to make sure that our name will not be lost. Many people are driven to acquire wealth, thinking that materialistic toys and buildings will survive with their name attached. (Donald Trump comes to mind.)
That's not for us, though we think some of our worthy thoughts may survive.
We ask and challenge you to live life and if possible to do something by which you will be remembered. Seek your own immortality.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

What to Show What You've Got?

As the holiday season settles down and we all get back into harness to deal with the real world, some old familiar patterns linger. Religious right self-appointed victims of persecution are claiming (yet again) that they are being injured. How? Because they can't put up on public land their precious creche or their precious artifact of one kind or another. Pick an artifact. In Arkansas this all took a refreshing turn: A group of people calling themselves the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers volunteered to put up their own "Box of Knowledge" display on the grounds of the capitol building in Little Rock. The booth featured such books as Richard Dawkins' "God Delusion" and other publications by atheist and (gasp) non-Christian thinkers. Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, John Lennon, Thomas Jefferson ... Recognize any of those names?
Oh, the screams. Oh, the howls of pain. Oh, the stalling and the balking and the hair-splitting. Verily I say unto you, it throbbed in the night.
Eventually everybody got to put up their display, and the dust settled ... until next year. It will be interesting to see what the persecutees present for their rationale as 2010 winds down. It may become a whole new chapter in their career victimology.
Meantime some thoughts come to mind:
1. If you've got something you feel inclined to display, what happened to displays on private property? On private property, people can do a lot of things they'd better not do on public property. (A suggestion: try to make it all look less like a yard sale of plastic imitations.)
2. We who don't march in lockstep--we pay taxes too. Get your trappings off the land we've supported with our tax dollars. (See 1 above.)
3. If you really believed your claims, you whiners, you'd go quietly about your business and your celebrations without having to flaunt your act all over town to the boredom of everyone else within range.

Happy solstice. We pay taxes too.