Go God Go
I had a long conversation with a young man in a book store about how dangerous and dysfunctional religion is on this crowded, contentious planet. He stood his ground and forced me to see his side of it -- that while fundamentalist religions ARE ludicrous and dangerous, ridding the world of them won't make much difference in solving humanity's biggest problems. He urged me to watch a two-part South Park ("Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII"), in which Cartman (second from right, below) uses a time machine to go into the future to get a new video game console, and sees how people live in a world without religion. Cartman notices that the future world, which had by this time jettisoned religion, is still just as fucked up and violent as our world is now.
I thought of this when I read a very interesting Chris Hedges essay, "Religious Institutions Are Ruled By the Morally Bankrupt -- But Should We Be Cheering Religion's Demise?" the other day, which deals with the same topic. Though Hedges is as sickened and repulsed by everyday fundamentalist religions as I am, in this essay he defends the existence of religion. His prose is beautiful, and he can nail religion better than anybody, but he is leery about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
Hedges writes that religions in their early forms "challenged the power of the tribe, the closed society. They offered up the possibility that human beings, although limited by circumstance and human weakness, could shape and give direction to society and their own lives. [The early] religious thinkers were our first ethicists. And it is perhaps not accidental that the current pope, as well as the last one, drove out of the Catholic Church thousands of clergy and religious leaders who embodied these qualities, elevating the dregs to positions of leadership and leaving the pedophiles to run the Sunday schools."
Unlike me, Hedges is not in a big hurry to eradicate religion. After reading his beautifully written short essay, I definitely see his point. Although intellectuals blame religion for arbitrarily dividing people into oppositional groups, thereby leading to persecution, ethnic cleansing, and wars, it is likely simply a matter of human nature to be territorial and divisive and have wars against others, with or without religion.
Of course I still think religion has got to go. But now I realize that I've been acting as if eliminating fundamentalist religion was THE solution to fixing the human condition, when in fact, elimination of fundamentalism is just one of the main ingredients of the solution.
Humans will do really bad things completely outside of religious influence--for money, to have sex with the more attractive woman, for pride. Just to pick one problem out of the air, a problem as huge as religious fundamentalism, it is this: humans lack reverence for nature and the environment. The BP oil spill doesn't have anything to do with religion.
According to Chris Hedges (and me), Americans are already incredibly immoral. Hedges writes:
The consumer culture, as Nietzsche feared, has turned us into what Chalmers Johnson calls a "consumerist Sparta." The immigrants and the poor, all but invisible to us, work as serfs in this new temple of greed and imperialism. Curtis White in "The Middle Mind" argues that most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their consumer society and empire. He suspects they do not care. They don’t want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins or the horribly maimed bodies and faces of veterans or the human suffering in the blighted and deserted former manufacturing centers. It is too upsetting. Government and corporate censorship is welcomed and appreciated. It ensures that we remain [Nietzsche's] Last Men. And the death of religious institutions will only cement into place the new secular religion of the Last Man, the one that worships military power, personal advancement, hedonism and greed, the one that justifies our callousness toward the weak and the poor.
Hedges thinks that without religion, we will get even more callous. That seems plausible to me. Every Southern plantation owner had a Bible in his home, as the plantation owners brutalized millions of African slaves. Almost every family that supported Hitler had a Bible in their home, and Germany had beautiful cathedrals and churches everywhere. If cultures STEEPED in the loving teachings of Jesus could be so cruel, imagine what it might be like when the stupid among us no longer fear God. Maybe things would get worse!
Some of you are wondering: Why does Jeff hate religion so much? Well, I've got millions of good anti religion quotes, including these great ones from our Founding Fathers, but here's a new one from SF Chronicle columnist Mark Morford that says it all:
"The Bible? Cute cluster bomb of childish oral-tradition mythology told by angry, sexless white men and then translated from multiple dead languages and re-written and re-edited countless times throughout history for the sake of power and political gain and to control the ignorant masses via guilt, shame and fear. Oh, and also a lie. But, you know, a well-intentioned one. Sort of."
I went to a protest at Ocean Beach in San Francisco last week (see several pictures below), and I really felt like I was wasting my time. Why protest to get the attention of our representatives, when we don't even HAVE any representatives. We are living in a fascist state, period. I've been doing zen meditation for years, and coping very well with the cruel insanity of our empire. My kids are happy and healthy and both are the at the top of their classes. But I'm losing it. I just can't believe how horrible it is to be an American. (Ah, I know that line will rub some people the wrong way, but that's because they're ignoring the 7 million people we've murdered starting with the 3 million in the Vietnam War, plus a million Cambodians, a half million Laotians, a half million Central Americans (under Reagan), and under Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2, a good 2 million Iraqis.)
We either have to engage in violent revolution (which I don't have the stomach for) or start engaging in totally focused boycotts and strikes. We cannot tolerate any crossing of the picket line, so to speak. Or else we just have to suck it up and accept it that we live in a corporate-run state (the definition of fascism) with a puppet "president" named Barrack and a puppet Congress comprised mainly of prostitutes.
The American colonists used to tar and feather any neighbor who supported the British. If we ALL boycotted BP or GM or whoever we wanted to fuck with, they would be ruined quickly and they would start to see who their real bosses were and what America is really supposed to be about. Or if we bombed their assets, destroyed their data, and imprisoned their criminal CEO's, they'd start to see where the power in America really lives: We the People. Otherwise, we just have to bend over and take it. Protesting isn't going to work unless the crowds are in the millions. We had about 600 at our beach protest. Maybe the oil spill will wake people up, but I'm not holding my breath.
After you look at the cute protest pictures below, scroll all the way down for a tiny article called "Human Extinction." What do you think? Are these two prominent scientists right?