September 24, 2005

Religion: Pride

Last Friday, President Bush had declared a “National Day of Prayer”. This was immediately followed on Saturday by the “National Day of How the Fuck Did That Help?”

Seriously, was there any change at all on Friday? I suppose some are going to claim at least a moral victory (ha!) for Rita downgrading to a category 3 later in the week. This is probably just as well, as when Rita briefly reached category five, Katrina was said to have gone to her trailer to "drink crantinis until I'm blind... that BITCH!" Battling divas are such a pain on-set, you know?

Anyhow, the question remains as to whether the collective prayers actually did a damn thing to help people that had been devastated by Katrina. There is an appropriate saying here, and it comes from (of all places) Communist Russia: Pray to God, fine; but keep rowing to shore.

For those who do claim that God listened to them, one could ask why He would now, when He didn’t four weeks back, because you can be damn sure there was some ferocious prayers being given up both before and during the hurricane. Well, modesty forbids them from saying it out loud, but apparently, only prayers from the truly devout count. You know, real Christians/Jews/Muslims/Hindus/Wiccans/Scientologists/Flying Spaghetti Monsterists.

There have been various and sundry reasons given by the religious for the assault on the United States by hurricanes this season, ranging from “because of gays” to “because of abortion” to “because of hot, hot horse-on-man sodomy in Washington State”. None of these folks seem to be very bothered by the appearance of very bad aim by their omnipotent buddy, having misses completely those regions in the United States which have the most relaxed social laws. You’d think earthquakes would be all the rage just now in the West, and the hurricanes would be climbing much farther up the coast in the East, but hey, God works in mysterious ways, right?

Now, I’ve been accused by the religious of having excessive pride often enough, and I still can’t quite figure out why. Demanding proof that there is not only a creator is considered hubris, whereas believing that we are regarded as so fantastically special that He/She/They/It in fact created the entire universe just for us, is considered humility.

Am I the only person that finds this just a little backwards? If I ever want to feel humbled, I can walk by the river near my home, seeing where it cut its way through massive amounts of stone; stone that has buckled and heaved into giant mountains, showing its striations in the valley sides. Even getting to the river, I walk through the rainforest and am forced to consider the incredible variety of life around me, and how it all works together, in symbiosis or opposition, in this tiny portion of the world. It was here before I showed up, and it will be here after I leave, always in a state of change, incorporating me as part of that life, reacting to my presence even as I walk in the midst of it.

Anyone that can stand in a rainforest and somehow choose to believe that it’s all there because of them has arrogance in spades.

There is the other side of the religious fervour coin, too: those who see it as their duty to abase themselves before God, to beg favours or forgiveness of Him. Even if you do believe He granted you life, it’s not like you were asked before it happened. Hell, a whole lot of us think so little of this “gift from God” that we end up giving it back, or (more frequently) taking it away from others.


Someone knocks on your door and hands you a set of golf clubs, then stands there mute, not saying a word. What do you do? Well, if you golf, you say “Hey, thanks!” and invite him in for coffee or something. He just stands there, so you end up thanking him again closing the door. If you don’t golf but know someone who does, then perhaps you smile and nod and politely thank them, then you two stare at each other for a while until you (eventually) close the door. If you hate golf, or simply don’t care about it one way or another, you may try refusing the gift that is being shoved into your hands. Whatever the result, you surely can’t be expected to thank this strange person who’s still standing on your lawn days, months and years later, can you? And I can’t imagine listening to him if he started doling out advice on how I should play golf as I was trying to go to work.

So, no, I’m not interested in worshipping any deity, or deities, or saviour or what have you. I’m busy looking at what’s around me, at what my species is and what it does and how it thrives as a part of this world. Considering why we exist is a fine little entertainment, but it’s nothing when compared to the fact that we exist.

Isaac Asimov from one of his 1984 essays:

So there you are. I stand four-square for reason, and object to what seems to me to be irrationality, whatever the source. If you are on my side in this, I must warn you that the army of the night has the advantage of overwhelming numbers, and, by its very nature, is immune to reason, so that it is entirely unlikely that you and I can win out. We will always remain a tiny and probably hopeless minority, but let us never tire of presenting our view, and of fighting the good fight for the right.


Apologies for the long absence: I'm fighting a running battle with my computer right now, and losing. It's randomly rebooting on me, and I don't want to compose a piece online only to lose it after an hour of writing, so no links for the longer pieces until next month.


posted by Thursday at 11:31 pm


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