RIP Billy Graham, merchant of delusion

My stomach has been roiling with nausea, my eyes perpetually rolling, at the outpouring of religiosity that accompanied the passing of the most successful fantasy merchant of the last century, perhaps of all time.

His message -- God loves you -- is absurd. George Carlin first described religion's visions of the tortures of hell -- then ended with "...but he LOVES you."  So much for God's love.  

I'm really sorry that major secular organizations didn't speak out -- or speak out more loudly -- against this tsunami of bullshit, including wall-to-wall TV coverage. Nobody dared question it.  

Billy Graham was no friend of reason and critical thought, which have been responsible for all human progress.  Instead, he promised to make you ever closer to his fantasy friends, thereby ensuring a permanent state of childhood in anyone who took him seriously.  Left alone, children abandon fantasy friends.  But as B.F. Skinner observed, "Society attacks early, when the child is helpless."

What did Billy have that a million other clerical fantasy merchants didn't have?  As a speechwriter, I give him lots of points for presence and oratory. He started at a very young age and worked hard to hone his craft. The man SOLD his message.  And because he also really believed it, they bought it. ;.

And Presidents listened to this man!  Or they pretended to, because religiosity in America is ineradicable -- and intrusive.  In letters to the editor, I read that kids get shot in schools because we have taken God out of the schools.  Only in this space could I say how ludicrous that proposition is.  

But back to Graham.  He made fantasy friends pay off -- for him, big-time. The amounts of money he was able to amass by selling access to the fantasy friends is astounding.  Yes, he urged people to behave themselves and act morally -- because the fantasy friends said they have to.  So when he died, instead of getting about the work of behaving ethically, countless people wasted countless hours in mass prayer services, which are disgusting exercises in humiliation and obeisance to those fantasy friends.  

Billy Graham deserves no more respect than P.T. Barnum, with whom he had much in common.  Instead, the response to his death was over the top. OK, believers can waste their time mourning him.  But when the entire political apparatus of the state genuflects to this charlatan (and the leading secular voices are silent, far as I can tell), one wonders if our society will ever be able to question, much less rid itself of, the poison called religion.   

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Comment by Alan Perlman on March 22, 2018 at 1:52pm

Loren, Thanks  for comment and quote.  He's so right.  People can compromise - God does not.

I'm Jewish, was gruesomely indoctrinated about the Holocaust, the better to make me a believer in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, to which we would all return.  I grew up admiring the tough, resourceful Jews who fought for their land, as the Arabs tried to drive them out.  But the idea of an ethnic homeland (now reasserting itself) was borne out of sympathy about the Holocaust, no question.  

There's no reason why a multi-ethnic society can't work.  The divine land-grant is BS.  Nobody will admit that.  If we're going to give the Jews back their original homeland, how about the same for the Cherokee?   BTW, who says it's their land?  For most of their history, they lived there under someone else's domination.

I keep telling myself they're doing the best they can under horrible conditions.  But I now realize that I detest a large portion of Israeli society - the f'ing religious crazies who are trying to take over the country.   

It's a shame that people get so attached to real estate.  I would have given the Jews a sizable chunk of Bavaria.  

Comment by Loren Miller on March 22, 2018 at 1:09pm

Alan, how long have Israelis and Palestinians been at it?  Never mind the rest of the Arab world, united against the encroachers after World War II?  That whole business happened because the Jews were given land which was not theirs, based on an illegitimate document – the bible.  Now, 70-plus years downstream, the tensions and outright warfare continue, despite all efforts to solve the dispute and end the conflict.  Why?

Everyone in the civilized world has roughly agreed, including the majority of Arabs and Jews, that there should be enough room for two states for two peoples in the same land.  Why can’t they get it?  Because the parties of god have a veto on it.  Everybody knows that this is true.  Because of the divine promises made about this territory, there will never be peace, there will never be compromise.  There will instead be misery, shame, and tyranny.  People will kill each other’s children for ancient books and caves and relics. [emphasis mine]
-- Christopher Hitchens

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 22, 2018 at 11:22am

To Compelledunbeliever -- Thanks for the kind words.  As far as I can untangle the logic about "God in schools," it is another instance of the magical belief in prayer and religious faith and practice as a panacea for bad behavior.   There is no actual connection between religiosity and morality, as everyone on this site knows.  Some of the worst people in history were and are religious believers. But to the mushy-minded believers, there is a connection.  

Beyond that, I don't know how their minds work.  Belief in God is supposed to prevent people  from killing?  It usually does the opposite.

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 22, 2018 at 11:11am

Reply to Craig -- Once people are locked into a permanent state of fantasizing about religious figures as if they were real - and I do not mince words: with Freud, I believe that religion is a form of mental illness, perpetuated by relentless indoctrination -- then talk about prayer becomes a legitimate object for contemplation, conversation, and even humor.  Nobody's actually going to pray for Arnold. Sort of like the weather - we can both talk seriously and joke about it. 

Comment by Compelledunbeliever on March 20, 2018 at 12:55am

Well said.  The thing about Christians saying that school shootings are because God has been taken out of school is that there are church shootings. Does this mean that they have taken god out of church? It is even worse if God is real and in the church simply letting it happen. I am much happier now that I do not believe there is a God. It is much easier to deal with than believing that he is real and simply lets evil happen because it is "his will."

Billy Graham simply had charisma,. As did another fellow in Germany in 1938. Charisma do not make one right, it makes them powerful. Much has been said about how Mr. Graham was modest and did not seek power. He influenced Presidents and thus politics around the world. If I do not want to golf I do not go to the golf course.

Comment by Craigart14 on March 12, 2018 at 1:27pm

Alan, do you remember Trump's stirring words at the National Fanta--er, I mean, Prayer Breakfast?  He expressed grave concern over declining ratings for The Apprentice and asked the attendees to pray for new host Arnold Schvarzenegger and for better ratings.  Why can't True Believers see through such self-serving crap?

Comment by Alan Perlman on March 7, 2018 at 2:11pm

Thanks to all commentators.

To Randall -- I think you were an atheist before.  Certain things trigger it.  I distinctly recall when they put "under God" in the pledge, and I immediately thought, "I'm not saying that."  Then I saw real and fake religiosity (both equally repugnant) all around me.  I really thought I would have seen more progress by now. 

To Joan -- Thanks as always for the kind words.  Of course you may share this with a receptive audience.

To Loren -- This constant equating of God and Jesus (= going to church and talking a lot about the Bible) with moral conduct has always baffled me.  "Good without God" just doesn't compute with these people.  Re other comment -- Why weren't the secular organizations more vocal with press releases like the above?  Fear of religious violence?

Comment by Randall Smith on March 7, 2018 at 7:44am

My life as an atheist may have begun with a Billy Graham event I attended along with my Methodist youth group back in high school. I distinctly remember thinking, "This is a bunch of bull shit!" And when a couple of my group members went up to the stage to be "healed", I thought "what fools". Get me out of here, I said to myself.

When I first heard Graham had died, I actually said out loud, "Hurray!" Make that a double for the day The Donald dies.

Comment by Michael Penn on March 7, 2018 at 6:50am

Not much difference between Graham and Trump except for the fact that Graham had a bit more finesse.

Comment by Joan Denoo on March 7, 2018 at 3:33am

Wow! Alan! you tell the truth in powerful language. May I share your piece with my Facebook Family, your words will resonate with some of them and encourage them to speak? Sometimes, most of the time, it is lonely, telling the truth and naming con-artists of the religious right for what they are. 

We just have to bite the bullet and tell the truth. Not easy! Not fun! Necessary to do. 

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