"Mystery [the divinity of Jesus Christ] is made a convenient Cover for absurdity."

John Adams


"Every other sect suppos[es] itself in possession of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong: like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, tho' in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them."

Benjamin Franklin 


A couple of years ago, USA Today (9/28/10) reported that Americans are generally pretty ignorant of the world’s major religions, and even of their own. 

Only 55% of Catholics knew that the Church wants them to believe that the communion wafer and wine BECOME flesh and blood [remember Tom Lehrer’s  ”2,4,6,8…time to transubstantiate”?] and are not merely symbols.” 

Modern Catholics would probably rather not think about this disturbing aspect of their faith.  They know that things don’t fundamentally change their nature in the everyday world, certainly not bread and wine.  And perhaps the mind recoils at being asked to perform not a symbolic act of cannibalism (eat the god, become like the god), but a REAL one.

Small victory

The general ignorance is easily explainable.  Of course, if I’m being taught that my religion is the one true path, how much interest will I have in others’ fantasies and rituals?  It’s a carefully cultivated ignorance.

But maybe the poll implies a small victory for reason and common sense.  Maybe some people are willfully ignorant of religious doctrine; they find religious belief so outrageous, they go into denial and let the clerics do the believing and observing. 

I’m talking basic facts here.  Only 55% of respondents knew that the Golden Rule isn’t one of the Ten Commandments.  And in my experience NO ONE has been able to explain the difference between the Torah and the Bible (that is, if they don’t think they’re one and the same).

FYI, the Torah is the first five books of the 24 of the Hebrew Bible, or tanakh, known to Christians and others as the Old Testament.  Basic stuff.  Of course, the irrelevance to daily life is also a factor.

Best cop-out

The best cop-out in the article was “I have a personal relationship with God, and that’s all I need.”  No, it’s not. 

I have no relationship whatsoever with God, and I care very much about religion.

As the article points out, religion is a potent force, which, I add, brings controversy, violence, conflict and death wherever it goes. 

Religion cuts off hands, ears, limbs, noses, clitorises, foreskins, and maybe other body parts that I don’t know about. 

Religion makes people flagellate, crucify and otherwise mutilate themselves.

Religion forces people to live in childlike fantasy and ignorance. 

Religion makes people go on insane pilgrimages and trample each other to death.  It makes them kill each other over holy ground, holy books, and divinely granted real estate. 

Religion allows murder, suicide, racism and polygamy, condemns homosexuality, and meddles endlessly in the most personal corners of our lives, where we should be exercising free choice.

So no, it’s not enough to have a personal relationship with God.  You’re also a human being in a society drenched with religion, and you cannot turn a blind eye to religion’s murderous dreams and cannibalistic fantasies.  Are they too not the work of your God?

Bigger win

A considerably bigger victory for reason and skepticism was the fact that atheists and agnostics knew more about religion than any religious group!   The article speculated that it’s because these people are better educated, but I think it’s because the atheist is a rational person who wants to understand what he/she is rejecting. 

As a child I waited for God to show up and do the things he did in the Bible.  But no show, so no God.   He didn’t make the cut, reality-wise.

I consider myself an example of an atheist who knows his religion.  Unlike 99% of all non-clerical Jews, I have actually read the Torah, in the Jewish Publication Society's authoritative translation (no, I don’t have to read it in the original; that work has been done for me).  I honestly wanted to find out why this poor old scroll has been so deified and lionized over the centuries. 

I found that there wasn’t much there.  It’s pretty primitive. 

So I’m one of those atheists who knows more Torah than most Jews. I also know how much of the resultant wisdom is mere spin, the linguistic equivalent of jazz riffing and improvisation.

Watch the goyim

Just behind atheists in religious knowledge were Jews.  That figures:  if you’re a Jew, you have to know what the goyim believe, so you can anticipate whether they’re going to come after you – and if so, how and why. 

The blood libel, for instance: the cause of hideous suffering borne of the belief that Jews ground up Christian babies for their Passover Matzot.   Christians are really into blood, cannibalism. and ghastly primitive stuff.   I bet most Jews, knowledgeable as they are, don’t know that Christians really are supposed to believe that the cracker and wine change form and become real flesh and blood.

More recently, Jews are players in the Christian psychotics’ apocalyptic visions.  Our conversion and/or death is an important event in their end-times chronology. That’s why they love Israel.  What an honor.

PS. On the President’s religion.  Why should we care? In my memory, there actually were Presidents who didn’t flaunt their religion.  

Substantial numbers of people believe he’s a Muslim, perhaps because of some bizarre genetic rule (it’s the father).

What do you think he was absorbing, sitting in the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church on the South Side of Chicago, listening to Wright’s psychotic ravings and leftist politics?  Buddhism?  Secularist that he is, it must have been agony to listen to that crap year after year, just to get your Christian cred.

He’s no Muslim.  If he were, he’d be ass-up five times a day.  Muslims are NEVER shy about their religion.  

They build minarets so that idiots can bray when it’s time to pray.  Some are content to practice their faith privately, but on the world stage, Muslims are PUSHY.   They’re involved in a dozen armed conflicts around the world.  And they riot.  Always some insult, some slight.  Or a new wave of immigration into a Western country by barbarians living in the 8th century. 

Jews used to be the masters of pushy, but they have relinquished the title.  If Obama were Muslim, we would know it.

He professes to have discovered kindergarten morality through Jesus; he’s a Christian.  OK, he said the right things….can we leave it at that? 

His parents were secular; one was an outright atheist (dad, who started as a secular Muslim, I think).  There’s NO WAY a religious true-believer comes from that background.  It’s just pandering.  A real leader would say, “It’s my personal business, I believe in love, kindness, tolerance, charity, and all that good stuff regardless of religion, and can we get back to the real problems in this country?”

I had the audacity to hope that Obama would say that, but at heart he is what he is: a politician bound to say and do what he has to.   

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Comment by Alan Perlman on June 12, 2012 at 9:55am

Tammy...made my day.  Thanks.  :)

Comment by Tammy S on June 11, 2012 at 6:50pm

I think I cheered Alan out loud, at my desk, all alone! The bird looked at me as if I'd gone mad...

Comment by James Yount on June 11, 2012 at 10:29am

Ha ha! No, you pretty much nailed my sentiments exactly!

Comment by Alan Perlman on June 11, 2012 at 10:20am

Thanks, James.  What's not to like, other than he's a typical lying politician, full of overblown oratory, ready with a government solution to any problem, committed to no ideals other than the enlargement of government and the enrichement of his cronies?  If I've missed anything -- if he's diferent from the usual run of politicians in some specil way -- let me know.  Oh, yeah -- an affirmative action case of the highest order. No white politician could go from zero experience, other than an incomplete first Senate term, to the Presidency.

Comment by James Yount on June 10, 2012 at 11:50pm

"The audacity of hope." Nice touch. Although I can't stand Obama.



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