Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Sunday School

Two weeks ago I managed to get out of the office for lunch. That's a rare occurence in Boston during the month of February. Out in the streets I spotted members of some strange cult walking around with dirt on their foreheads. Oh, that's right, they don't belong to a cult. It was Ash Wednesday. That religious observance when Catholics have a priest rub grime all over their faces and pretend it makes them good, God fearing people.

I'm sure that's all the Supreme Being will be looking for when you finally catch up. 'Huh, see you cheated on your wife 150 different times and accidentally killed your high school buddy in a hunting accident. We both know better about that, though, don't we. But, you did attend Ash Wednesday mass and confessed your sins on your death bed. Welcome! Good think you didn't wait till the last minute, eh?'

The only difference between a cult and a religion is the number of people that follow it. Anything below 1000 is a cult. Between 1,001 and 100,000 is a following. Above that, let's just call it a religion. They all have their own unique lunacies that need to be followed, anyway. Catholics have their lent, Jews have their passover, Scientologists have their 'Top Gun' screenings. They're all a bit deranged and prehistoric when you get to the basics of it.

It slays me that the Catholic religion scoffs at their competitors when their customs and traditions are just as inane and outdated as any other religion. Scientology says we originated from aliens or that they're living in us or something like that. Catholicism says some hippie dude died, stayed dead for 3 days, then came back to life and not one person complained about his smell. And where did he go after he came back to life? Was he thirsty? Hungry? What kind of morning wood did he have after a 3 day sleep? I imagine it being painful. You tell me which sounds more bizarre. Don't they sort of cancel each other out?

There is a tribe in the Tanna islands (east of Australia) that is considered a member of the 'Cargo Tribes'. Every February 15th they paint USA on their chests, run a fake American flag up a pole and march like they belong to the Marines. They think doing this will bring back the riches, food, and radios they became accustomed to when the US Military setup base on the island during World War 2. They even built bamboo radio towers, plowed landing strips and built headsets thinking that will bring back their good fortune. What they're doing is copying what the Americans did when the planes would air drop all their cargo. Since there was so much of it, the soldiers would often pay the natives with food and supplies from the drops in exchange for their manual labor. Since this is what the soldiers did, why shouldn't it work for them, too? How are they to know any better?

Yet, a majority of people will laugh at these tribes while accepting Mary's pregnancy was 'immaculate' and that Jesus walked on water. James Cameron (right, the Terminator guy) is creating quite a stir because he and his documentary film crew claim to have found 10 burial tombs. One (they claim) is Jesus, one is Mary Magdelene and one is Jesus and Mary's child. That's right. Child! He says they have definitive proof of this and, if this is true, would this not throw the Catholic Church into chaos? Everything their beliefs are based on will come crumbling down. This may be another false alarm in the never ending quest to find the historic side of Jesus (what did he do during his teenage years, anyway?), but intriguing nonetheless. Can you imagine the wealthiest, most powerful religion in the world being forced to say "Um, yeah, nevermind".

For the record, I was raised Catholic and shed the label as quickly as I could. I like to say I'm a reformed Catholic. My parents made it mandatory for us to go to church every Sunday. To get out of it, I told them I was going to the noon mass then hit the arcades until 11:45 or so. Then went to the church and swiped one of those weekly handouts as proof I went. I've even bit the bullet and gone because my wife wanted our kids baptised. I always left angry. Always. The condescention and superiority of the priests just steamed me. Not sure about you, but I've never considered anger a spiritual experience.

I never bought into the whole 'Jesus as savior' concept anyway. Never mind that Catholicism used Jesus to switch from 'God is vengeful, angry and will smite you down' to 'God is all knowing, all loving and forgives all' in midstream. It's like the church spent hundreds of years preaching one thing, then turned around one day and said 'Shit, we're soooo sorry, but forget what we were telling you. We completely misread the directions. We're so embarrassed right now'. First Adam and Eve hung out with a talking snake then Jesus came along (with no real father, mind you) and turned water into wine, healed the sick and walked on water. Call me crazy, but I really don't think those things happened.

Still, I probably wouldn't be so anti-Catholic or anti-religion if there weren't so much proof of corruption within. I think it's a great idea to preach the teachings of someone who thought forgiveness, acceptance of ALL others, tolerance and understanding should be our way of life. But are they really teaching that? You want a true glimpse into the soul of the Catholic Church, ask someone about gay marriage. Ask the Pope about birth control. Ask your neighborhood priest about abortion. That's when their true colors show.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at the hypocrisy surrounding most religions. After all they're just people like us. Power, no matter what type, almost always leads to some form of abuse. Whether it financial, political or child. I just think if they're going to preach 'treat others as you want to be treated' they should act accordingly. The leaders or representatives of any religion should not be saying, in effect, 'do as I say, not as I do'.

For when that road is taken you may find an 11th Commandment at the end. It starts 'people that live in glass houses'. I believe you know the rest.

Today's distraction: Find out your spiritual type. I'm a 'Spiritual Dabbler' which is one step above 'Hardcore Skeptic'. Basically I'm interested in all different types of religion, but don't believe in any of it.


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