(though, I certainly believe this has always been the case, and folks have up until now just done a better job of sweeping dirt under the rug)
You know, I've always danced to religion. I imagine I'm a disciiplined individual, with dashes of intensity, an appreciation for process, and an unhelathy curiosity. I don't find attack to be an antidote. The proper ritual, the austerity and integrity, the right word, the right time, the movement here, the utterance there; prayers at this hour of the sun, burn this offering; a little blood (honest blood, mind you). Just like assembling the right melody, the heart-rended chord progression, the beat, the pregnant pause, a howling vocal, a gently whining guitar string; if you could just come up with a nice syncopated God, I'd get back into believing. What sort of fellow cares for the garden by taking a flamethrower to the radishes because crabgrass came up next to them? Rule men by the bread they buy, and if you can't do that, because choking the inclination toward free market off eventually leads to the guillotine; then rule them by their questions.
I find the most humor in the business of testimonial. Far be it from me too be too critical (I'm lucky I can exercise godlike powers over the mollies in the aquarium), but isn't the 'send two box tops in and ten proofs of purchase and get a free weekend pass into heaven' a mite hilarious? Now I don't take the easy joke at the expense of the evangelist (seeing the envelope urging me in seven vivid colors to 'take advantage of the discount bulk prayer rate' always, always gives me a chuckle); rather I am fascinated by those doctrines that demand active recruitment. A fellow comes up on the public transportation, which leads me to believe given the frequency of these sorts of encounters on the mass transit, that one's religious fervor is inversely proportional to gas prices. At three dollars a gallon, if one is driving, I'm betting my salvation becomes very economic. Anyway, he comes on up, and gives me the old Q & A, with a vested interest in ensuring the productivity of my Afterlife. 'Do you want to die and go to hell?' he asks me. Good God, man, my doctor, who has told me that if I do not stop the drinking, sleep deprivation, and high intensity activity of my current self-destructive lifestyle, I'll go down the very same road, found an easier way to ask me that question. I suppose I don't get alarmed at the man's intention (hell, I don't exactly have any folks beating the door down talking about saving me); I find his interest in brotherhood oddly charming, but I have to wonder what hsi angle is. And let me tell you: it wasn't enough that he crawled out of the gutter and a pool of his own poisoned puke, and cleaned up. it wasn't enough that he went ahead and threw away his easy pain relief, his escapes and the tools of an eventual release. it wasn't enough that he did in order to please a face he'll never see, a voice he'll never hear, but has to believe is there. He must now go out and convert. 'You poor bastard', I say. 'Your work's not even close to over. You traded one whip hand for another.' Two box tops. ten proofs of pruchase. Ten percent off Heaven for every hundred you bring in.
If you knew the whole world was dying, what would you do about it? Exactly what you're doing now, because it always is. nobody ever discusses what's being born.
Which brings me at last to the nasty little geist, faith. I don't need to speak on its behalf. A million bomb throwing believers, criminals with authority and guns, and whole communities cutting their young men and women at the joint and abandoning them into social consumer/acquisition wastelands speaks well enough for me. And that's just in between these borders. I suppose it disturbs me when one acquires any given faith in a thing, that something else must be disbelieved. Now this is the way of education, mind you, in the nature of being corrective. For the love of god, is there no limit, though? This business of faith increasingly becomes a list things that are not to be done; a lack of priveleges, a simplicity to be acquired through limitation and compulsion. I saw another faith, once, in the man who looked at a sky and wanted to dwell in it; the man who wanted to reach the horizon in a single day; men who wished to unite under a common banner and determine their own desitinies. Men disbelieved by their peer geneartion, driven by this faith, that they could do a damn thing, despite having no evidence to the contrary. A faith that could achieve, rather than divide, or restrain. What sort of God did they place ahead of them, as they struck out alone, into those unexplored lands? Is it the same god who would make mere messenger boys and criers out of dregs, and robots and militants out of folks, rather than history out of men?