It’s your party and you can preach if you want to

Dear (name removed),

I thought it was a really cool idea when your new wife decided to throw you a surprise party for your 50th birthday. Dude, I thought that it would be great to see you again after so many years and reminisce about the glory days of boozing and the card games you so loved.

I had no idea that Jesus was going to be the star attraction at the event. To be fair, I don’t suppose you knew either, it being a surprise and all. But I guess you would have had no objections, as I learned that day that you had been busy over the years…. becoming a pastor.

When I walked into the hall with a few other friends and glanced at the tables and people already sitting there, I noticed a few vaguely familiar faces; faces that I’d not seen for many years. With the band at the front warming up or something, it appeared [at that instant] that my Saturday evening was going to be fun and entertaining. I was so looking forward to doing some catching up…

Still standing at the hall entrance, I was looked around, trying to spot the bar or some such facility when you walked in, dressed in a suit; I don’t ever remember seeing you in a suit before. When the cries of “surprise” died down, I reached over to shake your hand; it was good seeing you again after so many years.

Failing to spot the bar, we walked over to an empty table right at the front of the hall and sat down. Having being seated for barely a minute, we were asked to rise for an opening prayer. “No sweat,” I thought, “let’s get the obligatory waste-of-time out of the way.”

The opening prayer was followed by a couple of gospel tunes from the band and then a couple of songs of praise for Jesus. We were still standing. I grimaced through it all; at least the band was good, the singing not too bad. And then came another pastor with another prayer.

We were still standing. It was becoming mildly annoying. I glanced over to my companions, and they appeared to be in the same frame of mind.

Thankfully the pastor asked us to sit down, but the party that had degenerated into a crusade for Jesus, continued. The pastor launched into a sermon about family, occasionally reading passages from the bible. The pastor’s patronising, and patriarchal diatribe about how the father was the boss-dude of the family was starting to turn my mild annoyance into anger.

[During this sermon from Proverbs, I was surprised to learn that god hates six things, but positively abhors or detests a 7th thing, namely, sowing discord among brethren; although the pastor adapted it for his particular use. I guess the next time a see a Christian fundamentalist waving a banner that “God hates fags,” I will ask him or her ” but does God really detest/abhor homosexuals?”]

It was now nearly an hour later.

After that ghastly sermon, a teenager came up to pray and besmirch Jesus some more, in a sort of lilting, but disconcerting tone. That’s when my companions and I decided to leave.

Dude, I really appreciate that your wife cared enough to want you to celebrate a key milestone in your life with friends you had got to know over the years. And I would have been glad to be there, but I should not have had to compete with Jesus for your attention.

For me a party is a party, is a party, preferably with booze – lots of it. Dude, I just have to say it –  proselytizing is a party-killer… for me at least.

I hope you had a good evening and 50th birthday nonetheless. I’m sorry I couldn’t stay to celebrate it with you. Perhaps we’ll get together again, without Jesus this time.

Your secular friend,

Lenny

Just what the Haitians need right now…talking bibles and quack medicine!!!

You’ve got to hand it to religious do-gooder’s. While Relief Organizations are scrambling to get food, water and medical supplies into earthquake-ravaged Haiti, a US-based Christian group known as Faith Comes By Hearing is pulling out all stops to send a batch of solar-powered audio bibles, instead.

Known as the Proclaimer, the device is apparently capable of broadcasting sermons in Haitian Creole, for up to 15 hours on a single charge. Presumably it’s designed to keep your mind off food for 15 hours while you listen to sermons droning on incessantly about how grateful you should be to be alive, and how you need to submit unquestioningly to god’s love and mercy. Well, done FCBH, you guys are making great strides……………..at proselytizing to vulnerable minds.

On a related note, actor John Travolta used his own private jet to fly in food supplies, doctors and…. Scientology Ministers, to Haiti last week. It’s still unclear why the doctors went along, as the Scientology Ministers are reputed to practice a process of healing called “assist” which is administered through “touching.” While other celebrities chose to direct donations through regular Relief Organizations, John and his cultish Scientologist friends chose to be more ostentatious in their efforts.

I guess it never hurts to use any and every opportunity to market your particular brand of mind control.

Remember, good people, there is no need to clog up the Haitian runways with your private jets, or jam the airwaves with messages of false hope; support the Relief efforts in Haiti using accredited organizations such as The American Red Cross, Oxfam or Doctors Without Borders.

Grow Up or Die

It had to happen. I just had to go see Bill Maher’s movie, Religulous. And the chilling words from the closing scene “Grow up or die” is still echoing  in my mind. It’s meant to sound dramatic and that it certainly does, but how true is it?

Overall, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed the film. It’s generally very funny, although this could be attributed to skillful editing for the most part. Maher may have intended the film to come across as a personal journey in disbelief, but it does become quite “preachy” in parts. I should know, because I also indulged in a similar form of extreme Atheism in the past. Did the film strike a chord with the audience? Well, the approximately five other people who were at the screening were apparently stunned into silence, because I could clearly hear only myself laughing out loud, throughout the film. No doubt, they were believers to some degree, if not outright religionists. I’m not sure what to make of their silence, but it could probably mean one of two things. Either they were genuinely shocked at what they saw and were silently contemplating the apparent mirror image of their own behaviour, or they were disgusted into silence which only means that their attitude to atheism will only harden.

Just prior to exclaiming that we must “grow up or die,” Maher made another blatantly extremist comment while standing at the infamous Megiddo site in Israel, “Religion must die so man can live.” Sounds rather clever, but I don’t believe this will go down all that well with the religious community either. Maher also exhorts all atheists to publicly take a stand against religiosity in a manner which can only be described as proselytizing. I’ve exposed this type of behaviour as rather unethical, previously on this blog. I’m now of the opinion that religion should be allowed to run its course, with only a mild form of dissonance from Atheists in the form of teaching and encouraging rational thinking. Better that it dies a natural death while mankind slowly grows up.

Damn! I’m Living in Religiousville

Azaadville is a small town of a few thousand inhabitants, surrounded by huge mounds of sand which point to the gold mining activity that this neck of the woods is more famous for. It is by no stretch of the imagination, a back-water town; we are not cut off from the world in any manner, and have access to all types of media and amenities. But the fervour with which religion is practised here, is disturbingly out of character for such a locality.

Within a few square kilometers we have three mosques (I cannot really say if the three mosques are divided by the two major Muslim denominations, Sunni and Shi’a, but it is highly likely), two temples (one for North Indians and one for South Indians), a kind of hall above a shop that serves as a Church, an Islamic University and a private Islamic school. With so many religious facilities confined to such a small area, one can be forgiven for thinking that Azaadville is Jerusalem without the Jews; but the Hindus with their temples make up for the missing desert dogma.

Muslim’s in their flowing robes, can be clearly seen clamouring to one of these mosques, five times a day, every day. On Fridays, the businessmen even close their shops at around lunch time to attend prayer services. Hindus, North and South Indian, throng to the temples at least once a day, every week. The Christians, to their credit attend Church services once every Sunday, or at most two or three times a week if there is a special occasion or service. It thus seems pretty obvious, that after the Moslem’s, the Hindus are most in need of their God; or perhaps their God is most in need of them.

I am boarding with a friend, whose wife, a South Indian, spends about as much time at the temple as she does at home. Even when at home, she spends quite a bit of time on the phone, dispensing religious instruction and organizing prayer events, in between the customary doses of gossip. She reminds me of airline passengers who collect frequent flyer miles; only she is clocking up “worship time” in lieu of air-miles, for that one-way ticket to heaven.

Well, at least the Hindu and Christian women are allowed to attend temple services; seems that the role of Muslim women is confined to being the home-maker. However, Hindu women cannot attend temple services when they are menstruating. I’ve heard them say that they are unclean, although why women would consider the natural act of menstruation as unclean, is strange to say the least. Perhaps it’s a belief forced on them by their religion; in which case I’m not at all surprised. I’ve also noticed that Hindu women take the lead when it comes to most religious activity, which leads me to believe that (Hindu) women are either more religious than men, or are more susceptible to the irrational allure of religion.

Having to listen to the incessant chatter about religion and gods and prayer events from my friend’s wife, and the Islamic call to prayer blaring five times a day from loudspeakers mounted on the Mosque minarets, is kinda getting to me.  However, as long as all this religious fervour is carried out peacefully and the adherents don’t bother me too much with their proselytizing, I suppose I could still tolerate it; like when birds crap on my freshly-washed car.