[TRIGGER WARNING: religious misogyny and homophobia, a wanton occurrence of the b-word, tasteless and violence-infused mockery by Your Humble Monarch™ of the biblical commandments to murder children and gays and people who like to clean up their wooded backyards on Sundays, a self-inflicted Godwin, snide armchair psychology and probably some other stuff we’re not proud of but felt a need to say nonetheless. There are no violent images in this post—unless you consider our virtual defacement of a church sign violence.]
As part of the Palace’s ongoing mission to extract $82 billion worth of benefits for ourselves and Loyal Readers™ on account of our yearly taxpayer subsidies to the Religion-Industrial-Complex we so despise, we have taken it upon ourselves to regularly mock a church sign in the small town where my mother lives. Countless hapless passersby are routinely subjected to some Christian’s embarrassing attempt to combine cleverness and evangelism—two great words that taste great together, much like conservative and Democrat.
Behold the mind-blowing signage proudly on display today at Trinity United Methodist Church:
Dear Lard. Where to even begin?
One of the more astonishing and insidious aspects of religion per se is that many people who are fairly rational, realistic, practical and logical in almost every other area of their lives, from science-based medical care to household budgeting, are completely delusional when it comes to the claims of their religion. Equally amazing is that many people who are typically kind and generous in almost every other area of their lives are completely hateful asshats in accordance with the claims of their religion. My guess is that religious messages are simultaneously terrifying and appealing at a very childish, narcissistic level, and thus the various sects both attract and shape various types of personalities. For some of my Christian friends, these messages are things like:
“Whether or not he was actually some supernatural ‘son of god’ or whatever, Jesus was a wonderful, loving, kind and forgiving d00d whose life and words inspire me to to be a better person and help less fortunate people.“
When this particular message is appealing to someone, it is hardly a coincidence that this same someone can be described as wonderful, loving, kind and forgiving; someone who is genuinely sorry when they inadvertently hurt others and who aspires to learn and do better going forward; a person who regularly goes out of their way to help other sentient beings and reduce suffering without the expectation of compensation or any other agenda. This is, of course, pure projection on their part, sustained by selective confirmation bias: wherever they witness or participate in an act of love and kindness, they “see” their god behind it and feel all warm and fuzzy. When they witness an act of vicious and deliberate cruelty or, say, a terrible natural disaster, this theological view pretty quickly falls apart. And yet they make no attempt to reconcile it; they simply shrug and move on—right after they donate whatever they can to the disaster relief fund and/or roll up their sleeves to help rebuild.
Then there are other folks for whom divine justice or divine favor appears to be the primary driver of their faith. They find appealing messages such as this one:
“We are the One True God’s One True Chosen People and therefore we are superior, protected and blessed as long as we follow certain rules and rituals.”
Ordinarily they can be nice and generous people, but scratch the surface and you will find them to be fiercely tribal, petty, provincial, unapologetically bigoted, judgmental, hierarchy-oriented and rules-focused. And, in an incredible coincidence, it turns out that god is exactly like them! (An interesting aside is that these rules to which they are beholden and by which they measure others are wildly arbitrary and change with the moral zeitgeist in various times and places—including their own.) Such folks are more willing to accept casual cruelty, tragedy and injustice in this world, because they believe that everyone will be appropriately rewarded and/or punished by their god in either this world or the next. In large part to assure themselves that they are on the positive side of the Divine Account Ledger Sheet by comparison, they like to keep score. (“I visibly and ostentatiously sacrifice myself for people who neither deserve nor appreciate it, and even if I complain about it incessantly it still means I’ve earned another jewel in my crown in heaven!” “Look! Look! Can you believe she is wearing that?” “They will get what they deserve.”) Although they are more prone than others to notions of karma and the Just World Fallacy, they can sometimes be reasoned out of a wacky dogmatic position; in my experience this is better accomplished when reason and evidence are accompanied by an emotional appeal, such as a disturbing image. These people generally mean well. But then, so did Adolf Hitler.
At the far end of this religious continuum we find the right-wing fanatics, theocrats and sociopaths. The message they seek (and find) is this one:
“The Supreme Master of the Universe hates women, gays and liberals and therefore it is right and righteous that I am either indifferent to Those Other People’s sufferings, take great personal satisfaction from witnessing it, or take direct action to cause it.”
Like many of their brethren, they are also tribal, petty, provincial, unapologetically bigoted, judgmental, hierarchy-based and rules-focused—but to a far, far greater extent. To these charming traits we can also add hateful and sadistic. Unlike those described above, these people are driven primarily by fear and a pathological need for dominance, order and control more than by any desire for karmic fairness or the alleviation of suffering (except perhaps their own). To the extent that they will help others, this is conceived as a duty or tradition, and such actions tend to be focused locally on family, friends and (like-minded) neighbors. When they express sentiments such as “I understand right and wrong,” what they mean is “I have learned and internalized the things I was told are ‘wrong’: the theory of evolution, having gay sex or tolerating anyone else who does, allowing women to be all uppity and control their own sex lives and reproduction, letting black/brown/poor people have access to basic health care,” etc. These people absolutely cannot be reasoned out of their views, with or without an emotional appeal: they are impervious to evidence and will rationalize anything and everything as “god’s will.” And in a truly shocking coincidence that is literally beyond belief, god’s will is exactly the same as their own! To the extent that they have any internal moral compass (debatable), it is in 100% perfect agreement with their domineering, nasty and vengeful god.
None of this is lost on the leaders and primary beneficiaries of the Religion-Industrial-Complex. This is why so many of their messages to the outside world are deliberately crafted to be open to a wide range of interpretations. When a person with religious inclinations sees a sign that reads “WE DON’T CHANGE THE MESSAGE, THE MESSAGE CHANGES US!” they naturally assume that ‘the message’ comports with their personal ideas of goodness and how the world does (or should) work. Once they cross the threshold and attend a service, ‘the message’ may remain vague and fairly unobjectionable, or it may not. But in any case, the message itself frequently becomes less important than other things they find inside: a welcoming community, a right-wing-bias-confirming echo chamber, music that invokes fond childhood memories, a network of help and support for an elderly or disabled family member, a steady source of narcissistic supply, an organized opportunity to participate in meaningful disaster relief work, whatever. These are among the most potent weapons organized religion has. “The message,” to the extent such a thing even exists outside of someone’s own head, is certainly not religion’s strong suit.
Here are some Judeo-Christian messages:
“And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death…And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” (Exodus 21:15-17)
Be sure to bring all your disobedient children to Wednesday night’s potluck dinner. We’ll be feeding them Mrs. Andrew’s famous baloney-‘n-castor oil casserole. One serving ought to do it.
Get two goats. Kill one. Wipe, smear, and sprinkle the blood around seven times. Then take the other goat, give it the sins of all the people, and send it off into the wilderness. (Lev.16:8-28)
Don’t sweat it, people. We can always make a goat pay for our complete and utter shittiness as human beings.
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” (Lev. 20:13)
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not too late to sign up for next Saturday’s bus trip to The Hangar bar on Christopher Street. Remember when you kill your gay man to please make sure there’s a significant amount of blood upon him. There were apparently some misunderstandings last month, and we don’t want a repeat.
If you disobey god by, say, not murdering disrespectful children, gays and goats, “ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” (Lev. 26:27-29)
For those in the congregation who have failed to murder this year, we’ve tentatively rescheduled Eating Our Own Children Night for December 27, so as not to interfere with the Christmas and New Years holidays and to accommodate those parents whose children will be away at college until the last week of December. As usual, Iris has volunteered to bring the wine.
“And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Num. 15:32-36)
Immediately following this morning’s service, we will depart for our weekly monitoring of all farms and residences in the county for any sinful Sunday-stick-gathering activities. Please remember to pick up your bucket of rocks on your way out. Also: don’t forget to kill anyone who has religious beliefs that are different from your own. (Deut.17:2-7)
“And [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”
(2 Kings 22:23-24)
It is strictly a coincidence that your bald pastor really likes to stress this passage. And keeps pet bears.
Wait, what’s that? Oh, these rules don’t really apply to anyone today because they’re the Old Testament and because Jesus and because a new covenant and blah blah fucking blah? Bzzzt! Nope. Heeeeeeeeeere’s Jeezus!
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19)
Ignore those rules and jots and tittles at your grave peril, people!
Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for not washing his hands before eating (eew…germ theory, how does it work, Jesus? Tell us and thereby save untold millions of lives! Hello? HELLO?!). Jesus defends himself by attacking the Pharisees for not killing their disobedient children according to the commandment: “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” (Matthew 5:4-7) Yes, Jesus criticizes the Jews for not killing their disobedient children as required by Old Testament law. (Mark 7:9-10)
Let me just take this opportunity to remind you again about Wednesday’s potluck and Mrs. Andrew’s casserole.
“If any man come to me [Jesus], and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)
Get your hate on, everyone! Whoo-hoo! And not just yourself and your family, either: don’t forget to hate the gays (and goats)!
Those “without natural affection” (i.e. homosexuals) and their supporters are “worthy of death.” Also: gossips, boasters, and—you guessed it!—disobedient children. (Romans 1:31-32)
Marvin we’re sorry but the sign in front of your business still clearly boasts of “the best deals in town,” and, well, your wife is a bit of a gossip…let’s just say you had better come up with a couple goats right quick…
And finally, an important reminder for the ladies:
A wife must submit to her husband “in every thing,” as though he were Christ himself. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Suck it, bitches! Then make us some sammiches!
Of course they change the message—unless they’re the Westboro Baptists or something—and it is a very good thing for all of us that they do. Unfortunately, the Trinity United Methodist Church sign is partly correct: sometimes the message does indeed change them. Usually it’s not for the better.