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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.
Chapter 18 – “Vengeful God.”
As I was growing up, lots of people spent lots of time trying to get me into a cult. Unfortunately, my family was part of this effort. “Give it a try,” they said, speaking about one group or another. If it wasn’t the Quakers, it was the Baptists. If it wasn’t the Baptists, it was the Lutherans. If it wasn’t the Lutherans, it was the Catholics. And so on.
To me, it seemed like I was caught up in the Religion of the Month Club. We went to churches. We went to temples. We went to meeting halls. In each case, my dad told me to keep an open mind. “You might find you like it,” he said. For the most part, “like” was not my reaction.
For example, I spent time with Jewish friends and attended services at their synagogue but recoiled in fright when I got a look at the foreign language their parents expected the kids to learn. C’mon, folks, English is difficult enough.
I spent nearly a year in Catholic school and talk about recoiling in fright! I had objections for all kinds of reasons (can you say “Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis”?)
The problem wasn’t the philosophy of the religiosity folks. I could handle that stuff. Well, some of it. After all, if you strip away the folderol, you find that a great many religions usually come down to just three things.
One: treat others as you want to be treated. Two: pay homage to the great and powerful Oz (or whatever their divinity may be called). Three: don’t laugh at the silly costumes, rites, and rituals.
The first point makes perfect sense; the next one is a waste of time and energy; the third one is impossible for anyone with a sense of humor. Or a sense of the absurd. Or fashion sense.
I’ll bet that some people have already stopped reading this chapter. A few others are crying “Blasphemy!” But for those of you with a modicum of intelligence, just try this experiment: look at almost anything that has been written or spoken by someone “of faith.” Mark the places where they mention their deity, then substitute “Miss Pinkham’s Tonic” or some other product in place of their precious appellation. You’ll probably see that the sales pitch is essentially the same.
We believe in the everlasting spirit of our Lord and to his deeds we testify.
Under our little experiment, this becomes:
We believe in the everlasting spirit of our Pimple Cream and to its deeds we testify.
It doesn’t even seem to matter if you’re looking at modern-day language or scared and anxious texts (or even sacred and ancient texts). And it doesn’t seem to matter if the sentence is about Jebus, Shish-Kabob, Cammy, Dharma and Greg, Shanghai, Adonis, Fishgnu, or whatever. The effect is the same.
People don’t seem to mind the use of the term “cult” to describe other people’s religions, but they can get downright testy when it’s applied to their own. “We are not a cult!” they yell. Sometimes they shout in unison, totally ignoring the incongruity. But all right, let’s see if there is a difference between religion and cult. . .
A cult is a group of people who adhere to a system of religious beliefs. Check.
A cult is a group or sect that worships or venerates the same thing, person, or ideal. Check.
A cult is a group of people who embrace a specific ideology with a set of rites and rituals focusing on their revered symbols. Check.
So, tell me: a religion and a cult are different how?
“But we have millions of believers so we’re a religion and not a cult!” they chant.
Okay, so you’re saying that the raw numbers make a difference? Therefore, except for the quantity of followers, your group is basically the same as the “People’s Temple” in Guyana that was headed by Jim Jones.
For those who don’t remember, the People’s Temple was the organization where 900+ folks consumed flavored drinks laced with cyanide and committed mass suicide. So I guess I’m comfortable with this view, that the distinction between these groups is the total amount of members. Preferably the still-living members.
At this point, some people go on the counter-attack: “What if we call your religion a cult?” they bark at me. “How would that make you feel?” That would make me feel fine. “I’ll bet you don’t even have a religion!” That’s true. “You are Godless!” That’s not true.
Faith vs. Religion
I have faith. I do not have religion. But this was not for lack of trying. For what it’s worth, my family settled on a religion. The one that was picked was the United Church of Christ.
At one point, I became an official member. I even delivered a sermon one Sunday morning. My subject? Well, I spoke about Christ, of course. I called attention to the image of Jesus in the posters on the walls of the Sunday school classrooms. And to the lurid and overly-colored photo-illustration of Jesus in the front of the hymnals. And to the fact that this blonde-haired blue-eyed portrait of JC was clearly incorrect.
Considering the population of the world at the time, and paying attention to the geographic location of the events being discussed in the Bible, then it was obvious that Christ had to be dark-skinned.
What a profound silence came over the room at that point in my sermon. There were shocked looks on the faces of the audience. I mean the membership. I mean the congregation. At the movies, they were very comfortable with the American film presentations of Jesus. They loved the look of Jeffrey Hunter in “King of Kings.” They were happy about the young Max von Sydow in “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” But the appearance of Enrique Irazoqui in Pasolini’s “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” was beyond their acceptance.
My sermon did not seem to go over very well. Not sure why. After all, the folks in that church were people of every color, including white, pale white, pinkish white, and golf-course tan (but white underneath). Turned out that they preferred the phony pretty-boy pictures of Jesus. Who knew?
One Sunday, our church arranged to swap congregations with a church in South Gate. Which is to say that people in the downtown church could drive out to our suburban church and be welcomed with open arms and open hearts. And we had the same invitation from them. So my family made the journey across the city.
The trip turned out to be quite nifty because I got to see the nearby Watts Towers. But at the downtown church service, it turned out we were the only Caucasians in the building. It was an interesting experience and I have to say that they had way better music in their church than we did in ours.
When we got back to The Valley, I talked with the other kids about the Towers (which are pretty amazing) and that great music. Several of the teens in my church showed some interest in the music, but they said that their parents told them they had been afraid to drive “down there.”
It would be a few years later in life that I renounced all religiosity. When I made my escape, there were no papers signed so perhaps I am still officially among the flock in the United Church of Christ. (Note to self: resign membership in UCOC.)
Not that it matters. My faith abides quite apart from any religion. “And what faith is that?” Glad you asked. Here goes:
I believe there is something beyond us. Or perhaps it’s within us, if only we can touch it and use it to make us into worthy creatures. I believe we began from some power. Call it creator, supreme being, big kahuna, the force, whatever. I am fine with using the word god, although you can see that I don’t always capitalize it. The word god is dog spelled backward, and all that.
Some Things I Know About God
God may be a he. God may be a she. God may be an it. I’m leaning towards an energy field, but who the hell knows.
God doesn’t care what gender or name we use to describe him or her or it.
God is annoyed by how often we ask for help in achieving or acquiring things that are inconsequential. Like fame or wealth. Or a passing grade in geometry.
God is really pissed off at our smarmy shouts of Thank You and Praise Be for things. Especially things that are silly. Like touchdowns or Grammys.
God has bigger problems than what we’re up to here on earth.
If god glances our way, the reaction will not be positive. If you were god, would you be pleased at us? Look at what we’re causing: Pollution of the air, water, and soil. Degradation and depletion of natural resources. Global poverty, hunger, and disease. Unchecked power of multinational corporations. Nuclear proliferation. Over-reliance on military solutions to political problems. Genocides on several continents. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. Narrow-minded fundamentalism. Terrorism. Oligarchy. Theocracy.
God will not be pleased by religions. God is appalled by religiosity because of all its condescension, fear mongering, suspicion, sanctimoniousness, hatred, violence, proselytizing, and interference in people’s lives.
I think that god is smart enough to have started several experiments. “Let’s create life in a big Petri dish,” god said. “A Petri dish like earth. We’ll just wait a few millennia and see what happens,” god continued. “Maybe try a few thousand Petri dishes,” meaning a few thousand stars and planets. Earth may be one of the experiments deemed to be unsuccessful.
I’m wondering if you have read about some of Buckminster Fuller’s views of our occupation of this planet. If not, here’s a very brief example (I’m paraphrasing his words)…
Think about being an astronaut on a spaceship. Y’know, kind of a “Star Wars” type of scenario. You’re on a spacecraft where things are going terribly wrong. Some sections of the ship are running out of food and water. Different groups of passengers are fighting each other over provisions, resources, and arbitrary boundary lines. Sects and cults are preaching distrust and hatred towards each other. Fires and explosions shake various parts of the ship. Ever more powerful weapons are being developed for attack and/or deterrence. Mechanical devices that provide comfort for some groups are destroying the air supply for the entire craft. And we all continue to orbit and spin through the skies on our tiny Spaceship called Earth.
God may have set everything in motion, but did god create that dire situation? I’m pretty sure we are doing it to ourselves.
Hell to Pay
I also believe we will answer for our actions when we die. Not for our thoughts, mind you. Thinking can take you in any direction and you can still be free of sin. Go ahead and think about how blissful the world would be if every republican or fascist or jerk or asshole or religious fanatic were to die screaming in a fire that you help stoke with gasoline. Laugh about it. Enjoy the moment. Then, fill your head and heart with something positive and move on with your life. It’s how we act that will determine our fate in the hereafter.
I believe that when you die, you are going to be handled or mishandled by millions of creatures who act exactly like you.
Do you grab what you want from anyone who is helpless whether it is within the law or not? Then you will have everything taken from you for an eternity. Do you act like your pleasure is the sole reason for doing something? Then you will be at the mercy of the selfish forever. Do you behave as if you are better than all other things on this planet? Then you will be under the direct supervision of the condescending, for eons. Do you promote your belief as the One True Way? Then you will be harried and badgered and harassed by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Freaks on an hourly basis.
Yes, the god in which I believe is merciless.
I believe god’s vengeance is to see to it that you will be dealt with by you. And for most of you, that will surely be Hell.
Don’t know if my view is correct. Guess we’ll get the answers once we die. So, would you like to have the answers now? It can be arranged. Or would you like to stay here a while to see what kind of human you are capable of becoming?
For me, I’m delaying getting the answers for the moment. And I’m trying not to take too much satisfaction in knowing most people are going to be suffering for what they do to others. And that their suffering will last a hell of a lot longer than it takes to live life here on Earth.
(Note to self: stop smirking about the pain awaiting some of the folks you have encountered in your life. It is unseemly. It is not nice. Just stop it, I say! Repeat to self: Fill your head and heart with something positive and move on with your life.)
But I just can’t help it: Mwaaaahaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaa!
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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten; Author Photo: Brian Forest.