Saturday, July 03, 2010

Go God Go

I had a long conversation with a young man in a book store about how dangerous and dysfunctional religion is on this crowded, contentious planet. He stood his ground and forced me to see his side of it -- that while fundamentalist religions ARE ludicrous and dangerous, ridding the world of them won't make much difference in solving humanity's biggest problems. He urged me to watch a two-part South Park ("Go God Go" and "Go God Go XII"), in which Cartman (second from right, below) uses a time machine to go into the future to get a new video game console, and sees how people live in a world without religion. Cartman notices that the future world, which had by this time jettisoned religion, is still just as fucked up and violent as our world is now.


I thought of this when I read a very interesting Chris Hedges essay, "Religious Institutions Are Ruled By the Morally Bankrupt -- But Should We Be Cheering Religion's Demise?" the other day, which deals with the same topic. Though Hedges is as sickened and repulsed by everyday fundamentalist religions as I am, in this essay he defends the existence of religion. His prose is beautiful, and he can nail religion better than anybody, but he is leery about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Hedges writes that religions in their early forms "challenged the power of the tribe, the closed society. They offered up the possibility that human beings, although limited by circumstance and human weakness, could shape and give direction to society and their own lives. [The early] religious thinkers were our first ethicists. And it is perhaps not accidental that the current pope, as well as the last one, drove out of the Catholic Church thousands of clergy and religious leaders who embodied these qualities, elevating the dregs to positions of leadership and leaving the pedophiles to run the Sunday schools."

Unlike me, Hedges is not in a big hurry to eradicate religion. After reading his beautifully written short essay, I definitely see his point. Although intellectuals blame religion for arbitrarily dividing people into oppositional groups, thereby leading to persecution, ethnic cleansing, and wars, it is likely simply a matter of human nature to be territorial and divisive and have wars against others, with or without religion.

Of course I still think religion has got to go. But now I realize that I've been acting as if eliminating fundamentalist religion was THE solution to fixing the human condition, when in fact, elimination of fundamentalism is just one of the main ingredients of the solution.

Humans will do really bad things completely outside of religious influence--for money, to have sex with the more attractive woman, for pride. Just to pick one problem out of the air, a problem as huge as religious fundamentalism, it is this: humans lack reverence for nature and the environment. The BP oil spill doesn't have anything to do with religion.

According to Chris Hedges (and me), Americans are already incredibly immoral. Hedges writes:
The consumer culture, as Nietzsche feared, has turned us into what Chalmers Johnson calls a "consumerist Sparta." The immigrants and the poor, all but invisible to us, work as serfs in this new temple of greed and imperialism. Curtis White in "The Middle Mind" argues that most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their consumer society and empire. He suspects they do not care. They don’t want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins or the horribly maimed bodies and faces of veterans or the human suffering in the blighted and deserted former manufacturing centers. It is too upsetting. Government and corporate censorship is welcomed and appreciated. It ensures that we remain [Nietzsche's] Last Men. And the death of religious institutions will only cement into place the new secular religion of the Last Man, the one that worships military power, personal advancement, hedonism and greed, the one that justifies our callousness toward the weak and the poor.
Hedges thinks that without religion, we will get even more callous. That seems plausible to me. Every Southern plantation owner had a Bible in his home, as the plantation owners brutalized millions of African slaves. Almost every family that supported Hitler had a Bible in their home, and Germany had beautiful cathedrals and churches everywhere. If cultures STEEPED in the loving teachings of Jesus could be so cruel, imagine what it might be like when the stupid among us no longer fear God. Maybe things would get worse!

Some of you are wondering: Why does Jeff hate religion so much? Well, I've got millions of good anti religion quotes, including these great ones from our Founding Fathers, but here's a new one from SF Chronicle columnist Mark Morford that says it all:

"The Bible? Cute cluster bomb of childish oral-tradition mythology told by angry, sexless white men and then translated from multiple dead languages and re-written and re-edited countless times throughout history for the sake of power and political gain and to control the ignorant masses via guilt, shame and fear. Oh, and also a lie. But, you know, a well-intentioned one. Sort of."

I went to a protest at Ocean Beach in San Francisco last week (see several pictures below), and I really felt like I was wasting my time. Why protest to get the attention of our representatives, when we don't even HAVE any representatives. We are living in a fascist state, period. I've been doing zen meditation for years, and coping very well with the cruel insanity of our empire. My kids are happy and healthy and both are the at the top of their classes. But I'm losing it. I just can't believe how horrible it is to be an American. (Ah, I know that line will rub some people the wrong way, but that's because they're ignoring the 7 million people we've murdered starting with the 3 million in the Vietnam War, plus a million Cambodians, a half million Laotians, a half million Central Americans (under Reagan), and under Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2, a good 2 million Iraqis.)

We either have to engage in violent revolution (which I don't have the stomach for) or start engaging in totally focused boycotts and strikes. We cannot tolerate any crossing of the picket line, so to speak. Or else we just have to suck it up and accept it that we live in a corporate-run state (the definition of fascism) with a puppet "president" named Barrack and a puppet Congress comprised mainly of prostitutes.

The American colonists used to tar and feather any neighbor who supported the British. If we ALL boycotted BP or GM or whoever we wanted to fuck with, they would be ruined quickly and they would start to see who their real bosses were and what America is really supposed to be about. Or if we bombed their assets, destroyed their data, and imprisoned their criminal CEO's, they'd start to see where the power in America really lives: We the People. Otherwise, we just have to bend over and take it. Protesting isn't going to work unless the crowds are in the millions. We had about 600 at our beach protest. Maybe the oil spill will wake people up, but I'm not holding my breath.

After you look at the cute protest pictures below, scroll all the way down for a tiny article called "Human Extinction." What do you think? Are these two prominent scientists right?







Tuesday, March 16, 2010


What To Do?

This is a very strange time in my life because it is completely unclear to me what my next political move should be. When Bush 2 was president, it was so obvious. Every American who was a good human being automatically wanted to push for impeachment of this self-confessed criminal and to end our violent, costly, failed occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. But now, with Obama at the helm, we are still feeling a bit lucky to have dodged the McCain/Palin bullet by electing a man who seemed to be a quantum leap above those two losers in wisdom and humanity, so it is not a simple matter to decide whether or not we want to support his insane 2,700-page health bill and allow him to gain some political momentum, or fight for something better. We're afraid to make him look bad because that would give the Republicans more momentum. Should we fight him on this because of what it objectively is--a broken, convoluted plan that allows the insurance companies to continue screwing us over, or support him because what the Republicans would do would be far worse?

What's right is as clear to me as ever. It is obvious to any sane, loving person that it is nothing less than barbaric to fail to provide health care to any child simply because his or her parent(s) don't make enough money or don't have a health plan at work. How dare anyone against single-payer health care celebrate Christmas!

When 36 countries, including Cyprus and Cuba, are ahead of us in infant mortality, and with all 36 of them having a strong public option or single-payer health insurance, how dare our leaders continue to let insurance companies run the show! To add insult to injury, all of these countries pulling ahead of us in public health are using our goddamned technology!

Yes, what's right is clear to me. But what to do next? I haven't a clue. The clear path for our country should be to end the violent occupations in the Middle East, establish an excellent modern health care system like Taiwan's, build a modern power grid and a renewable energy infrastructure, and revitalize education. But in a nation run by We the Corporations, making headway on achieving these goals is just about impossible.

Obviously, we need to wake people up, but that's just about impossible, too. The more ignorant and wrong people are, the more entrenched they are in their views. Regardless of what I do or don't do in my civic life, this commercial offers a great solution. Just do nothing! Even though this humorous/grim video commercial contains some goofy Illuminati stuff, the end result of our inactivity won't be much different than what is portrayed in it.

A Harvard study found that 44,789 Americans die every year for lack of health care. That's close to our death toll during the whole Vietnam War, every year. What kind of "Christian" would let a child go to school with an ear infection or rotten teeth? And do you ever think about how obscene it is that our representatives have government paid health care while we don't?

According to the study, an uninsured twin, with a lifestyle identical to her insured twin, is 40 percent more likely to die, in any given year, than her twin.

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