Religion is the most widespread untreated mental illness in the world. Ok? I said it. Not that I have exactly been sitting on the fence on this issue during my years of expressing loud opinions, but it’s important to put it firmly on the public record at some stage. While I do believe in respecting other people’s opinions, I don’t believe that madness can be considered an opinion. When a shambly street crazy comes up and mutters through his beard that Martin Luther King speaks to him each Tuesday through two or three common brands of instant pudding, I do not respect that man’s opinion, nor accompany him to the confectionary aisle to see what the good Doc has been up to lately. Nor do we as a society respect the opinions of his like. We do one or all of locking them up, medicating the hell out of them, keeping tabs on them, avoiding eye contact on the tram, corralling them in the outer suburbs during the Olympics, or handballing them to some nice healthcare professional to patronise them with “Of course they do, Barry. They’re colonising everyone’s eyes. Don’t worry now, eat your soup.”
So why the pretence of respecting ideas that are blatantly the work of a fragile grasp on reality, or a massive case of denial? I have been polite about this for so long, but really… If I know you, and you are religious, I will happily have this discussion with you any day of the week. Shit, I’ll even have it with randoms on the internet. And I’ll listen to you. I’m not out to shout you down. I actually want to understand this better. But I just can’t begin to comprehend what the hell you people are thinking. You look and sound like crazy people. If you can tell me why you’re not, then it’s Chips Ahoy for Captain McSavage. But right now the question is unanswered. Why is believing in Jesus or Yahweh or Vishnu or Harry the Bloody Dancing Fish God any different to believing in Superman? There are a lot of freaking books about Superman, after all. And surely with all that literature out there and all those devotees, it’s not like someone could have just made him up, is it? No smoke without fire, after all…
The thing that has tipped me into the red zone is this:
A New York City man who leapt 40 storeys from the rooftop of an apartment building has survived after crashing on to a parked car. Witnesses and police say 22-year-old Thomas Magill jumped from the high-rise at West 63rd Street on Tuesday. He landed in the backseat area of a Dodge Charger after crashing through the windshield.
The car’s owner, Guy McCormack, of Old Bridge, New Jersey, told the Daily News he is convinced that rosary beads he kept inside the Dodge saved Magill’s life. McCormack was not in the car at the time.
What in the name of Harry the Bloody Dancing Fish God is wrong with this thought process? My inanimate string of beads, imbued as they are with some mighty power of salvation, have done the job here today, ladies and gentlemen. Because I left a row of wooden balls on a string in the vicinity, the force of gravity when drawing a human body at high velocity into a collision with a large metal object was not sufficient to entirely kill the person to whom that body belonged. But why not attribute it to the Christmas tree deodorant hung from the rear-vision mirror? Or the 93 old receipts in the glove box? How the hell does one imbue a simple accessory with such inordinate power? It’s like saying look, my slap-band sank the Titanic.
So because those rosary beads are somehow aligned with God, then God himself must have intervened and saved the poor unfortunate chap from death. Yes, sorry, if there are no beads, then no miracle for you. “Oh, there are appears to be a man falling from a building. Hmm. Any holy relics in his approximate landing zone? Any…artefacts? No? How about trinkets? A trinket will do. One of those plastic jobs from a souvenir shop? Anyone wearing a pendant nearby? Err…maybe a hot cross bun? No, afraid intersections don’t count. Oh well, looks like you’re shit out of luck, my son.”
And I note that in this oh-so-fortunate case, while God may have saved the guy’s life, He did in His unending benevolence and grace give him two broken legs and a host of internal injuries and leave him unconscious in intensive care. It’s a miracle. I mean, clearly the beads won him his reprieve, but God can’t just let you off scot-free. The guy did jump, after all, and the Book was very clear on the no killing yourself bit. “What did I say, Jayson? What did I say? No killy-willys!” Even if you think you’re saved, seems God can always fuck you on the technicalities. And while He may not have let the guy die in that moment, it rather looks like He’s just deferred the decision, maybe for another authority to take care of. So what does that make Him? Some sort of divine Met-cop, on the job taking names? “Sir…Sir…yes, I heard what you said, Sir. And what I’m telling you is, I’m not giving you a fine in this instance. All I’m doing is taking the details of the case, and I’ll then make a report to the Department of Infrastructure. They’ll decide whether to proceed from there.”
So why is any credence given to this particular strand of lunacy? If the guy had spat out any other random line of blather would they have reported it? “Mr Collins said that he often masturbates into a Kermit the Frog towel from his childhood. While he generally aims for the facial area, he said there was no sexual connection between him and the depicted frog, and it was more a question of geometry.” All very well, but not newsworthy. Yet a religious statement is of sufficient import to be reported, and must then be treated with great reverence. We frown on all other kinds of madness but exalt this one. It’s just another flavour. It’s like banning alcohol at the football, unless it’s grappa. Why grappa? Lord knows, but why not? Bring a hip flask.
This is not rhetoric. This is not a rhetorical post, and the following questions are not rhetorical. Someone please try to explain this to me. ‘My jewellery saved his life.’ Where the hell does this thought process come from? How can an apparently sane person claim that? And most incredibly, how do other people not contest that statement for fear of making themselves looking silly? “Because I left a banana in my freezer, there is free fish for all of Beijing on the Queen of Denmark’s birthday.” Oh, really? Well, you’re a fruitcake. Nothing more, Your Honour.