“A Pagan Joke”
A Pagan died and, much to her surprise, found herself at the Pearly Gates facing St. Peter. He walked up to her and said, “Hello, and welcome.” She stared at St. Peter in complete confusion. “Wait a minute,” she said. “I was supposed to end up in the Summerlands.” He smiled. “Ah, you must be one of our Pagan sisters. Follow me, please.” Peter gestured for her to follow him down a small path, which went through the gates and down a bit to the left. They walked for a short while, then he stepped back and gestured her forward. Looking past his hand, she saw the verdant fields and forests of her desired Summerlands. She saw people feasting, dancing, and making merry, exactly as she expected. While shaking her head in wonder, the Pagan happened to glance over to one side and saw a small group of people a short way away from the edge of the Summerlands. The people in the group were watching the revelers, but not joining them. Instead, they were screaming and weeping piteously. The Pagan looked at St. Peter. “Who are those people?” St. Peter replied, “Them? They’re fundamentalists. They’re a bit surprised to see you all there, so they stand there and carry on like that all day.” Why? Don’t they have better things to do?” Peter leaned conspiratorially toward her. “They don’t really have a choice. They’re actually in Hell. God doesn’t like being told what He thinks.”
I start this paper with this joke to prove a point. When read, pagans, athiests, and those that lie outside the mainstream of Christianity will enjoy it, while Christian Fundamentalists and Conservatives will think it is in poor taste. Some might go so far as to say My goodness, he is going to step on a lot of toes with that! The question remains, though, WHOSE toes, and why does it matter? The answer can be found if we examine the psychology of Christianity.
Christianity is one of the worlds most widespread and pervasive religions, and has been around a good long while. Wherever it goes, it seems to spread and promulgate and overrun. Evangelistic Christians send out missionaries to fulfill one of the commands given to them in the Bible: Go ye forth and preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Mt. 28:19) Christians believe in a vision that separates them from all other people and places them at the feet of the throne of God, to give and grant blessings to the rest of unenlightened humanity. From this mighty pedestal they judge all other faiths and cultures to be inferior. They send forth missionaries and warriors into heathen lands, to bring the true faith to the pagan people. Christians will go into tribes in Africa and New Guinea, preach to the natives, and tell them to go and follow Exodus 22:18 (Thou shall not suffer a witch to live), and kill their healers and shamans. This is not a new idea, however: The Old Testament is riddled with references of God either killing someone not worshipping Him, or telling his followers to put to death those who do not honor him: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you , nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. (Deut. 13:6-9)
One might wonder WHY the Bible, the cornerstone of a religion and the basis for all Christians morals would be so riddled with these injustices? The answer is two-fold, and can only be reached if faith and blind acceptance are stripped away, and the history and text of the religion can be viewed with open and unclouded eyes.
Examining the history and development of the Israelite nation, one is amazed at the precision and the utter brilliance of the Israelites approach to territorial expansion. During this time period, the common practice of an invading nation was to come in, conquer the territory by any means possible, and declare it to be part of their empire. The invaders would take a census of the populace, tallying up ages and gender. The army would then conscript some of the able bodied men for its army, and send the rest of the stronger men (including boys as young as 10), and the virgins and beautiful women to the capitol of the Empire to work as slaves in the fields or in the household. The invaders would impose their laws, set up a civil police, and just let the area be. The flaw with this: the locals still had their religion, their identities, and their freedoms. No society in history has ever remained perpetually subjugated when they are allowed to think what they wish; Likewise, after a given amount of time the overrun territories would rise up against the empire, and the empire would lose control. (Kishlansky )
The Israelite corrected this: wherever they conquered, they would take EVERYONE, man, woman, and child as slaves, separating them and interspersing them with the rest of the prisoner population. Also, they would destroy the temples and the idols, ensuring that their God would be the only one to survive. The Israelites thus conquered other nations and promulgated their religion at the same time. What better way to coerce conversion than squashing all sense of individuality? These laws written in the Bible were good for what they were designed for: the expansion of a nation and the peacekeeping of the people. However, in this age of the World Nation, why are these old laws trotted out time and time again? Shouldnt Christianity have better ways of keeping itself afloat?
The answer to that question is no, it shouldnt, and doesnt have to. These Old Testament laws and the newer mandates from the New Testament exhibit the bullets of Christianitys big guns: Fear.
The question has been asked countless times since the Renaissance, how did a religion based on a book that has been edited and re-edited countless times, indeed didnt even EXIST in its entirety for a good portion of Christian history, spread so far so rapidly? The answer can be pulled directly from the pages of the Bible itself. The overwhelming message expressed in the Bible is accept Jesus, or be condemned to hell. (Barker) But alas, only one thing keeps Jesus the Almighty, Son of God, and God Incarnate from perfecting humanity. As all good Christians know that their omniscient and omnipresent God allows the entity known as Satan, the Devil, to create crisis and danger to Christianity. This is a fundamental basis for obedience to all Christian law, obey or the devil will take your soul, that as an individual, if you move beyond the protection of the Church, you will be assaulted and possessed by demonic forces. At all sides you will be led to dangerous decisions and horrid temptations and finally you will fall into immorality and sin. If you die beyond the protection of the Church, the devil will take your soul to a place of everlasting pain, and forevermore you will be lost to your family and all the good things in your life.
This belief in such an adversary as the Devil, and the Leap of Faith that believes this entity is behind every negative action creates a state of paranoia within the Christian Culture. What non-Christians fear is that this demand for security emerging out of paranoia will lead to irrational decisions and sudden destructive behavior. Once the people of a Christian community believe harm, through agents of the devil, has entered their community then they will demand of you the declaration of belief. At this moment, you see the true doctrine of paranoia that leads to massacres and burnings, lynchings and Murder. It comes from the pulpit and it is a fearsome sound. And it sounds like this:
“If you do not believe in Christ then you are in the control of Satan. If you have not asked Jesus into your heart then the devil has possessed your wicked heart. All men are born with original sin, and only through the word of God, as spoken by me can cleanse you of your sin. By partaking in this ritual of cleansing, a baptism in water, you are born anew into our community, free of the devil. But alas the battle between Good and Evil, God and Satan occurs all around us, at all times. Our faith keeps us strong and only by saving all souls within the community can we ever be truly secure. God has given us permission to preach and convert them as the Disciples of Christ did. Use whatever force needed to protect your lives and you will be martyred if you die in this holy quest. If needed, kill them all and let Gods will sort them out.” (Hubbard)
This statement is harsh but has been given time and time again from the pulpit and altars of the Church. At it’s core is the belief that you must believe what I believe or you are potentially my enemy and you are harboring a supernatural being that is seeking to destroy me and my family. With such a horrifying enemy, then any measure of violence can become acceptable to the Christian right up to and including Armageddon and the destruction of the physical world. Pagans fear this arbitrary violence and the effects of deep paranoia led by manipulative men under the guise of a loving church.
The historical accounts of violence combined with the daily occurrences of violence reported from around the globe, including inside the United States, done in the name of Jesus Christ assure us that this is not an unfounded fear. We know when the Christian calls you the Devil they are preparing to attack you, and when they call your people “pagans and ignorant savages” they are about to commit genocide. When it begins “your primitive and devil filled culture” is put to the torch in order to save all these newfound souls for Christ.
Ultimately the Christian message becomes convert or be ostracized, join or suffer, love Christ or be of the devil, and accept the Church or be destroyed. Not all Christians do this and not at all times. But some Christians do commit acts of destruction and this fearful violence is occurring everyday and has occurred for most of the last two millennia somewhere on our world.
The night is black,
Without a moon.
the air is thick and still.
The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torchlit hill.
Features distorted in the flickering light,
The faces are twisted and grotesque.
Silent and stern in the sweltering night,
The mob moves like demons possesed.
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right,
Confident their ways are best.
The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will.
Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat and burn and kill.
They say there are strangers who threaten us,
In our immigrants and infidels.
They say there is strangeness too dangerous
In our theatres and bookstore shelves,
That those who know what’s best for us
Must rise and save us from ourselves.
Quick to judge,
Quick to anger,
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
Walk hand in hand…. Neil Peart, Witch Hunt
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