Greetings, fellow insomniacs. I woke up about an hour ago and couldn’t get back to sleep, just as my wife Jina was turning in from her long, dark night of the soul, enriched with lots of hearty Christian programming designed to terrify her and rattle her brain stem like a court jester’s jingling cane. Last night she interrupted me while I was watching a video clip of Stephen Colbert talking about his Super PAC, analyzed by two dudes from the Huffington Post, to warn me that I had to surrender my soul to Jesus before it was too late.
“We’ve got to pray for North Korea, and for Israel,” she said, weeping like a car wash. “What would you do if criminals came and robbed the family who lives there?” she asked, pointing towards the wall between our place and our next-door neighbors.
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. Who am I–Bruce Lee?
“If our countries don’t come together soon and find Jesus, there’s going to be chaos!” She then showed me a passage from a book of the Bible I’d never even heard of before (though I was a religion major in college, I’m afraid I’m still in many ways an agnostic ignoramus)–Haggia, or something. Sorry I didn’t note it down for future reference, but it was your garden-variety example of the Old Testament God in macho mode, the usual threatening patter: “Believe in me, or I will destroy you.”
Look, you’re going to destroy me eventually anyway, so take a hike, brother.
It took several minutes for Jina’s hysteria to abate, and I couldn’t do much to placate her since I don’t like lying about my feelings regarding such matters. It’s always possible that she’s right and I’m wrong, but I pride myself on having a well-honed bullshit detector, and I’m not about to relinquish the right to think merely to humor a lunatic, even if I do happen to be married to her. Clearly, that arrangement can’t last much longer if she’s going to keep insisting I bow down to Jahweh, or J. C. (talk about a Jekyll & Hyde father and son arrangement!).
I have no crystal ball that answers cosmic conundrums for me. I have no idea if there’s a God or not. Frankly, I don’t give a shit one way or another. If there isn’t one, that’s no big surprise or disappointment. (In fact, as Christopher Hitchens would say, it’s more of a relief, since–as long as we’re talking about Jahweh and not J. C. it means not having a ubiquitous fascist presiding over our affairs.) If He does exist, he’s doing a heckuva job, Brownie. He’s either an incompetent dolt or a sadistic, capricious whack-job intent on tormenting us from the cradle of (whoops–make that “to,”*) the grave, punishing innocent creatures and rewarding venal reptiles (while also allowing the torture and extinction of real reptiles, along with amphibians, mammals, birds, and compact disk players).
Again to paraphrase Hitchens, you’d think if you were convinced that you’d received the “good news” that your soul was going to heaven and that Jesus was going to be your roommate forever, you’d be “in heaven” already (though some of us would prefer to have a female roommate–or even seventy-two female roommates). The problem is, for evangelicals, you’re not allowed to do this; you have to convert others to your way of “thinking,” (Hitchens) “because that’s what their holy books tell them to.”
Mahayana Buddhism has the concept of the bodhisattva, a diligent and scrupulous practitioner who postpones his or her own enlightenment to focus on that of everyone else first. But as far as I know, bodhisattvas don’t go around screaming at other people, “You have to believe in Buddha, goddamn it, or else you’re going to hell to roast on a spit until the cows come home!” (No, wait–I’m getting it mixed up with Hindu hellven).
George Harrison was kind enough to provide fans with his own translation of the Buddha’s deathbed valediction:
“Think for yourself ’cause I won’t be there with you.”
Guess what, folks: neither will God, Buddha, Jesus, Vishnu, Krishna, Allah, Mohammed, Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, L. Ron Hubbard, David Koresh, or any of the rest of our imaginary friends.
Shakespeare, on the other hand, isn’t going anywhere, as long as there are still people around with the presence of mind to read something besides the boring old Bible.
Forgive me, my friends, for I have sinned once again.
* Though “of” dovetails nicely with the title of this entry.