An earlier thread got me looking at some old stuff written by Judith Hayes. This is one that relates well to this board. Take note of her examination of the JW tract:
T HE HAPPY HERETIC
Witness Protection Program
We need a Witness Protection Program. A Jehovah's Witness Protection Program. I do not go door to door, ringing doorbells and intruding on people's privacy, in order to inform the doorbell owners that their religious beliefs are a bunch of crap. So why do these people feel they have every right to do that to me?
I was flattered and bemused by two recent reviews of my new book, The Happy Heretic. The first, in Publishers Weekly, said: "The Happy Heretic-based on the author's Internet column by the same name-is a zesty, rollicking foray into the world of secular humanism, sprinkled liberally with quotations from Mark Twain. Hayes, who was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, defends atheism, takes on the Catholic Church and decries the religious Right. Nor does she shy away from the Bible, summarizing it in one punchy chapter. (Here's a summary of her summary: People are created by a nameless God, they eat 'the damn fruit' that they're not supposed to touch, and proceed to 'breed like jackrabbits.' God eventually tells people not to do anything fun, like eat 'Quiche Lorraine, warthogs, Fritos or bratwurst.' After a time, a cool miracle worker who walks on water makes an appearance, and the Good Book closes with a series of prophecies that are 'fixated with the number seven.') It is not surprising that Hayes's observations on religion sometimes degenerate into uninformed contempt; her portrait of the fundamentalist Protestantism of her childhood is especially oversimplified (she defines fundamentalism as a 'combination of smug certainty about your beliefs, and condescending disdain for everyone else's'). Hayes recognizes that there is some social value in religion, and admits to sometimes missing church music and church picnics, but, she says, godless atheists can have communities, and even good music. Believers will find this book offensive rather than convincing, but the atheist will find Hayes, with her sharp tongue and keen eye, good company."
Considering what I write and how I write it (!), I think it's a great review, and so does Prometheus Books.
The second review was a very brief mention in the July 9 Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star. It said: "With evangelistic fervor, the former fundamentalist Christian seeks to secularize a world that insists on finding the Blessed Virgin's face in a pancake." Cute! But what's funny about both reviews is that not only can I not hold a candle to fundamentalists when it comes to "evangelistic fervor," but I can distinctly remember my own, and my family's, smug condescension in viewing other religions. It was palpable. And everyone in my Lutheran community felt the same way. We were right and everyone else was wrong. Period.
Today, people must seek me out if they want to hear what I have to say. I'm not trying to force-feed my thoughts to anyone. Take me or leave me, it's your choice. But if I were to march through the community, handing out pamphlets and holding rallies to scream against religion, and go on TV to do the same, then I could fairly be described as having evangelistic fervor! But I don't. I don't tell people that if they don't agree with me they'll spend eternity roasting in hell. I write simply to nudge people a bit, to try to point out the value of rational thinking and logic. And I write to help comfort fence-sitters, having been on that uncomfortable fence for many years myself. Those years were agonizing; and if someone had been around to nudge me, my stay on that damn fence would have been shortened considerably. It is truly painful to be, spiritually, a cat on a hot tin roof. I think of myself as a guide, hopefully a good one, in the confusing, often baffling labyrinth known as religious life on earth. I respect everyone's right to believe what they want (which is not the same as respecting the beliefs), as long as they allow me that same freedom.
The same can certainly not be said for missionaries, can it? Going on missions and "witnessing" define condescending smugness! Especially when the missionaries are lily white and the heathens in need of enlightenment are dark-skinned pagans living in places that support tropical growth. My grandfather, a Lutheran minister, was a missionary in
"Hello. I've traveled halfway around the world to tell you that everything you believe is a bunch of bull; and everything I believe is the pure, unquestionable Divine Truth. I am deigning to impart my wisdom to you, thereby saving you from the certain eternal damnation awaiting you if you continue on your sinful. pagan path. Aren't I quite wonderful to be doing this for you?" This may sound a bit heavy-handed, but isn't that what all missionaries are really saying?
Which brings us back to the doorbell ringers. It's probably irrational to ask rational questions about irrational beliefs. But that's never stopped me before. So, I have questions for those of you who insist on showing me a detailed map of the road to hell, along with a similar map of the road to heaven, and equally insist that you are going to be physically, bodily resurrected. First, which of your bodies will be resurrected?! Which body will you be wearing, so to speak, in paradise? Will your body be 18 years old? 47? 8 months? 102? I think this is a rather important question if you plan to spend eternity in that body. So, what stage of development will your resurrected body reflect?
In a Jehovah's Witnesses tract, published by a WATCHTOWER group, there are drawings of what paradise is supposedly going to look like. It's real pretty. Green ferns, blue sky, graceful birds. (No falcons.) There are adults and children; but conspicuously absent are any adults sporting gray hair and any children under the age of around five. How can this be? There are children hugging some koala bears and a woman petting a tiger. The caption says, "Beautiful surroundings like these can be yours forever!" Sounds like an ad for a cruise ship line. The picture also shows a large group of people, smiling of course, seated at a picnic table. More questions. What are these people eating? In a perfect world, it couldn't possibly be fried chicken, could it? Even if they're all vegetarians I don't think the ears of corn being munched on would consider this a perfect world. Wouldn't they have a "right" to exist in a state of perfection?
Further, tigers are carnivores. That tiger should want to eat those koalas. If not, it isn't a tiger, is it? So what will it be eating in this paradise? Meow Mix? Which brings up: if the people are eating food, won't they have to evacuate their bowels? Will there be toilets in heaven? The booklet states, repeatedly, that you will have a perfect body in this paradise on earth. But what is a perfect body? If you die when you're 3 months old, will your resurrected body continue to grow? If so, when will you stop growing? If not, how can you enjoy paradise? Will there be diapers to change in heaven? If so, how can there be a "perfect" diaper? More:
If you're a female, will you menstruate? If not, why not? How can you be a "perfect" female without all your parts, so to speak? Likewise, if you're a male, will you have testicles and produce sperm? Perfect bodies do that, and the result is children. Will there be maternity wards in heaven? Will labor be painless? Will there be stretch marks? And if there are babies, how is that a fair arrangement? To be born in heaven sure beats the hell out of having to go through the normal earthly belief hurdles everyone else had to go through. And again, will babies grow and for how long?
If you say that "carnal lust" will not be part of blissful perfection, then why would any resurrected bodies have reproductive organs? If they don't have such organs, they are not "perfect" human bodies. Are they? Will everyone have perfect vision, or will there be a Lens Crafters in heaven? And will the wait really be only 1 hour? Would you need a pancreas in heaven? Okay. Enough. This could go on forever, but I'll spare us all any more of the anatomy check lists.
In the WATCHTOWER drawing of paradise everyone is wearing clothes. Why? Why not be naked if everything's perfect? Will the clothes wear out? Were do you go to buy your sandals? Do you suppose there'll be a Wal-Mart in heaven? And will there be ISPs in heaven, and, if so, will they be DSL capable? If not, will people be expected to exchange data at 4800 BAUD? You know, in the drawing's background there is also a vague building of some kind, and I had a hard time trying to make out what kind of building it was. However, I think the sign on it may say "HARPS-R-US." But I digress.
Marriages will be a complicated mess is heaven. What will happen to people who are widowed and then marry again? Which spouse "counts," the first or the second? If the first, what if you liked the second one better? Divorce makes it even worse. Will that idyllic picnic table be seating all spouses, children, step-children, grandparents, step-grandparents, half-brothers and sisters…….jeez. I'm getting a headache just trying to imagine all the possible combinations. But would you want to spend eternity with someone you couldn't stand so much you divorced? With a divorced couple, who gets the heavenly kids?
Mormons make things worse still, since their marriages include "sealing" for eternity. But what happens when you're widowed and marry again? Which seal will count? If you sealed with Husband #1 (this sounds like The Dating Game, doesn't it?) what will happen to the "eternal" seal of Husband #2?
I think the myriad questions deserve non-evasive answers. I have asked around about this now and again, and all I ever got were vague responses about God working things out somehow. But as of five years ago, there were one million Jehovah's Witnesses, in the USA alone, and these people truly believe in a returning Jesus casting Satan (and us pagans) into hell, and setting up store right here on the planet earth, except, of course, that everything will then be "perfect." So, if anyone out there knows what the actual Party Line is on the age thing, bodily functions and so on, I'd like to hear about it. For the life of me I can't imagine any answers to what I think are perfectly reasonable questions.
Will we never stop this pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by dreaming, and try to help each other here and now, where it really counts? Much of life can be beautiful if we will only accept our mortality and try to make life the best it can be for all of us. It is time, in fact long past due, that we abandon our egotistical fantasies of living forever.
Well, gotta run. My doorbell's ringing.