Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twilight of the Gods

There's a sight as common on the NYC subway as amateur dance crews and that's middle-aged Nigerian immigrants babbling about Jesus. Unlike the dance crews, this is greeted with a rigorous indifference as everyone looks away and tries to find something, anything else to focus on until they or the proselytizer gets off the train.

Now you probably want to shrug this off as mere New Yorker godlessness but there's two problems with that. First, New York City is much more Republican than the boring states are willing to acknowledge. You can't throw a rock in Sheepshead Bay without hitting some Ayn Rand quoting blowhard - who also identifies as Christian because Randroids are too stupid to even get their own philosophy right. Second, and most importantly, this very indifference - if not outright hostility - to wild-eyed Belief was demonstrated by much more middle Americans a little over ten years ago:

[T]he pilot of an American Airlines flight started talking crazy Jesus shit shortly after takeoff. He asked the passengers, over the intercom, to raise their hands if they were Christians... The great thing is that the pilot didn't stop there. He asked each of the passengers who didn't raise their Jesus-spiked hands to seek help from the nearest Christian lunatic in the plane. 
"The passengers feared for their safety." That's a direct quote from the reports.

This reveals one of those never acknowledged but undeniable truths about modern America: religion just ain't that important. Oh sure, you're shit out of luck in South Carolina or Kansas if your boss finds out you attend the wrong church - or even worse, no church - but that's just the everyday petty tyranny of the workplace. The weirdos are always purged so as to maintain the same bland normality, whether they're atheists or into group sex. Culturally normative behavior, especially the image of such, is strictly enforced in America by the middle management commissars.

But not one of those All-American Bible-clutchers really believes any of it. Not the same way as these Nigerians evangelizing the morning commuters. For them, religion is Religion. It's a beginning and an end, an injunction encompassing the whole of life. It is, quite simply, "To the death!"

Not even the most red-faced Jesus-Freak Republican is "To the death!" Not a single gringo has treated religion with that certainty, that intensity since the Thirty Years War. Everything from the Eucharist to the Pentecostal Potluck is just so much hollow ritual, people going through the motions just to find some sense of community and consistency.

A typical internet atheist would rub his hands with glee at this revelation. Because internet atheists are just as entrenched in Western myopia as the dullest Baptist in Charleston. Yeah, religion in America and Europe may be just a zombie puppet show but goddamn does the rest of the world still mean it! Those Nigerian Christians actually die in their homeland for it and they were doing so long before Boko Haram came on the scene. Sunni Jihadis from the Sahel to Chechnya have killed and died - often both at once - over the sanctity of some long dead goat-fucker's likeness in newspapers.

And before you get a head up of good ol' Islamophobia, remember that those same Nigerian Christians are just as able and willing to massacre the jihadis right back. Liberian preacher Joshua Blahyi spent the 1990s as General Butt Naked, leading his Butt Naked Brigade on a rampage of drugged up Kalashnikov fire and severed head soccer. Honor killings and even human sacrifice still go on in the northern backwaters of India and the Buddhists in neighboring Nepal and Indochina were the guerrilla warfare capitols of the world all through the latter half of the 20th Century.

Besides, it's not like the lukewarm Christianity of America has made it any nicer either. An entire political movement was born in 2009 because people were opposed to getting better healthcare. The recent torture docs revealed all the bizarre butt stuff that went on as "enhanced interrogation" which anyone willing to pay attention had known for years anyway. And the nominal peace movement spends more time dithering over the legality of flying killbots, having internalized the priorities of amoral global empire.

Point is, people don't need some medieval spook in the sky as justification to be assholes.

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