All Rights Reserved © 2004 Thomas W. Day
When they're not scary as hell, religious people are mildly entertaining. Scary, but entertaining. Since they are more often scary than funny, it's always a good practice to keep your entertainment to yourself. It has always amazed me how quickly "god's lambs" turn into Satan's vicious attack dogs when they discover that someone isn't taking their hallucinations seriously.
Honestly, it's not that surprising. Regardless of the usual religious rhetoric, all group hallucinations need total reinforcement. Anyone pointing out that the king is naked is likely to be burned at the stake pretty damn quickly.
Public Television ran a series, recently, on one of the most venal literary characters and one of fundamentalist Christianity's most revered "thinkers"; C.S. Lewis. From a literary position, Lewis was a scumbag. He was a friend of J. R. Tolkien, until he heard Tolkien's ideas for Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was working on his series of books at an extremely slow pace and Lewis realized that the idea was good enough that a mediocre "children's" version of Tolkien's plot, Chronicles of Narnia, would be very popular. He was right, but his betrayal of his friend demonstrated that his core morality was typically fundamental and fundamentally deficient.
Outside of his general amoral personal behavior, Lewis was a very simple thinker. His justification for the existence of an afterlife follows along the lines of other desperately hopeful and ever-fearful humans. Simply put, Lewis argued that since an "appetite" for gods and an afterlife existed, so did the source for that appetite. His simpleminded rationale was that hunger exists and so does food, therefore anything that humans desired was led or followed by the existence of the item of desire. Pretty cool, huh? Never mind that before Christianity, very few western religions assumed a life after death and almost no non-western religions included that concept. The appetite for an afterlife isn't a universal concept among humans and a belief in benevolent gods is even less common. Many, if not most, religions look at the harsh and brutal fact of existence and assume that, if there is a god, he's not particularly fond of humans or innocence. Several eastern religions, who have far more followers than Christianity, have proposed the concept that life is so harsh that ending the mortal coil and ceasing to exist on any plane is the equivalent of "heaven." Reincarnation, a life-after-death, is a punishment for a life poorly lived.
Lewis' argument was an extension of the "I think, therefore I'm right" line of psycho-babble. Sometimes the ruling elite have way too much time on their hands. When that happens, they begin to believe that any dumbass thought that wanders into their idle brains has "big meaning." The beginnings of really awful moments in history are often preceded by this kind of event, when the thinker is someone who has political power. When the thinker is a small-time academic, like Lewis, his thoughts tend to be along the lines of the current majority's group hallucination, if he wants to be thought of as "intellectual" by that powerful group.
Real intellectuals tend to think outside of the usual mindset. More often than not, real intellectuals disprove "common knowledge" and current fads. For their efforts, they are often ridiculed, sometimes burned at the stake, and shunned until enough time has passed for their ideas to be absorbed into the culture. Small-thought generators like Lewis are immediately popular among simple minds, which is the majority mentality. Lewis and his clones don't have an original thought to offer, but they say what the majority of folks are thinking in a way that makes the majority feel less common. Feeling is not the same as being.