I rarely listen to the radio anymore, my presets had disappeared, and I couldn’t remember which stations they were, so I was hitting the scan button. “… to escape the tyranny of satan” caught my attention, and I stopped. The commentators were discussing a mass exodus from a faith whose tenets included the belief that all disease and hardship came from satan, and that if you were sick or unfortunate, that you had done something to deserve it. Parishioners would have anxiety attacks whenever something went wrong, afraid to tell anyone for fear they’d be thought of as sinful. Conversely, they also believed that when their pastor had a heart attack at the pulpit and dropped dead right there, that satan had taken him because he was too good. Fortunately for these terrified souls, it’s apparently perfectly acceptable to decide one’s current faith is too stressful and seek out a congregation that interprets the same words from the same god in different ways, so, they did.
Up until this point, it wasn’t really clear that the men speaking were pro-religion at all — in fact it sounded like they were describing the reasons religion is just a really, really bad idea. But then the conversation turned to the glorious, unquestionable perfection of their kindler, gentler version of the almighty. For some reason (remember, these are the free-of-satan’s-tyranny folks), this alleged love was exemplified by none other than Job. They talked about how their sweet lord dished it out and good old Job took it, then chuckled ruefully about Job’s folly when he finally broke down and questioned why god had murdered his children, destroyed his home, and left him destitute. They smugly related how their awesome god put that arrogant so-and-so Job in his place, and how Job finally apologized for his inappropriate outburst of … utter normalcy. And they were completely in favor of all of this (except maybe the normal bit).
They went on — yes, I was still listening, gripped by a horrified fascination as they mused what a great (albeit unknowable) planner that their god was, which led them to the story of a three year old girl in their church who had died recently after three rounds of chemotherapy, and how the mother wrote a lovely tribute … I don’t know how to put this delicately … thanking her god for giving them three years with this child who lived in almost constant pain and medical torture, and for taking her home where she wouldn’t get poked anymore — at which point I may have snapped a little and yell/asked the radio why in the hell would she even think that? If his “gifts” include babies whose lives are so brutal that their short duration is actually a blessing, who’s to say it’s not just a giant poke-fest up there in the clouds?
Even though by this time I knew they were actually preaching *in favor* of religion, and that they were speaking from the perspective of a church where people from *worse* churches came for refuge, the whole show could just as easily been an atheist object lesson on the evils of religious nonsense. Only nonsense is too nice a word; yes, it made no sense, but there was a darker side of it, a deeper evil. The framers of the Judeo-Christian mythology created a system which terrorizes its victims with nothing more than the ordinary ordeals of life, and then cunningly twists it so the injured, the devastated, the bereaved are compelled to pen heartfelt thank-you notes for innocent children’s horrible deaths.
At some point I reached out and smacked the radio button to shut it up.