I come from an extremely religious family, of the fanatical Protestant type. I grew up attending church services multiple times per week, and daily Bible study and prayer was simply a part of life. Everything revolved around an obsessive belief in Jesus and the notion that some day, after death, we would join him for an eternity of bliss.
Needless to say I’ve outgrown such parochial beliefs, but the majority of my family – both immediate and distant – have not. And although this means I can’t discuss anything more than the weather with most of my family, the endless stream of wacka-wacka Christian emails and Facebook postings provides a steady source of entertainment.
Today, for instance, I was directed to the website of “100.9 The Cross,” a cheesy Gospel music station in North Carolina, with which one of my relatives is affiliated. Now, the website in itself provided a barrel full of laughs – just check out this screen grab:
Ignoring for a moment the amateurish, late 90s era site design, note the fake plastic smiles plastered on the faces of the creepy-looking Isaacs family. Why is that Christian musicians always seem to be trapped in another decade – or in this case, millennium?
But I digress. The real reason I’m bothering to write about this at all is a disturbing little flash file embedded at the bottom of the page. Being unable – and, in fact, unwilling – to post the actual SWF file here, I’ll instead post the following screen grab:
No, you’re not seeing things. That is actually a counter that ticks away the approximate number of human deaths around the globe, but not for any grand humanitarian reason – preventing HIV or curing cancer, for example. No, this clever little gadget is counting the number of souls who have most probably entered hell in the time that’s passed since you opened their crappy little website. “Help Christ and his followers to share the Gospel with those who are perishing,” it graciously implores you.
These are some truly sick bastards, eh? Now we know the root of those smarmy, artificial smiles glued to every face on the page. They’re smiling because they know that they’re “saved,” and your devil-worshipping pagan ass is headed straight to eternal damnation. An oversimplification perhaps, but basically true.
Now, I find little animation disturbing for two major reasons. First, Christianity is supposed to be founded on the ideals of love and compassion. After all, Jesus allegedly spent his life healing the sick and assisting the poor. Yet this utterly morbid death counter shows absolutely no signs of compassion. It offers no commentary about how many of these deaths are completely preventable, or how we might go about saving these lives rather than their fictional souls. The Christians are so obsessed with the paradise they’ve been promised in the afterlife, that they have totally forgotten about having a positive impact in this one. But such is the nature of religion.
The second problem I had is that this animation demonstrates just how divisive Christianity really is – and in fact, all religions are. A world view that looks on 150,000 deaths per day in terms of us versus them, ignoring the very real and vast quantity of human suffering that these deaths must entail, is a truly perverse one. Rather than viewing humankind as one whole, brothers and sisters of the same single species, facing the same ultimate fate, the Christian perspective divides us into those who will prosper in death, and those for whom the pain of death is but the beginning. There are some deep psychological maladies at work here.
The reality is this. All human beings will eventually die. It is the curse we bear simply for being alive at all. Death is, in most circumstances, associated with tremendous human suffering: the physical and psychological pain of the person dying, and the emotional pain born by those close to the dead. We all share this grim reality, and it is dangerous to pretend otherwise. In light of these indisputable facts, it would seem that one of the major goals of society should be to alleviate, as much as possible, the suffering associated with death.
In practical terms, this means doing everything we possibly can to prevent those deaths which are unnecessary – by curing diseases, feeding the poor, making travel of all kinds safer. I suspect that of those 150,000 deaths that occur each day, a significant percentage could be avoided.
In psychological terms, this means offering support – both emotional and financial – to those who have lost loved ones.
But nowhere in this is there any room for divisive beliefs about fictional netherworlds that last for all of eternity. Such primitive tales only serve to amplify human suffering, which is precisely the opposite of what any truly moral human being should desire.