Sometimes I just want to kick back, forget the millions of deaths it has caused over the centuries, and concentrate on the pure enjoyment religion can afford. No "Vatican Rag," no "Life of Brian," just the Invisible Industry in all its zaniness -- religion has no idea how funny it is, and I hope it never finds out. In today's New York Times, for example, we have some really orthodox Orthodox Christians in Moscow, protesting Madonna's Epater les Bourgeoises
Tour (or whatever it's called) by thrusting a phallic pole through the singer's picture. Oooh...was it good for you, tovarich?
Madonna should hire these guys as publicists. Maybe she has.
Last week came the news that two men taken hostage in Gaza by a splinter group -- I think it was the Party of God Party -- had been released after "converting" to Islam. Nothing original about that. Americans prisons are full of Muslim "converts" who have heard it's a good way to get a pork-free diet. In this case the forced conversions were probably a face-saving effort by the kidnapers when they discovered that the men weren't real journalists but employees of Fox News. The important story is that they're safe and free, right? Not so fast. Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig are being lambasted for "cowardice" and apostasy all over blogland by pious posters who never stray from the safety of their keyboards. Anyone would think they had revealed the identity of an undercover CIA agent, or broadcast American troop positions, instead of simulating Stockholm Syndrome for the sake of seeing their families again.
When it comes to purple piety, the Bush administration has set depressing new records, establishing an Office of Hate-Based -- sorry, make that Faith-Based Organizations right in the White House, appointing religious crackpots to the federal bench for life, condemning millions to unnecessary suffering through abstinence-only health education policies and superstition about stem cells -- well, the list goes on. "Reality is what we say it is," one of its apparatchiks proclaimed without a trace of irony, whether that reality involved weapons of mass destruction or established science about global warming. Well, a lot of Americans are taking advantage of their government's suggestion that they believe whatever the hell they want, regardless of facts. A poll last summer by the Scripps Survey Research Center found that a third of respondents thought the administration allowed or abetted the destruction of the World Trade Center for political reasons, while 16 percent believed the buildings had been primed with tons of explosives. The State Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology issued an enormously detailed report debunking these theories, but acknowledged that it will have no effect on some people. Yeah, it's a real pain having science on your side but not being able to convince the True Believers. Like Intelligent Design, Holocaust denial and flying saucers inside the hollow Earth, this one is not going away.