Monday, 1 September 2008

As the name suggests I'm not the most cheerful of individuals.

There are, though, a few things that will reliably put a smile on my face. Things like this:

Ah yes, I could stare at that thing all day and feel nothing but contentment. You see, Nietzsche saw this all coming. "Christianity came into existence in order to lighten the heart;" he wrote, "but now it has first to burden the heart so as afterwards to be able to lighten it. Consequently it shall perish." No timeline was given, but the process can be observed before our very eyes. In my otherwise dire lifespan I suspect that I shall find little more entertaining.

Firstly let us consider the Protestants, those who would have trimmed the Church's excesses. It should first be noted that once freed from the Church's confines those that split rather gained a taste for it. They since developed the habit so severely that there are over 30,000 denominations in existence and an average annual growth of around 300.

This tendency is quite simply preposterous. An understandable consequence of everyone picking up the "good" book and giving their own view as it probably is the long term effects seem likely to be every Church consisting of a single pastor and his immediate family.

The divisive urge to split and sever, though, is a deep running one. Even supposedly polite and bland denominations fall victim to it, with the most obvious example being the Anglicans. This is a mixture of theological liberals and hard-cases so beyond reason that a letter from Archbishop Rowan Williams in which he admits that he doesn't really hate faggots was enough to trigger a major crisis. Their schism will not be a clean one, with a massive row over property (of course) to be had and the exact division which they will take in countries split over the issue still far from clear.

This sort of thing is the natural consequence of a split, but another is the weakening of the churches that result in a deeper and even more harmful fashion. Institutions only exist on account of them having developed deep enough roots to weather the storms of circumstance. Part of the process of the upheaval required for a split is necessarily the removal of much of this growth. We are left with a smaller number of churches with shallower grips upon the soil, eventually ones so tiny and weak that they are liable to blow away in a breeze.

And, let no mistake be made, the winds are rising.

Let us turn, then, to the Catholic Church. This mighty edifice serves as a stark contrast to the squabbling and seemingly endless division rife amongst the Protestants. Although its own form of rot has set as a consequence Catholicism is a united front of like marshaled believers, all of whom are taught that they are entirely dependent upon it to purge them of the sin which it demands they feel.

However this set up has been challenged by the excesses of the Church, which were recently and devastatingly exposed, receiving the full attention of the press and other media. Rather than being contained and forgotten the revelations gathered further revelations and soon enough the Church was engulfed in the crisis which it remains in today.

As you are doubtless already aware the priesthood was riddled with paederasts, predatory monsters who's prey of choice were those who's souls they had supposedly been entrusted with the protection of. Instead they used their positions to go about arranging some rather more carnal positioning. They were discovered by the Church but internal procedures for dealing with this seemed to consist of bishops performing a grand shuffle: they were simply relocated rather than removed from office, given a fresh set of boys to lust after and claim and allowed to resume their lives.

A few prayers, confessions, assurances that they would change their ways and their punishment was through.

No doubt this proved endlessly useful for the Church in the short term: the paedophiles were saved exposure, the Church did not lose increasingly needed priests and the face of the institution was temporarily safe-guarded. Once the wave broke, though, this deceit was swept away.

The Church in its present position has lost vast sums of its (still substantial) wealth in legal fees and massive pay-outs. It seems likely that it will lose much more as the number of their victims are legion. Worse, though, its the besmirching of its reputation. Despite the Pope's, doubtless hollow, apology their position as a source for reliable moral guidance has been severely impaired. This would be crippling to a standard religious institution, but for one which attempts to throw its heft into political matters constantly the consequence could be outright fatal.

It retains a vast amount of assets and believers, but to operate in the contemporary industrialised world the Church has always required itself to establish a counter-cultural position. Although most westerners wear condoms and do not abstain before marriage, the Church has had to say, Catholics are opposed to this culture and so will not engage in its practices. This requires establishing the Church as the leading institution in a counter cultural movement. To do so while the memories of rapists are still fresh in millions of minds (and the issue has struck near to me: a nearby boy in a neighbouring parish was a victim even after the initial scandal broke) will most likely prove impossible.

So these dreary doldrums please me, yes. But I can not say that they leave me deeply thrilled. To truly put a grin on my features we need something a little more severe:

It would seem that the Scandinavians have once again taking to annihilating places of worship. This time around, though, they have spared the longships and gone for more local establishments. I am informed that the trend is related to black metal listening neo-pagans, who despise the monotheistic institutions stamped across their lands and have taken to ridding their surrounds of them using the torch.

I should stress that I find the musical tastes of this youth movement utterly deplorable and no decent person would accept them. It is only their aims and methods which I deem admirable.

Will this trend spread to other areas of the world? We can but hope, but even if it fails to I am of the view that it will matter previous little. Whether ignited or simply abandoned the outcome is the same: the death throes of Christianity are finally subsiding and its long deserved fate is upon it. Let us hold out strong against pompous wretches who would seek to replace it with the empty husk of "Rationalism", for they offer us something far less foul but no more true. But let us not forget the utter malignity of the religion who's demise we are privileged enough to witness.

There is precious little in this existence worth of celebration but this is clearly one of the glorious few.

1 comment:

Simone said...

You make a very good point about the Christian religion disintegrating basically before our eyes over the last 50 years or so. I would argue though that it goes deeper than that into a complete redefinition of the societies that traditionally have supported and maintained that religion - the homogeneous "West". Western society is going through a sea-change, with a generational gap opening up between the older, conservative parents/grandparents and a much more accepting, embracing youth that rejects traditional "values" based on fear - fear of things that are different, insecurity, ignorance - all the other bits that go along with it. Contrast Christianity in America or Europe, for example, with strong African denominations that still hold a scary power over their adherents. (I'm South African)

Perhaps I'm getting a wee bit starry-eyed and optimistic, but I think the west has simply outgrown organised religion, and while almost half of the population of the West still currently support the right, and by extension the Christian right, we'll be looking at a VERY different picture in a generation's time.

All that said, sadly I don't think organised religion as such is going anywhere. Christianity is still a hugely powerful force in Latin America, and in Africa, admittedly in somewhat bastardised and heretical forms at times, it is a growing, strengthening movement, even as it squares off against Islam, the other scary bugger in the room.

I don't know, it's almost like there's a ... polarization of sorts going on at the moment between hope-based progressivism and fear-based conservatism, with the conservatism most strongly rooted in the "Desert God's" religions. I still see dark days ahead for us all - the religious nutcases, in whatever package are afraid, and like animals they'll continue to lash out more and more, be it with bombs in marketplaces or by taking people's rights away fro them in referendum. One can only hope that these really are the dying throes of doomed monsters.

For an interesting perspective from a progressive catholic viewpoint, here's an interview with Richard Rodriguez at