In the new mega-anthology from best-selling editor Russ Kick, more than fifty writers, reporters, and researchers invade the inner sanctum for an unrestrained look at the wild and wooly world of organized belief.
Richard Dawkins shows us the strange, scary properties of religion; Neil Gaiman turns a biblical atrocity story into a comic (that almost sent a publisher to prison); Erik Davis looks at what happens when religion and California collide; Mike Dash eyes stigmatics; Douglas Rushkoff exposes the trouble with Judaism; Paul Krassner reveals his “Confessions of an Atheist”; and best-selling lexicographer Jonathon Green interprets the language of religious prejudice.
Among the dozens of other articles and essays, you’ll find: a sweeping look at classical composers and Great American Songbook writers who were unbelievers, such as Irving Berlin, creator of “God Bless America”; the definitive explanation of why America is not a Christian nation; the bizarre, Catholic-fundamentalist books by Mel Gibson’s father; eye-popping photos of bizarre religious objects and ceremonies, including snake-handlers and pot-smoking children; the thinly veiled anti-Semitism in the Left Behind novels; an extract from the rare, suppressed book The Sex Life of Brigham Young; and rarely seen anti-religious writings from Mark Twain and H.G. Wells.
Further topics include exorcisms, religious curses, Wicca, the Church of John Coltrane, crimes by clergy, death without God, Christian sex manuals, the “ex-gay” movement, failed prophecies, bizarre theology, religious bowling, atheist rock and roll, “how to be a good Christian,” an entertaining look at the best (and worst) books on religion, and much more.
About the Author
Russ Kick is the all-star editor of five previous Disinformation Guides and three Disinformation books. He has been labeled as an "information archaeologist" by the New York Times in a major profile. He runs the popular blog TheMemoryHole.org and is well known for his intelligent and successful FOIA requests and unveilings.
Read an Excerpt
EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD IS WRONG
By Russ Kick
The Disinformation Company Ltd.Copyright © 2007 The Disinformation Company Ltd.
All rights reserved.
IN THE BEGINNING
GERIN OIL (or Geriniol, to give it its scientific name) is a powerful drug which acts directly on the central nervous system to produce a range of symptoms, often of an anti-social or self-damaging nature. It can permanently modify the child brain to produce adult disorders, including dangerous delusions which are hard to treat. The four doomed flights of September 11, 2001, were Gerin Oil trips: All nineteen of the hijackers were high on the drug at the time. Historically, Geriniolism was responsible for atrocities such as the Salem witch hunts and the massacres of Native South Americans by conquistadores. Gerin Oil fueled most of the wars of the European Middle Ages and, in more recent times, the carnage that attended the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent and of Ireland.
Gerin Oil intoxication can drive previously sane individuals to run away from a normally fulfilled human life and retreat to closed communities of confirmed addicts. These communities are usually limited to one sex only, and they vigorously, often obsessively, forbid sexual activity. Indeed, a tendency towards agonized sexual prohibition emerges as a drably recurring theme amid all the colorful variations of Gerin Oil symptomatology. Gerin Oil does not seem to reduce the libido per se, but it frequently leads to a preoccupation with reducing the sexual pleasure of others. A current example is the prurience with which many habitual "Oilers" condemn homosexuality.
As with other drugs, refined Gerin Oil in low doses is largely harmless and can serve as a lubricant on social occasions, such as marriages, funerals, and state ceremonies. Experts differ over whether such social tripping, though harmless in itself, is a risk factor for upgrading to harder and more addictive forms of the drug.
Medium doses of Gerin Oil, though not in themselves dangerous, can distort perceptions of reality. Beliefs that have no basis in fact are immunized, by the drug's direct effects on the nervous system, against evidence from the real world. Oil-heads can be heard talking to thin air or muttering to themselves, apparently in the belief that private wishes so expressed will come true, even at the cost of other people's welfare and the mild violation of the laws of physics. This autolocutory disorder is often accompanied by weird tics and hand gestures, manic stereotypes such as rhythmic head-nodding toward a wall, or "Obsessive Compulsive Orientation Syndrome" (OCOS: facing towards the east five times a day).
Gerin Oil in strong doses is hallucinogenic. Hardcore mainliners may hear voices in the head or experience visual illusions which seem to the sufferers so real that they often succeed in persuading others of their reality. An individual who convincingly reports high-grade hallucinations may be venerated, even followed as some kind of leader, by others who regard themselves as less fortunate. Such follower-pathology can long postdate the original leader's death and may expand into bizarre psychedelia, such as the cannibalistic fantasy of "drinking the blood and eating the flesh" of the leader.
Chronic abuse of Geriniol can lead to "bad trips" in which the user suffers terrifying delusions, including fears of being tortured, not in the real world but in a postmortem fantasy world. Bad trips of this kind are bound up with a morbid punishment-lore, which is as characteristic of this drug as the obsessive fear of sexuality already noted. The punishment-culture fostered by Gerin Oil ranges from "smack" through "lash" to getting "stoned" (especially adulteresses and rape victims), and "demanifestation" (amputation of one hand), up to the sinister fantasy of allo-punishment or "crosstopping," the execution of one individual for the sins of others.
You might think that such a potentially dangerous and addictive drug would head the list of proscribed intoxicants, with exemplary sentences handed out for pushing it. But no, it is readily obtainable anywhere in the world, and you don't even need a prescription. Professional traffickers are numerous and organized in hierarchical cartels, openly trading on street corners and in purpose-made buildings. Some of these cartels are adept at fleecing poor people desperate to feed their habit. "Godfathers" occupy influential positions in high places, and they have the ear of royalty, of presidents and prime ministers. Governments don't just turn a blind eye to the trade; they grant it tax-exempt status. Worse, they subsidize schools founded with the specific intention of getting children hooked.
I WAS PROMPTED to write this article by the smiling face of a happy man in Bali. He was ecstatically greeting his death sentence for the brutal murder of large numbers of innocent holidaymakers whom he had never met and against whom he bore no personal grudge. Some people in the court were shocked at his lack of remorse. Far from remorse, his response was one of obvious exhilaration. He punched the air, delirious with joy that he was to be "martyred," to use the jargon of his group of abusers. Make no mistake about it, that beatific smile, looking forward with unalloyed pleasure to the firing squad, is the smile of a junkie. Here we have the archetypal mainliner, doped up with hard, unrefined, unadulterated, high-octane Gerin Oil.
Whatever your view of the vengeance and deterrence theories of capital punishment, it should be obvious that this case is special. Martyrdom is a strange revenge against those who crave it, and, far from deterring, it always recruits more martyrs than it kills. The important point is that the problem would not arise in the first place if children were protected from getting hooked on a drug with such a bad prognosis for their adult minds.
James A. Haught
EVERYONE'S A SKEPTIC—ABOUT OTHER RELIGIONS
RELIGION IS AN EXTREMELY touchy topic. Church members often become angry if anyone questions their supernatural dogmas. (Bertrand Russell said this is because they subconsciously sense that their beliefs are irrational.) So I try to avoid confrontations that can hurt feelings. Nearly everyone wants to be courteous.
But sometimes disputes can't be avoided. If you think the spirit realm is imaginary, and if honesty makes you say so, you may find yourself under attack. It has happened to many doubters: Thomas Jefferson was called a "howling atheist." Leo Tolstoy was labeled an "impious infidel."
Well, if you wind up in a debate, my advice is: Try to be polite. Don't let tempers flare, if you can help it. Appeal to your accuser's intelligence.
I've hatched some questions you may find useful. They're designed to show that church members, even the most ardent worshipers, are skeptics, too—because they doubt every magical system except their own. If a churchman berates you, perhaps you could reply like this:
You're an unbeliever, just like me. You doubt many sacred dogmas. Let me show you:
Millions of Hindus pray over statues of Shiva's penis. Do you think there's an invisible Shiva who wants his penis prayed over—or are you a skeptic?
Mormons say that Jesus came to America after his resurrection. Do you agree—or are you a doubter?
Santería worshipers sacrifice dogs, goats, chickens, etc., and toss their bodies into waterways. Do you think Santería gods want animals killed—or are you skeptical?
Muslim suicide bombers who blow themselves up are taught that "martyrs" instantly go to a paradise full of lovely female houri nymphs. Do you think the bombers now are in heaven with houri—or are you a doubter?
Unification Church members think that Jesus visited Rev. Sun Myung Moon and told him to convert all people as "Moonies." Do you believe this sacred tenet of the Unification Church?
Jehovah's Witnesses say that, any day now, exactly 144,000 of them will be physically lifted to heaven, where they will reign with Jesus Christ. Do you believe this solemn teaching of their church?
Aztecs skinned maidens and cut out human hearts for a feathered serpent-god. What's your stand on invisible, feathered serpents? Aha!—just as I suspected, you don't believe.
Catholics are taught that the Communion wafer and wine magically become the actual, literal body and blood of Jesus during chants and bell-ringing. Do you believe in the "real presence"—or are you a disbeliever?
Faith-healer Ernest Angley says he has the power, described in the Bible, to "discern spirits," which enables him to see demons inside sick people and to see angels hovering at his revivals. Do you believe this religious assertion?
The Bible says that people who work on the Sabbath must be killed: "Whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death" (Exodus 31:15). Should we execute Sunday-workers—or do you doubt this scripture?
At a golden temple in West Virginia, saffron-robed worshipers think they'll become one with Lord Krishna if they chant "Hare Krishna" enough. Do you agree—or do you doubt it?
Members of the Heaven's Gate commune said they could "shed their containers" (i.e., their bodies) and be transported to a UFO behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Do you think they're now on that UFO—or are you a skeptic?
During the witch hunts, inquisitor priests tortured thousands of women into confessing that they blighted crops, had sex with Satan, etc.—then executed them for it. Do you think the Church was right to enforce the Bible's command, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18)—or do you doubt this scripture?
Members of Spiritualist churches say they talk with the dead during their worship services. Do you think they actually communicate with spirits of deceased people?
Millions of American Pentecostals spout "the unknown tongue," a spontaneous outpouring of sounds. They say it's the Holy Ghost, the third part of the Trinity, speaking through them. Do you believe this sacred tenet of many Americans?
Scientologists say each human has something akin to a soul, which is a "Thetan" that came from another planet. Do you believe their doctrine—or doubt it?
Ancient Greeks thought a multitude of gods lived on Mt. Olympus—and some of today's New Agers think invisible Lemurians live inside Mt. Shasta. What's your position on mountain gods—belief or disbelief?
In the mountains of West Virginia, some people obey Christ's farewell command that true believers "shall take up serpents" (Mark 16:18). They pick up rattlesnakes at church services. Do you believe this scripture, or not?
India's Thugs thought the many-armed goddess Kali wanted them to strangle human sacrifices. Do you think there's an invisible goddess who wants people strangled—or are you a disbeliever?
Tibet's Buddhists say that when an old Lama dies, his spirit enters a baby boy who's just being born somewhere. So they remain leader-less for a dozen years or more, then they find a boy who seems to have knowledge of the old Lama's private life, and they anoint the boy as the new Lama (actually the old Lama in a new body). Do you think that dying Lamas fly into new babies, or not?
In China in the mid-1800s, a Christian convert said God appeared to him, told him he was Jesus' younger brother, and commanded him to "destroy demons." He raised an army of believers who waged the Taiping Rebellion that killed as many as 20 million people. Do you think he was Christ's brother—or do you doubt it?
Etc., etc. You get the picture.
I'll bet there isn't a church member anywhere who doesn't think that all those supernatural beliefs are goofy—except for the one he believes.
You see, by going through a laundry list of theologies, I think you can establish that the average Christian doubts 99 percent of the world's holy dogmas. But the 1 percent he believes is really no different than the rest. It's a system of miraculous claims without any reliable evidence to support it.
So, if we can show people that some sacred "truths" are nutty, maybe subconscious logic will seep through, and they'll realize that if some magical beliefs are irrational, all may be.
This progression is rather like a scene in the poignant Peter de Vries novel The Blood of the Lamb. A gushy woman compliments a Jew because "your people" reduced the many gods of polytheism to just one god. The man dourly replies: "Which is just a step from the truth."
Meanwhile, it's encouraging to realize that almost everyone in the world is a skeptic—at least about other people's religion.
FAITH = ILLNESS
WHY I'VE HAD IT WITH RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
OKAY, SO LET'S GET INTO this God game.
I think it's time to get serious about the role God plays in human affairs and evaluate whether it's appropriate to let everyone in on the bad news: God doesn't exist, never did, and the closest thing we'll ever see to God will emerge from our own collective efforts at making meaning.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer see the real value in being tolerant of other people's beliefs. Sure, when beliefs are relegated to the realm of pure entertainment, they pose no real danger. So, a kid believes U2 is really a super-group on par with the Beatles or the Who. That's his problem, and it doesn't really do a lot of harm to anyone except those of us who still stop by MTV occasionally to see what might be playing.
When religions are practiced, as they are by a majority of those in most developed nations today, as a kind of nostalgic little ritual—a community event or an excuse to get together and not work—it doesn't really screw anything up too badly. But when they radically alter our ability to contend with reality, cope with difference, or implement the most basic ethical provisions, they must be stopped.
Like any other public health crisis, the belief in religion must now be treated as a sickness. It is an epidemic, paralyzing our nation's ability to behave in a rational way, and—given our weapons capabilities—posing an increasingly grave threat to the rest of the world.
Just look at the numbers. A Fox News poll (no doubt inflating these figures) claims that 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 85 percent believe in heaven, and 71 percent believe in the devil. (That's right—the guy with horns and a tail who presides over hell. The DeNiro character in Angel Heart, Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, and the one who tricks people into signing contracts on The Twilight Zone.) Given Fox News' accuracy, we can cut these numbers in half yet still be confronted with a deeply frightening prospect: Half the people amongst whom we walk and work everyday believe some really fucked-up shit. They've taken the metaphors of the Bible or Dante's Inferno and gone ahead and decided that these images and allegories are real.
Add to that the more reliable polls finding that 35 percent of Americans say they are "born again"—a particularly modern phenomenon that came only after the charlatan rabble-rousers during the Great Depression—and you get a picture of a nation hoodwinked into a passive, childlike, yet dogmatic relationship to the myths that were originally written to sustain them, spur their motivation to social justice, and encourage continuing evolution.
As I've always understood them, and as I try to convey them in my comic book, Testament (published by DC Comics/Vertigo), the stories in the Bible are less significant because they happened at some moment in history than because their underlying dynamics seem to be happening in all moments. We are all Cain, struggling with our feelings about a sibling who seems to be more blessed than we are. We are always escaping the enslaved mentality of Egypt and the idolatry we practiced there. We are all Mordechai, bristling against the pressure to bow in subservience to our bosses.
But true believers don't have this freedom. Whether it's because they need the Bible to prove a real-estate claim in the Middle East, because they don't know how to relate to something that didn't really happen, or because they require the threat of an angry super-being who sees all in order to behave like good children, true believers—what we now call fundamentalists—are not in a position to appreciate the truth and beauty of the holy scriptures. No, the multidimensional document we call the Bible is not available to them because, for them, all those stories have to be accepted as historical truth.
Forget the fact that this is pretty much impossible to do. The Bible contradicts itself all over the place. There are even two different creation stories! And they're less than a page apart. Forget that the myths of the Bible had already been understood as mythology by the pre-biblical cultures from which many of them came. And forget that the Bible comments on its own stories, as stories, directly! On numerous occasions, the narration asks its hearers whether they get the joke.
Excerpted from EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT GOD IS WRONG by Russ Kick. Copyright © 2007 The Disinformation Company Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of The Disinformation Company Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 - IN THE BEGINNING,
Part 2 - CURRENT EVENTS & CONTROVERSIES,
Part 3 - BIBLE TALES,
Part 4 - I WAS THERE! (TRUE ENCOUNTERS WITH RELIGION),
Part 5 - GOD-FREE LIVING,
Part 6 - DOING GOD'S WORK,
Part 7 - THE MOST POPULAR SIN,
Part 8 - SOUNDS AND WORDS,
Part 9 - HOLY HISTORY,
Part 10 - GRAB BAG,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At first glance, one might think that this book is only about atheism. However, it is much, much more than that. After reading this book, I have decided to pursue a master's degree in comparative religion and theology. The book discusses all major religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism in a factual, easy to understand, and methodical manner. The essays from the different authors are well-researched. I have ordered many of the books listed in the footnotes at the end of each essay. The book leaves it up to the reader to formulate his/her views on the existence of God, and the role of religion in contemporary society. It is one of the best books that I have read thus far that discusses religion without the dogma, myths, hype and other clutter that normally is associated with such discussions.