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May 8, 1996

Knock Knock! Who Cares?
Copyright 1996 - Greg Bulmash - All Rights Reserved

Today's column is a bit of a departure. It concentrates more on actually "saying something" than being funny (though I tried to sneak in a few giggles). Plus it deals with religion. Thus as a warning, I would like to first present the following dialogue:

Q: Does God exist?
A: In what sense?

Q: What do you mean, "In what sense?"
A: What do you think I mean?

Q: Why are you answering my questions with questions?
A: Am I?

Q: Yes. Now why can't you give me a straight answer?
A: What would you consider a straight answer?

Q: Are you looking for a punch in the nose?
A: You and what army?

There you have it in a nutshell. Arguing religion can lead to violence. Thus, if your particular choice of faith is a sensitive subject, please stop reading now. But if you're interested in a semi-humorous, semi-philosophical look at religion, please read on...

Knock-Knock! Who Cares?

I open the tall wood gate on the three-foot-wide cement strip that passes for a yard in our tract, a cigarette in my hand. Standing before me are two well-groomed, blonde young men wearing name tags that identify them as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ & Latter Day Saints, which if it wasn't a religion would be a great name for a band. They say hello. I smile broadly, take a drag from my cigarette, and shut the gate.

There are lots of different Gods out there competing for my soul. There's Vishnu, Allah, Jehova, Adonai, Manny, Moe, Jack... And that doesn't include cults and pagan religions. But when it comes to the religions that actively recruit (or in some cases, certain branches of particular religions), it seems that they're like Amway. They require regular meetings of the membership, spread rumors about the Satanic allegiances of their competition, and besides paying your dues to the main office, you're expected to sell, sell, sell the product.

That's what these surfer-Mormons were doing at my door. Selling God like he was a vacuum cleaner. "Hi, we'd like to offer you a free sample of our God for a no-obligation 30-day trial. He sucks up your sins better than any other God on the market. Unsightly impure-thought stains on your soul? Just use the handy-dandy lust attachment with our patented sin solvent. If, after all this, you're not completely satisfied with your salvation... you're absolutely free to go to Hell."

And that's the real incentive that they push, isn't it? It's not so much the fact that you get to bask in their God's love that's the selling point, it's that you avoid damnation. Think of it like Coke putting out an ad that says "Snapple causes muscle spasms, Pepsi is infected with AIDS, and tap-water gives you cancer. So drink Coke. Not only do we taste good, we're the only alternative to pain and suffering." It's actually a pretty good marketing tool. Humanity, by nature, is an ambivalent animal, given to fits of inertia, and we're more than likely to sit on our noncommittal behinds unless there's a bogeyman to chase us out of our chairs.

And that's where God comes in... to hold back the devil, protect us from harm, and save our souls. Pretty neat, huh? Honestly, if I was God and the devil didn't exist, I'd create him. As a matter of fact, if you've purchased a Western religion and you closely examine the documentation that came with your God, you'll find that he did.

I don't mean to denigrate the general concept of God. I believe in a sentient creator. There are too many amazing things in this universe for me not to believe that there was some legislative genius behind the laws of physics. I can't be convinced, though, that God is a Volvo, God is a security blanket, or God is a vacuum cleaner. In fact, I'm not quite sure what God is or what he's supposed to be besides the creator. But I'll tell you one thing, I haven't been impressed with any commercially available brand of God yet.

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