Friday, April 28, 2006

DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE BEAST AND THE RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALIST

(Forward: This was one of my earliest works, which was inspired by a certain fundie who proselytize to me on the train many years ago, when I was still toiling and struggling for a miserable diploma in Mechanical Engineering.)

SEP,11, 2001
: Two airliners clashed into the twin towers of the New York World Trade Center Another airliner clashed into the Pentagon, and yet another clashed Pennsylvania. The result: 3030 dead, 2337 injured. Welcome to the ‘beautiful’ world of religious fundamentalism.

Since the advent of modern civilization, Man has always harbour an insane need to wage wars. The need for territorial domination and the insane need to instill fear and the power of death unto the meek and defeated has, for the longest time, been the driving force behind such war-related atrocities.

Religious violence, on the other hand, hardly existed before the arrival of Judaism, considered the oldest existing monotheistic religion in the world. Both Christianity and Islam were spawned from Judaism. While the birth of Christianity brought forth anti-semitism, the rise of Islam heralded the beginnings of several wars between Muslim and the Christian armies. These wars, better known as the Crusades in the Middle East, killed, maimed and devastated the lives of millions of people in the Middle Eastern regions throughout a span of several centuries. The toll on human life and suffering was unfathomable, and all these was done in the name of religion.

Even though the brutal nature of religions may or may not have originated from the founders themselves, all too often religious fundamentalists harbor crazy, stubborn ideals of bigotry and ego that renders them incapable of exercising tolerance towards other religions or creeds.

The extremist nature of fundamentalism brings about extreme actions from certain sections of the faithful flock. Some will resort to violence, believing that bestowing death to their God’s enemies will bring them heavenly rewards in their afterlives. Others feel the compelling urge to convert others who do not share their beliefs and customs, often in a rude and sometimes unforgiving manner, thinking that they are doing these “infidels” a huge favor. These people call themselves fundamentalists; they adhere to a very strict interpretation of their religious scriptures. Fundamentalists take great pride in following their religious scriptures, often down to the very letter. Depending on the severity/degree of their faiths, they will sacrifice and give up just about everything and do anything to propagate their interpretation of their specific religions. The term “infidel” is a label coined by fundamentalists on people who do not share their creed.

I have, on several occasions, been approached by fundamentalists who peddle their religion everywhere; from public schools and institutions to public transportation vehicles. They are usually Christians who believe that by converting infidels such as myself, I will thus join their “flock” and be re-united with their “shepherd” in heaven, when I am finally six feet under.

While they can be pretty irritating at times, there are times I find myself in a better mood to hold some kind of meaningful conversation with them. Although I do resent their hard-selling approach of “rewards in heaven”, from certain aspects I do admire them for being bold enough to approach complete strangers and sharing their religions with them. It is not a easy thing to do, believe you me. I was a salesman for two weeks, and I quitted because approaching strangers is not something one can adjust to easily.

The following dialog is a conversation between myself and a fundamentalist who approached me while I was traveling on the train from my home to school. The fundamentalist in question is a Christian, but for sentiment’s sake, I shall change his God’s name to Bob the Raingod, and his religion, Bobbism.

SCENE: Beast is traveling on a Mass Rapid Transit train; he’s listening in to his disc-man, which happens to be playing the latest songs from Eminem, when a fundie (short for fundamentalist) from the Bobbist Church approaches him. Beast’s got time to wild away, and he reckons he can do with some unsolicited entertainment, which goes like this………)

Fundie (Cheerfully): Good morning, Sir, how is your day?

Beast (looks around, removes the eyepiece connected to the disc-man, and realizes fundie is talking to no one but himself, and takes off earphone): Erm, you talking to me, dude?

Fundie: Yes sir, how is your day?

Beast (shrugs shoulders): Jeez, its 0630 hours, the day’s not even started yet, as far as I am concerned. Is there anything I can do for you?

Fundie (looks at watch, laughs): Yes, its true. Its very early indeed. Oops, I am sorry, I forgot to introduce myself; my name’s Paul, how should I address you?

Beast: You can address me as Beast. It is my pen name. I write articles for an independent magazine, and I sign off as The Beast.

Fundie (Surprised): You are a writer? That’s great!

Beast: I am but a amateur writer, my genre being a mix of humor and satire.

Fundie (Smiles): You must be a very smart guy.

Beast (Laughs): That’s very flattering, Paul, but I will accept it. Thank you.

Fundie: That’s good, we are off on a good start here. What is your religion, by the way?

Beast (Shrugs): I am an atheist. I subscribe to no religion.

Fundie (looks surprised): That can’t be, most people I know here have religions.

Beast (Gives a “Oh not again“ look): Oh well, you said “most". I happen to be the odd one out. But if you must know, the official religion of choice as stated in my identification card states Buddhism, and that was actually made official by my parents, who happen to be Taoists.

Fundie: I see, do you believe in a true and Living God?

Beast (Shakes head): No, I just said I am an atheist. An atheist is a person who does not subscribe to any deity, or any other supernatural beings that do not have the seal of proof. Scientific proof, to be more specific.

Fundie (Apologetic look on his face): I am so sorry to hear………

Beast (Interrupts): Sorry? Why the need to feel sympathetic towards my stance? Its not as if I am handicapped or financially bankrupt; neither have I suffered any grave misfortune. (Laughs) Not at the moment, anyway.

Fundie: I do not mean it in an offending way. I just feel sad when someone says he or she does not believe and know the True and Living God.

Beast (laughs): I think I am beginning to comprehend what you are trying to hit on here. Are you trying to tell me you have special access to some extraordinary, exclusive deity?

Fundie: Not a mere deity, but a True and Living God.

Beast: Ok. So who is this “True and Living God” which you claim to have access to? Do you possess any empirical evidence of such a deity?

Fundie: Have you ever heard of Bob the Raingod, or followers of the Bobbist Church?

Beast (laughs): Yes so I have heard. So what does this Bob do, bring forth the rains and floods?

Fundie (Slightly unnerved by Beast’s unnatural laughter): Well, yes and no. Yes, he does bring rain, but he is not solely limited to one ability. More than that, he is the Creator of the Universe, the planets, and all that is around us, including ourselves. All creation is proof of his existence.

Beast: Ok, perhaps so, but what else did he do? Simply create everything and leave his creations to their own devices?

Fundie (Gesticulates wildly): No, Bob will never abandon us! For he gave us the greatest love of all! He sent his only begotten son, Bob Junior, to Earth to live a mortal’s life. He cured the sick, rose the dead, and performed many miracles. He was innocent of all crimes, but he chose to die for our sins. Despite his powers, he chose to be persecuted by his very own people, and through his actions our sins are all but forgiven! Pray, tell me, what greater love is there, save the sacrifice of one‘s beloved son? Besides, Bob is all powerful, all loving and all knowing. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The Beginning, and The End.

Beast: I am sorry for interrupting your little soap opera, but I have a most serious question, with regards to your little tale.

Fundie (Looking pleased): That’s fine by me, really. It is good for you to ask questions. And good for me to know that you are listening and learning.

Beast (smiles): Thanks, but you said Bob was the only True and Living God?

Fundie: Yes I did say that.

Beast: But now Bob has a son, Bob the junior?

Fundie: Yes, he does.

Beast: Now this Bob has a son. So does that not make two deities?

Fundie: Ok, I see what you mean. Bob the Raingod is actually a godhood consisting of 3 Godheads: Bob the Father, Bob the Son and Bob the Holy Spirit. All three join together to form the Holy Trinity.

Beast (Looking slightly incredulous). Now wait a minute! I don’t think I am capable of grasping the very nature of your Gods! First you come to me, sharing some God, then you have two, and now you have Three! How many gods have you left out of the picture?

Fundie: I know it sounds incredible at first……

Beast: Not incredible. Simply illogical and ridiculous.

Fundie: It is one Godhood, with 3 God-heads.

Beast: (Laughs)

Fundie (uncomfortable, slightly agitated): May I know what it is you are laughing at?

Beast (tries real hard to stop): Pardon me, I am sorry. But from what you are telling me, I can give you three distinct possibilities.

Fundie: Really? Pray, tell me.

Beast: Option one: You are telling me a tale which you yourself cannot even begin to grasp. In short, you are either hallucinating, or you are still suffering from a hangover from last night‘s drinking bilge.
Option 2: Your God is actually a god with a certain mental disorder, commonly and medically known as “multiple-personality disorder“. Mental patients with this ailment suffer from multiple personalities, and will exhibit completely different personalities from time to time. In simple layman’s terms, it is akin to talking to three different persons, even if you are talking to one.
Option 3: There are actually 3 gods, all equally powerful. Kind of like an Alliance, really.

Fundie (Displeased look on face): Am I detecting a hint of blasphemy here?

Beast: I apologize for sounding a little offending here. I don’t mean to be rude though. I just analyze whatever information you have provided me with so far, that is all.

Fundie ( a little sullen now): Well, let me warn you that blasphemy against Bob the Raingod will cause you to incur his wrath, and I seriously suggest you not to babble such blasphemous remarks in future.

Beast: I think you have utterly misunderstood me. Allow me to rephrase my stance here: I am apologizing to you, because I feel that I may have unintentionally offended you in some way. I am not apologizing to your god, or gods (rolls eyes in disbelief), simply because I do not think he, or they, exist.

Fundie: It is “he ". One God. Not “they”.

Beast (throws arms in the air): Whatever.

Fundie (Shakes head): This is not very good. You know what the Bobbism scripture says? “Only a fool says there is no God.” And the Bobbism Scriptures is the best proof bestowed upon Man by Bob the Raingod, to guide us on the road to salvation.

Beast: May I ask you, my good Paul: Are the scriptures you just mentioned written by man, or Bob the Raingod?

Fundie: The scriptures were written by honorable prophets about two thousand years ago; they wrote what Bob inspired them to.

Beast: Ah… so the scriptures were written by men, not deities, is that so?

Fundie: Yes, that’s true, but they were divinely inspired.

Beast: Whatever their alleged divine sources, the fact remains, that these scriptures were written by men, the tales and rules were written in a time and age when science wasn’t as advanced as today, and passed down through numerous hands and handwritten transcripts. Errors and discrepancies caused by numerous translations notwithstanding, these laws may have worked very well at the time it was scribbled, but not so now, nearly two thousand years later. Two thousand years is an awfully long time, Paul. Whatever is written then may have suited their age and time, but not ours.

Fundie: That’s not true! Many of the rules written in the Bobbist scriptures are still relevant today, such as the golden rule, “Thou shalt not kill”. Without such laws, evil shall triumph over good.

Beast: Such rules have existed long before Bobbism took root. Besides, good and evil are shifting values. What is defined as good today, may be deemed evil tomorrow, and vice versa.

Fundie: Oh? Are you saying then, that the values of good and evil are never consistent? I think not.

Beast (Laughs): Absolute morals cannot be applied consistently, my friend. Perceptions change with every era. Surely you do know that a little over a century ago, slavery was a norm in the United States and Europe? Now, slavery is viewed as a abomination unto itself. A few decades ago apartheid was law, a law sanctioned by the white minority to segregate themselves from the blacks in the USA and South Africa. Nowadays it is a common view that apartheid has left a indelible black mark in world history.

Fundie: That is true. But crimes, such as rape & murder, as written in the Bobbist scriptures are still relevant today. Would you agree?

Beast: Such laws, being secular in nature, cannot be credited to the Bobbist religion itself, as they existed in a time that preceded as far back as the ancient Greek civilization, way before the first Bobbist scripture was ever penned. Certain laws inherited from ancient civilizations still apply, due to their well-proven ability to maintain and preserve civilization. The scriptures may have harped about certain common laws which have long been used and regarded as norms in other civilizations, but it doesn’t mean we should credit the scripture writers for their ingenuity in creating such wise, secular laws. Rather, there are other redundant, moral rules, spawned by such religious writers, which hold no intrinsic value to modern society.

Fundie: Such as?

Beast: Such as rules, or laws, subjugating the rights of women, the harboring and treatment of slaves, laws prohibiting certain consensual, sexual acts; and laws prohibiting the general population from worshiping other gods other than those stated in the scriptures, just to name a few.

Fundie (Disappointed): So you disagree that such laws, as mentioned by you, are irrelevant with regards to the morals of our nation, or the world in general?

Beast (Laughs): Such unnecessary trivialities are but obstacles to a free and modern world. No one, with the exception of religious fundamentalists and terrorists, will ever want to live under the shroud of such restrictive and ill-advised laws. Besides, there is no way a modern society can enforce a law on, say, sexual preferences, without incurring the wrath and ridicule of the general public.

Fundie (Annoyed): You seem very hell-bent on discrediting Bob.

Beast (Gives a innocent, “Not me, its him!” look): That’s not my intention, my good Paul. I am merely stating facts.

Fundie: So you discredit my faith. So what proof do you have of your faith?

Beast: Didn’t I mention earlier I have no faith?

Fundie: Atheism is a faith. After all, it requires more faith to believe there is no god than there is a god.

Beast: Allow me to explain atheism in simple terms. Do you believe in fairies?

Fundie: No, of course not. That’s a pagan belief, is it not?

Beast: That’s beside the point. Why do you not believe in fairies?

Fundie: Because I jolly well know they do not exist.

Beast: I see. What if I say they did?

Fundie: Then I think you are either insane, or demon possessed.

Beast (Laughs): Really. What if I insist that fairies exist, despite your ardent objection of such deities ?

Fundie: Then you must prove to me that fairies exist.

Beast: What if I say fairies exist, that everything in existence is created by fairies, and that the playboy magazine was written by fairy-inspired authors, and that the monthly publications of Playboy magazines is a irrefutable proof of their existence, and your disbelief in fairies actually requires more faith than a belief in fairies?

(By this time the fundie knew that he had been outsmarted and outwitted by a very calm Beast, which somehow is very contradicting to the conventional depiction of a Beast as a wild, savage being.)

Fundie (looking dejected): I sense a lot of hostility from you towards Bob the Raingod.

Beast(Wide-eyed amazement): When on Earth have I shown my disenchantment or hostility towards Bob?

Fundie (Fuming): You blaspheme him time and time again, even to the extent of comparing him to fairies.

Beast: I think you are too sensitive.

Fundie: I think you are being too insensitive.

Beast (Laughs): I am sorry to know that your God is so emotionally fragile. Let us both stop accusing each other for the moment. Ok?

(At this point, the fundie seemed to be divinely inspired. He begins to brighten up, seemingly hell-bent on winning this theological battle with yours truly, a.k.a The Beast)

Fundie: So, in your opinion, God does not exist. How then, were you conceived, save by the hand of an All-knowing, All-almighty God?

Beast: I was conceived and borne of my mothers’ womb.

Fundie: And by whose hands were you placed into your mother’s womb?

Beast (Laughs hard): Jeez, do you suppose that I should give you a biological discourse on sex and pregnancy? (Laughs again) I don’t think so. Not on this train.

Fundie (Laughs, rather half-heartedly): Ok, that wasn’t what I expected from you. Let me rephrase the question: Who exactly was the cause of everything that exists, from the mega-sized galaxies, to the tiniest of microbes?

Beast: With regards to the universe and the galaxies, my answer would be that of the Big Bang. As with regards to life on Earth, evolution is the driving force behind all life on Earth.

Fundie (Stunned, as if he had been hit by a rock): Ok, so you believe Man evolved from Monkeys? Or that our ancestors were no better than hairy apes?

Beast (Smiles): From your very questions I suspect that you didn’t do well in your biological classes in school.

Fundie (Disgusted): Oh, we were taught in school we evolved from apes.

Beast: Either your biological teacher screwed you up, or you remembered it wrong. We did not evolve from apes. Rather, man and ape share a common ancestor.

Fundie (Skeptical look): Oh? Where’s the proof?

Beast: It is all there in the museums. Check it out.

Fundie: Don’t you know that there were many hoaxes found amongst these so-called “Pre-historic homo skeletons”?

Beast: So there was. But many species have been deemed authentic down the years, like the “Java Man” and the “Peking Man” fossils. If you are mentioning about fake fossils, such as the “Piltdown Man”, those fake fossils were actually exposed by credible scientists themselves, hence lending credence to the astute honesty and integrity of the scientific community.

Fundie: So you think man and ape are closely related?

Beast: Very close, genetically speaking our genes share more than 99% similarity.

Fundie: So science teaches that, huh? That we are actually no better than apes?

Beast: That’s your opinion, my friend.

Fundie (Looks imploringly. Poor dude, maybe he hasn‘t evolved, yet): Look at us, Beast. How can you compare us to apes?

Beast: Are you trying to imply that Apes are too stupid to be held in comparison to Man?

Fundie: Of course! We are definitely far more superior to mere apes! In fact, our intelligence surpluses that of all animal species on Earth. We were created in the image of Bob; we were gifted with intelligence to make decisions, to perceive good and evil. Man has the ability of speech to convey information and ideas, which animals are incapable of. Most important of all, we have been blessed with everlasting souls, hence our emotions and conscience. Animals do not possess such an impressive array of gifts from the most divine Bob. Most importantly, Bob gave us free will……

Beast (Interrupts): Ok, wait a minute. You are suggesting that :
One: Man is the only species on Earth blessed with intelligence, and that the rest of the Animal Kingdom exist on dull-witted brains or simply no brains at all, which means that they are incapable of intelligent actions or participate in decision making.
Two: Since you claim animals have no souls, it naturally equates to a definite absence of emotions and conscience.
Three: You are also implying that Man inherits supreme exclusivity to Bob the Raingod on the basis of the existence of our eternal souls. Right?

Fundie: Animals are sent by Bob our Lord to serve us. That is the reason why we are allowed to eat animals, without incurring the wrath of our Lord.

Beast (Laughs): I shall convey your opinions to the local animal rights groups. They will probably skin you alive.

Fundie (Laughs): I haven’t met any of them, but anyway, almost everyone eats meat, right?

Beast (Half-hearted attempt to stop laughing): That’s true. I think we are sidetracking a little here. So, the point is, am I right to assume that you believe that animals are just callous, stupid and dumb, and that we deserve divine favors on the basis of intelligence and the alleged existence of souls, traits which animals do not possess, according to you that is?

Fundie (Pauses for a while): Yes. That would be right.

Beast: Do you realize that most animals actually have brains in the first place?

Fundie: Yes they do.

Beast: So, are you saying that they never use their brains for anything else save eating, sleeping, defecating and copulating?

Fundie: You are correct.

Beast: How do you explain the ability of animals to hunt in groups? Lions, for instance, tend to form social groups known as prides. There exists a social hierarchy in every lion pride, and a leader from each pride is responsible for leading the pride during their hunts, and protects the pride from external threats. By hunting in groups, lion prides have the highest success rates amongst the Big Cats in terms of hunt-to-kill ratio. Elephants, too, have their social herds, and their mental faculties are almost on par with Man’s. There is documentary evidence of elephants actually mourning the deaths of their family members and relatives. So-called dumb animals, or animals of a less order, have been known to exhibit emotions anyway; I used to keep pet hamsters; and I can attest to the fact that even these “lesser” animals exhibit unique character traits. So how does that say of your charge that animals can’t feel, and hence do not have souls?

Fundie: But we can worship God, but they can’t, so that makes a difference.

Beast: Ah, so you are saying, the animals have feelings, souls, and intelligence, but they can’t worship gods. Is that another change in your stance again?

Fundie (Very flustered): I think you are trying to twist my words here.

Beast: I am not. I am just commenting on what you say, and then attempting to prove you wrong, that is all.

Fundie (Mildly frustrated): Ok, let’s put it this way. Animals do have intelligence; they do have emotions, but they have no souls, and when they die they simply perish. And the important issue being, that they do not have the ability to know the true and living god.

Beast: So now your claim would be that, our ability to worship a powerful God, is the sole reason why we should be superior to the animals?

Fundie (Pauses, thinks, before answering): Uh huh…………

Beast: I shall have to refute you on this. Animals do worship, actually, but in a far more subtle manner.

Fundie: Really? How so?

Beast: In the context of the animal kingdom, God would be a mere alpha male in the herd. This phenomenon can actually be observed in gorilla territory.

Fundie (Exasperated now): This is outrageous! You compare our Supreme God to a gorilla alpha male?

Beast (Shrugs): Well, our need to worship god is actually a throw-back to our ancient prehistoric ancestors. Since gorillas and man are, generally speaking, genetically related, it is safe to say that we do share similar traits. The worship of gods is quite akin to the animals who serve and look up to their alpha males for leadership.

Fundie (Angrily): This is blasphemy! I command you to stop this nonsense now, once and for all!

Beast (Fed-up, raises his beastly voice): Now don’t try to get personal on me, pal. If you wish to mix science with superstition, I think you have been barking up the wrong tree. These are facts that have been substantiated by reputed scientists, and unless you can find a better way to prove otherwise I suggest you keep quiet with regards to this issue.

Fundie: Don’t you see? Evolution is but mere theory! Not facts, but theory! Even the scientists themselves cannot make up their minds with regards to how evolution was supposed to happen!

Beast: So is gravity, my friend. The Theory of Gravity. Does gravity exist? No? Then you might as well float into the outer edges of space and perish. When Science accords a scientific idea as Theory, it simply means there is probably more than one way to explain a phenomenon. Take light, for example, it inherits the characteristics of both a wave and a particle. Evolution is already a fact; there are tons of fossils and carbon-dating records to indicate that evolution had taken place, and is still taking place today. The stuff scientists debate on are usually the way evolution has proceeded, not on grounds of validity as you have claimed.

( At this point it has become clear that he was not going to gain even an inch of ground with this preaching-turned-debate-turned-sour debacle. He begins to launch a religious tirade based on superstition and fear. It really indicates the desperation he feels, perhaps out of real concern that I may somehow be condemned to the fiery pits of hell.)

Fundie: Beast, my dear brother, it is my deepest wish, and that of God, that you repent of your sins and commit yourself to Bob the Raingod.

Beast (sensing a u-turn in the debate, laughs): So, you can’t outwit me, and now you are resorting to a religious conversion?

Fundie (Gives a desperate, listen-to-me look): I fear for your soul, my dear brother. Confess your sins to Bob and be forgiven! Otherwise you will be condemned to hell forever and ever. Do you truly wish to be tormented for eternity?

Beast (Laughs): I thought you mentioned earlier that Bob is a loving God?

Fundie: Indeed he is. He is an all-loving God.

Beast: And if that be so, why the need for hell? To roast chickens for an eternal barbecue for human souls? If your God loves me, why send me to burn for eternity in the fiery pits of hell?

Fundie: Because you are unrepentant of your sins, Bob has no choice but to send you to hell, as you so deserve.

Beast: If that is so, I am sure there are many non-believers of your religious creed, or infidels in your opinion, who shall fry with me Down Under. (Laughs) And I am not even talking about Australia, mind you!

Fundie (Getting all worked up): I pray that you do not suffer their fate! Repent and be saved!

Beast: Don’t make it sound like Armageddon, Paul. Bobbism is but a mere belief system, and if I am hell bound for not subscribing to your God or Gods, then your God, or gods, is no better than a tyrant.

Fundie (Shakes head, looks or fakes as if he is about to cry): Ok, so be it then, its your choice. If you die and meet Bob the Raingod, don’t say you were not told. You have been warned.

Beast: To each his own. Truly, Bobbism, or any other religion for the matter, is not my cup of tea. (Train reaches destination, door opens) Oops, time does fly, Paul! I have reached my destination already! That’s it, my friend. I am off. Cheer up, brother! It is not the end of the world! (Gives a huge smile)

(At this point of time the train has reached Beast’s point of destination. He shakes fundie’s hands, walks off and feels relieved that the final emotional discussion had been a short one. Can’t stand grown-up men crying. Its just too crappy. Tsk tsk)

4 comments:

Advocate1 said...

Thank you! Another voice of reason! Welcome to the congregation my man!

Advocate 1

BEAST said...

No sweat, dude.

Its always been a pleasure for me, to write and share ideas with men of great intellectual abilities.

Advocate1 said...

When you tossd out the word "hallucination" I could only think about the way logic and reason falls flat on aome people with little or no effect--except perhaps to make them angry and more inclined to spew off an angry restatement of their original delusion.

Lily said...

Great to see you, welcome Beast!