Yet another installment in The Author Guy Answers your Questions.
Catch 42 asks:
Hey there Author Guy, I’ve really been enjoying your Q & A’s. My question is: Where ya been? There hasn’t been a post since April 8th! We miss you…you don’t think we can get on with our pathetic lil’ lives without your expert guidence, do you?
I apologize. But the questions have been pretty scarce. I haven’t been ignoring you guys, I’ve just been waiting. I’m also having a hard time coming up with funny answers for your questions after I’ve been working on the book all day. So instead, I’ll just give you answers. Don’t blame me if they’re lame.
Deederpie writes: hey author guy, big al says dogs can’t look up. what do you think?
Dear Deederpie: I Gotta go with the food thing. Hold food over a dog’s head, he looks up. To be a little less dismissive, dogs, for the most part, are hunters, which means they have binocular vision (for depth perception) and tend to have the ability to track prey. Now, go have big Al look at some film of duck hunters with retrievers.
Dear Author Guy (again… ) I finally got my boyfriend to read one of your books, The Stupidest Angel, and he really likes it. Unfortunately, it started one of those ridiculous, grouchy, two-o’clock-in-the-morning fights. See, I’m a total sucker for the Tucker Cases and Biffs of the world, but my boyfriend (psych major) absolutely insists that Tucker is a sociopath. Since we’re both stubborn, I figured I should call in the most awesomely available author ever, before leaving my man over a fictional character. (Actually, there are probably a lot of steps I should take before that, unless i’m a -path of some kind.) So, help me win an argument? :)Kim(:
Kim: A sociopath tends to be narcissistic with no conscience. Tucker Case, even before he has an epiphany, has a conscience, and remorse, in fact a lot of remorse, so he’s not a sociopath. If you were going to go all “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” on his ass, or roll up DSM4, as we say on the street, I think at worst, Tucker Case has what’s called a borderline personality disorder, which isn’t what it sounds like, but is sort of “sociopath lite”. There’s a lot of narcissism and selfishness involved, but also an endearing amount of self-destruction. (I’m not looking this up, but winging it from memory, but if you can’t win an argument with your boyfriend this way, I suggest, trying, “Dude, you are so never going to get laid again unless you say I’m right.” You’ll want to limit using this option to win arguments to two or three times a week, otherwise you could totally destroy his self-esteem, at which point you would have to dump the loser and go find someone who doesn’t like to argue as much. )
Dr. Sue writes:
Why do (almost) all religions decree that they are the one true church and all non believers are going to hell (or it’s particular equivalent)? I mean I know money comes into it somehow, but is there a more esoteric reason?
Sue: For the same reason that most tribes’ names for themselves, in virtually any culture, translates to “the human beings” or “the people”. Because it’s a lot easier to kill people and take their resources if they aren’t people. To dehumanize the enemy is the easiest way to motivate your soldiers to lose the natural resistance to committing murder. (A natural resistance, because we evolved as a cooperative species, using the troop, group or herd, whatever term you prefer, as part of our strategy for survival. Those who are predisposed to murder, will eventually lose the advantage of the cooperation of the troop.) By the same reasoning, as the numbers of troops grow and compete for resources, if your troop is chosen by God ( or fill in the name of your deity here), then those who don’t believe are condemned anyway. You can kill them with impunity, and still not go against the principal of the survival of the troop (ie. Don’t murder, your own. Killing a non-human is not murder. See Crusades or any old fatwa).
Hell – the eternal fire and punishment thing- is a pretty new concept, and basically a tool of coercion of the faithful, (that is, to control the behavior of the “converted”.) The underworld existed in many cultures, but not as a place of torment. You need hell as a whipping stick. For example, the Roman Empire gets its ass handed to it in the fifth century, leaving much of the conquered territories to be self-governed, now the only centralized power left has shifted from the Emperor and his Legions, to the Church. Army’s can’t impose control by force, so the church proceeds to regain its territories by conversion, and when met with resistance, the annexation of the indigenous beliefs. Thus, the hammer of Thor comes to represent a crucifix, the winter solstice comes to mark Christ’s birth, and the spring equinox, his resurrection. Gradually the old beliefs are absorbed by the church, and short of an army, the church uses it’s exclusive access to God to control the population. You don’t think they did the mass in Latin because that’s what a Jewish kid from Galilee spoke, did you? Or that the only person who knew how to read or write, was the priest because the written word was too hard for the average peasant to learn, right? So you have the peasants, and you stay all spooky and mystical and they will follow your cause for the promise of paradise. For the privileged, however, the promise of paradise, a better life, is not enough, and with the wealth goes the power, so you need the threat of hell. You need to be able to take something away from them, because they already have it as good as it gets in those days. You mark out an entire continent into the equivalent of a religious theme park, and you charge for “get out of purgatory free cards” at all the shrines. Plus you keep all the knowledge for yourself, so any rich merchant or nobleman has but one place to go if he wants his sons to have an education: the Church. The Church controls knowledge, and knowledge is… well, there you go.
Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. And yes, when you are living in plague and famine and what we would perceive as hellish conditions, the promise of a better “afterlife” may be your only solace, it may be just the drug you are willing to mainline. Otherwise, why get up in the morning, and why build that fuck-all gargantuan cathedral that won’t even be finished in your great, great, grandchildren’s lifetime? That seems obvious, but move it closer to home, let’s say, the last election, and let’s see exactly how religion works as a means of social control. Take the wealthiest, most powerful group in the country, whose policies are across the board in the interest of benefiting the wealthiest and most powerful group in the country, then make the peasants vote against their own economic interests to keep the wealthy group in power. How? Well, dehumanize the enemy. Claim God as your own, and yourself as the chosen. Promise eternal life for those who support you and damnation for those who oppose. Why will you go to battle for me? Because I am the chosen. I carry the mighty sword of God. To oppose me, is to oppose God. And in the mean time, if you are impoverished in your old age, your health care is non-existent, and your children may not love whom they choose, well, there’s the afterlife to make it all better. You have prevented murder by – uh — murdering the unfaithful, and doing God’s own work. And the rich shall inherit the Earth, for there is no estate tax leveled upon them, and no wealth shall be redistributed to those who are unfaithful or unlucky, for that would be Godless Communism.
Forget the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the Wahabi — the fucking Pharos did this four thousand years ago– saying that no one but the blood relatives of the Pharos will have an afterlife. Well, say that until your peasant soldiers say, “Well fug it, then, I think you motherfuckers need to fight your own wars.” Oh, then Pharaoh says, “Wait, I forgot this last part: Any soldier who dies in battle for me, he too gets an afterlife.”
Or maybe you live in the frozen North? Ah, if you die valiantly, in battle, you get to party like a rock star in Valhalla until the Midgard serpent finally swallows his own tail. Or maybe you need to get a bunch of young fundamentalists to fly airplanes into large structures in the name of God. It helps to promise them a whole pile of girls who will never know that they are a lousy lay.
So the answer to: “Why do all religions declare themselves the one true church?” is:
Because that’s how you take and maintain power. Missionaries are just recruiting officers for the holy army that backs up your power. Those, by the way, are not my military metaphors. The Church came up with them. Jihad is a religious term. Crusade is a religious term. Organized religions are military bureaucracies.
Sorry if that was a blatantly simplistic answer, or a great big “Duh”. I kind of find the whole subject a little obvious, like, “Hey, you dumb sons-a-bitches, can’t you see that George’s lips are moving and that Jesus doll isn’t really talking to you.” I apologize that I’m not particularly articulate about it. Also, it’s fairly easy to rant if one stays on the Western side of religion, but some Eastern religions don’t fit this paradigm at all. For instance, there has never been a Buddhist holy war. Yet the social control built into Hinduism is frighteningly obvious (be a good merchant, barber, craftsman – keep to your place, and be reincarnated as a higher caste, but ultimately, be satisfied with your place in life). Animism among hunters and gatherers in environments where there is no troop competition for resources, like the religion of the pygmies of the Congo or the bushman of the Kalihari, tends to non-exclusive and not used as a means for social control. In tribal societies, economics often dictates religion ie. You need trade, therefore it’s incest to marry anyone in your clan or village, not just your blood relative, therefore you are forced to forge ties with other villages and clans, which promotes trade. Somehow that becomes religion, but the difference between custom and religion is often indiscernible. The difference between a civil wedding service and a church wedding service is, besides the cost, well, the church. Custom and religion? Laws of man and laws of God. Man makes the laws of God to suit his own agenda. Who has the one true God? The guy most willing and able to murder in his name. Amen.
Dear AG, If friends described you as an a animal, what kind would it be and why? Lib
Dear Lib: A sloth with a huge unit. Because sometimes I move kind of slowly.