Friday, December 30, 2005

Religion: This Man’s Search for Godlessness (Part One)

I was asked recently about religion and faith and started writing this because I couldn’t assail the dense wall of amateur writer’s block. Here’s the first half if anyone gives a goddamn.

Once upon a time, everyone was damn sure the Earth was flat. Now we know better, but for some reason a good number of people still believe a man rose from the dead after being nailed to a cross.

Like many people, I had the profound misfortune of being raised Catholic. Not only raised in the sense of being forced to march into churches but I went to Catholic schools off and on, totaling seven years (not including the drudgery of C.C.D.). I feel the lord and me are just fine.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about this lately. I did a lot of thinking about it in the past, while attending St. Lawrence High School and knee deep in Christian Brothers, bad neckties and the noticeable lack of female company. It was at that time I decided that the church and I were mismatched and I said goodbye to the traditions and superstitions of Catholic mythology. Let me state for the record, the aesthetics of the religion are appealing and the traditions are often quite interesting in the same way the Hindu gods are beautiful and the Buddhist Scriptures are fascinating. This may be, but I don’t find anything in these fairy tales to believe in. If I have to use an old book as the basis of my personal religion, I’ll choose Boccaccio’s Decameron.

It is a question of faith and I have none in the gods, especially the ones who might threaten to send me to a lake of eternal fire for anything I may have said or done.

George Carlin said that religion was the worst thing to ever beset mankind. I find it hard to disagree. Sure, religion has served a purpose but I think that purpose has changed and as a result, religion should as well. Evolution being a natural function of life, religion needs to evolve. Or, we need to evolve to allow these beliefs to remain relevant. They are not, in my opinion, relevant in the least.

Another great comedian’s take on the subject:

“I was watching that show the other day, you know the one where the guy stands up on stage and pretends he can communicate with the dead. [Crowd starts yelling show titles such as “Crossing Over”.] No, it’s called church.”—David Cross.

Anyway, most of the people I know are pretty split about the subject but I would guess the overall population of this country considers themselves religious without going to church or saying grace or participating in those rituals. “Non-Practicing” is the term, I believe. Another term for these people might be “pussies”. Sorry to be so harsh, but as this cranky writer moves headlong into the midpoint of his thirties he finds himself more infuriated with things than he was during his terrible twenties. On the subject of hocus-pocus I am beginning to lose my patience. There are a myriad of reasons why one might go to church or put their stock in any form of witchcraft, and I have to almost admire that kind of devotion. I disagree completely but hey, at least the churchies put their money where their mouths are (and a couple of coins in the collection plate). The non-practicing are just unwilling to commit as they have no real interest in going to mass yet they call themselves believers because, well, I assume they fear hell. Or they were raised in the faith and find it hard to abandon the myths that were forced on them as tots. I would ask them to please examine their paper-thin beliefs and shit or get off the toilet.

Examining one’s faith is essential to any thinking being, the fence-riding non-practitioners, the atheists and the devout. We all need to step back from time to time and see if our opinions and beliefs are a result of personal reflection or just adherence to old customs. Rituals have a tendency to take hold. I could waltz into a Catholic mass and still know when to stand, kneel, sit, make the sign of the cross and the little rub of the forehead with the thumb. I’ve got the choreography down pretty well even after such a lapse in attendance. It stands to reason that many of the weary who drag ass over to the place of worship go through the motions in a similar manner, cat napping during the sermons and dreaming, as I did, of more interesting things.

Actually, as a child I used to stare at the high ceilings and stained glass images in St. Albert’s Church and imagine Batman crashing through the glass to whisk me away. Where did he get those wonderful toys?

Why did I go to a Catholic high school? I suppose it was because I hated everyone in grade school and thought a fat Dungeons and Dragons devotee might get a fresh start in private school. Everyone else was going to Argo High in picturesque Summit, Illinois. Also, my mother liked the idea. She thought I might excel in my studies in private school. She was wrong, but I don’t regret the decision anyway. Were it not for four years of Bible study and ridiculous classes called, “Marriage and Faith” I might have been one of those non-practicing hypocrites.

St. Lawrence allowed me to see the absurdity of the church and the utter useless of it in regard to my life. My favorite of the Christian Brothers (sort of lesser version of the priest) was a guy who left the order during my junior year. I was a little sad when I heard he was leaving. He was funny, down-to-earth and easy to relate to. He was also pretty damn smart and very encouraging, the ideal Brother to guide us little lambs along the road to enlightenment. And yeah, he occasionally spouted something religious but he was hardly the Bible beating zealot unable and unwilling to listen to reason. I liked the guy a lot and was sorry his girlfriend got pregnant, resulting in his quiet departure from the black dress of the Christian Brothers. He looked better in street clothes anyway.

Another great thing St. Larry’s offered was (and this is rare in a Catholic organization) disparate ideas. I don’t know how this member of the lay staff managed to sneak Sartre into my senior year theology class, but he did. We students were also presented with St. Thomas Aquinas and his five proofs for the existence of god (a fascinating read, really, but it hold as much water as a sieve). The idea, I suppose, was to present us with a religious philosopher and one who was an atheist. I think my instructor was attempting to convince us of the validity of Aquinas and the heathenism of Sartre in an attempt to strengthen our young faith. It backfired. Sartre made a lot more sense, at least the part of his convoluted prose I was able to comprehend.

(Part Two Coming Soon)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Speaking of Religion and Rushdie...


Wherever religions get into society’s driving seat, tyranny results
by Salman Rushdie

Exception to European secularism

I never thought of myself as a writer about religion until a religion came after me. Religion was a part of my subject, of course -- for a novelist from the Indian subcontinent, how could it not have been? But in my opinion I also had many other, larger, tastier fish to fry. Nevertheless, when the attack came, I had to confront what was confronting me, and to decide what I wanted to stand up for in the face of what so vociferously, repressively and violently stood against me.

Now, 16 years later, religion is coming after us all and, even though most of us probably feel, as I once did, that we have other, more important concerns, we are all going to have to confront the challenge. If we fail, this particular fish may end up frying us.

For those of us who grew up in India in the aftermath of the Partition riots of 1946-1947, following the creation of the independent states of India and Pakistan, the shadow of that slaughter has remained as a dreadful warning of what men will do in the name of God. And there have been too many recurrences of such violence in India -- in Meerut, in Assam and most recently in Gujarat. European history, too, is littered with proofs of the dangers of politicized religion: the French Wars of Religion, the bitter Irish troubles, the "Catholic nationalism" of the Spanish dictator Franco and the rival armies in the English Civil War going into battle, both singing the same hymns.

People have always turned to religion for the answers to the two great questions of life: Where did we come from? and how shall we live? But on the question of origins, all religions are simply wrong. The universe wasn't created in six days by a superforce that rested on the seventh. Nor was it churned into being by a sky god with a giant churn. And on the social question, the simple truth is that, wherever religions get into society's driving seat, tyranny results. The Inquisition results, or the taliban.

And yet religions continue to insist that they provide special access to ethical truths, and consequently deserve special treatment and protection. And they continue to emerge from the world of private life -- where they belong, like so many other things that are acceptable when done in private between consenting adults but unacceptable in the town square -- and to bid for power. The emergence of radical Islam needs no redescription here, but the resurgence of faith is a larger subject than that.

In today's United States, it's possible for almost anyone -- women, gays, African-Americans, Jews -- to run for, and be elected to, high office. But a professed atheist wouldn't stand a popcorn's chance in Hell. Hence the increasingly sanctimonious quality of so much American political discourse: the current president, according to Bob Woodward, sees himself as a "messenger" doing "the Lord's will", and "moral values" has become a code phrase for old-fashioned, anti-gay, anti-abortion bigotry. The defeated Democrats also seem to be scurrying toward this kind of low ground, perhaps despairing of ever winning an election any other way.

According to Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission, "The clash between those who believe and those who don't believe will be a dominant aspect of relations between the US and Europe in the coming years."

In Europe the bombing of a railway station in Madrid and the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh are being seen as warnings that the secular principles that underlie any humanist democracy need to be defended and reinforced. Even before these atrocities occurred, the French decision to ban religious attire such as Islamic headscarves had the support of the entire political spectrum. Islamist demands for segregated classes and prayer breaks were also rejected. Few Europeans today call themselves religious -- only 21 per cent, according to a recent European Values Study, as opposed to 59 per cent of Americans, according to the Pew Forum. In Europe the Enlightenment represented an escape from the power of religion to place limiting points on thought, while in America it represented an escape into the religious freedom of the New World -- a move toward faith, rather than away from it. Many Europeans now view the American combination of religion and nationalism as frightening.

The exception to European secularism can be found in Britain, or at least in the government of the devoutly Christian, increasingly authoritarian Tony Blair, which is now trying to steamroller Parliament into passing a law against "incitement to religious hatred" in a cynical vote-getting attempt to placate advocates for British Muslims, in whose eyes almost any critique of Islam is offensive. Journalists, lawyers and a long list of public figures have warned that this law will dramatically hinder free speech and fail to meet its objective -- that it would increase religious disturbances rather than diminish them. Blair's government seems to view the whole subject of civil liberties with disdain: what do freedoms matter, hard won and long cherished though they may be, when set against the requirements of a government facing re-election?

And yet the Blairite policy of appeasement must be defeated. Perhaps the British House of Lords will do what the Commons failed to do, and send this bad law to the scrap heap. And, though this is more unlikely, maybe America's Democrats will come to understand that in today's 50/50 America they may actually have more to gain by standing up against the Christian Coalition and its fellow travellers, and refusing to let a Mel Gibson view of the world shape American social and political policy. If these things do not happen, if America and Britain allow religious faith to control and dominate public discourse, then the Western alliance will be placed under ever-increasing strain, and those other religionists, the ones against whom we're supposed to be fighting, will have great cause to celebrate.

Victor Hugo wrote, "There is in every village a torch: the schoolmaster -- and an extinguisher: the parson." We need more teachers and fewer priests in our lives because, as James Joyce once said, "There is no heresy or no philosophy which is so abhorrent to the church as a human being." But perhaps the great American lawyer Clarence Darrow put the secularist argument best of all. "I don't believe in God," he said, "because I don't believe in Mother Goose."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Lord of the Ringlets

My hair is doing ridiculous things lately. I’ve decided to let it do what it wants, regardless of how crazy it gets. I give up.

Just sharing. Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Books vs. Religion and the Internet

Cicero said, and this is a paraphrase, that books are the soul of a room. Books add something essential to a setting that is lacking in their absence. The ability of a collection of bound and printed pages to contribute so greatly to a room’s makeup is astounding. Books serve this purpose as well as they educate, illuminate and entertain. That being the case, they deserve our respect. How many of us are so informative, entertaining or add anything like soul to a room?

A room of books is to many (and I count myself among this crowd) similar to a church, synagogue, mosque or any other place of worship. There is little difference really. Some worship gods and myths and traditions, some worship ideas and stories in the same way. After all, religions are really just collections of stories, right?

I went to house recently, a large house in a small town. The area was surrounded by bait shops, gun stores and fast food. At the risk of seeming snobbish, it depressed me. What made it worse was the interior of the house. Not a book to be found, not even a newspaper. I can’t imagine such a way of life. It’s not like I read every minute of every day. There’s TV and the black hole internet and other such albatrosses we let into our lives, but books will always hold more importance for me. I like them. I like reading them and, more so, I like buying them. I’m a sick consumer and it’s getting worse with every passing year.

I went book shopping today. I had some excess Xmas money to burn and a few gift certificates. I nearly bought Salman Rushdie’s latest collection of essays, Step Across This Line for $17, paperback. I read a few of the essays and opted for something else, thinking I’d find it again and already had 3 other Rushdie books at home waiting to be read. Two bookstores later, I found a used copy of Rushdie’s book for $5.75, hardback without even a dent in the spine. You see how I saved money? It pays to shop around.

By the way, Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, the book that made him a household name and the target of the more extreme Muslims, stands as a frightening example of the power of books. Or it would if anyone read the fucking thing. I wonder if the Ayatollah read Rushdie’s book. I wonder if the terrorists who killed Rushdie’s Japanese translator read the book. I doubt it. Maybe it is not so much a testament to the power of literature as it is a case against religious zealotry. Books prompt thought and discussion; the inflexibility of dogmatic belief only knows how to censor and destroy. Books, 1; Religion, 0.

The Bible is taught as a piece of literature, even in a Christian university like my old stomping grounds, DePaul. Looking at religious texts as pieces of literature is interesting and might make people appreciate them more than they do as the basis for their faith. I was made to go to church and read some of the Bible. I didn’t like it or believe a word of what I read. Thinking of it as I do the Greek myths made me see something in it that I missed when it was force fed to me. The point? Reading these texts is more fun when you are allowed to see them as stories and lessons, not rigid moral codes and road maps to heaven. But I digress.

Why is it important to have so many damned books? Why not? Aside from giving my room soul, they make me happy. Scores of women were collecting Beanie Babies a few years ago. Call me crazy but I think my obsession is a bit healthier than theirs. I am building a personal library still, as I have been for over a decade and will continue to do so until my dying day. When the end comes I will be able to see each book as a representation of a certain time in my life. I can tell you where I got most of them. They sit like memories on my shelves and bring back interesting times, good and bad. They are a connection to the past and to the future, as many are waiting anxiously to be read, promising immeasurable pleasures someday off in the distance. They are an investment. When the net implodes and TV becomes too crowded with crime procedurals (the endless parade of insipid Law & Order shows) and the celebration of bimbos who skate through life being vacuous and petty (The Simple Life) I will always have the books to go back to. And they don’t even need to be plugged in. Instead, they ask that you plug yourself into them.

Will the internet replace books? Nope. Never going happen. No way in hell. Why not? Because there are too many of us out there who value the printed page and think that literature should take up space. Books have weight; the web is just images and illusions. I don’t judge every book by its size but I like them to be tangible, to have a feel and a smell and to look nice. Aesthetics are important and computers offer little of that, certainly not the way books do. The ability to download an article or an excerpt is amazing, and I employ this ability often, but the internet and the computer and the vast resources of information exist to support the book, not usurp it. Be this as it may, I suppose a day may come when I feel as antiquated as the volumes that line my walls and crowd me in my tiny room. I won’t mind so long as it is a well-lit and quiet room that will, no doubt, have tremendous soul.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Time is Coming...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Xmas Roots

Trey Spruance, mad composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and eccentric, seems to spend his time between recording and obsessively mixing the Secret Chiefs 3’s yet unreleased final two thirds of the “Books” trilogy reading about religions and freaking people out with his witchy Middle-Eastern interests. And he has a collection weapons and loves Kool Keith. A year ago this gem popped up on and it has remained to this day, even though his fans anxiously await further news and his side of the Mr. Bungle break-up story. I post it now, a year later, just because I like it and it should shut folks up when they bitch about Xmas and Jesus and all that cal.

A Yuletide Reconciliation

At WoM we believe that all persons can and should be a little happier around Christmas. We could all use a little less Humbug in our lives, so here is our Yuletide reconciliation between Godless Atheism and Pious Observance.

In the latter part of the 4th Century the Roman Church ordered that December 25 be celebrated as the day of the birth of Christ, though prior to that it had been assumed (according to Biblical clues, common logic and arithmetic) that Christ was born sometime in the Fall. December 25 happened also to be the same day of the old Roman feast of Sol - the Sun God, and as Frazer points out in The Golden Bough, "The largest pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds was the pagan sun worship - Mithraism... this winter festival was called the Nativity' - the Nativity of the Sun." And none other than the Catholic Encyclopedia states that "the well-known solar feast of Natalis Invicti (the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun) celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date."

Confusion erupted in the Christianizing of pagan customs to the point where "Tertullian had to assert that Sol was not the Christians God; Augustine denounced the heretical identification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I bitterly reproved solar survivals..." When we give and receive presents at Christmas time we do so also in the spirit of the inherited practices of the extravagant Roman Saturnalia, such as the giving of gifts. Christians have long lamented the obscuration of Jesus beneath the demon specter of Satan Claws. The Three Wise Men, of course, presented gifts to Jesus - not to each other!

All this talk of paganism might partly explain why so many non-Christians allow themselves to be cheerfully swept along with the Spirit of Holiday - because it is not really a Christian holiday in the first place! We feel that the True Christians understand this already, and feel less despair at the "true meaning of Christmas" being lost in the materialism of the modern world than they do at the total obliteration of Christ under the mediating idols of Babylon and its pagan "Christmas" rituals. And I'm sure they Thank God in the security of knowing that the True birth of Jesus, a fact which exists in reality, has never ever had anything to do with the world-mad festivity of "Christmas"! All the better for them if they have made it a time which is personally meaningful, despite all the Occultation and schism.

And so, Christians are free and welcome to join in the mad celebration of Saturnalia and the Nativity of the Sun now called "Christmas," and are in no danger of compromising their beliefs in the process! Similarly, since it is a Pagan Holiday, the godless atheist hordes are exempt from recognizing the Jesus Christ during the holidays. For the rare few who choose such a route wishing to revel in the true spirit of Christmas, it is recommended that they become familiar at least with the rites of Mithras, Dionysus or Sol, if only because by doing so they might find some small inner inspiration and thereby thwart the tendency to be such psychotic cutthroat sons-of-bitches on highways and in shops during the holidays. And just think, they can still almost call themselves 'atheist' at the end of the day!

[ Reference: Babylon Mystery Religions by R. Woodrow ]

Merry Christmas to all

Monday, December 19, 2005


The last page has been written, come what may. Fucking semester is officially over and I am off to get officially drunk.

I am at a crossroads, so to speak. I am taking suggestions as to what I ought to do with my life post graduation. Feel free to email me with ideas. I could use them. If I hear none, I will do as many have always thought I would (Darin, I am looking in your direction) and become a full time lush and reprobate who sleeps on couches using newspapers for blankets to block out the horrid, ugly world.

Merry Xmas, fuckers.

I say something smart-assed, Dad looks pissed...

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Come, Holidays, Come

Fragments... Pieces

My fingers blister from the lack of you.
We were walking and we saw, if you recall,
Two moons pulling us together when we tried
So hard,
Harder than diamonds
To stay apart.


If everything were right within this hailstorm
We could kiss as if the world were approaching fire.
Instead we laugh and push nothing so far
As to upset the imbalance of our total loss.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jesus Was Born in June

There’s so much shit I don’t want for Xmas it’s staggering to consider. I look at the Ipods and the Nanos and the clothes, dear god the clothes, and the custom gym shoes and the digital cable attached to the giant TV and the crap, crap, crap and I could not care less.

I am not a luddite and not one to renounce material possessions, no, no, not me. So what do I want? Here:

To finish editing the manuscript and have it magically published without having to write a fucking query letter.

A bottle of Woodford Reserve bourbon.

A signed first edition of The Sound and The Fury or to magically go back in time and have dinner with Mikhail Bulgakov.

Too many CDs to name.

Los brazos de mi niña.

An honorary degree so I can quit school.


Merry Xmas.

Friday, December 09, 2005

We both look so bored

Cats are clean animals

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Happy Birthday, Joe.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Good Morning Slaves

I am so tired of being sick. I am so sick of it all. Good god, why the hell did the so-called almighty create us if she/he/it was just going to beset us with fucking germs and illness and war and depression? And I’m supposed to give thanks and praise for this?
My room beside the sea
Beckon into quiet
Like the last time and the time before
Our love
We grow
Our love together
With the kiss after kiss
Leading us back and into

We are warm in each other
Cling together
And sway.

We are our love and our flawless sleep.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lo captures me perfectly...

Apologies, Ansel and Co.

In the past I have been heard to remark that photography is the laziest means of artistic expression. I said this because the photographers I have met were all pretty lazy hippie idiots. Some showed talent, hell, one was a local legend in the north side boho community. He could draw, too. Marvelous sketches, let me tell you, but he opted to put down the charcoal pencil in favor of the old point-and-click. It freed up valuable time for getting high and cavorting with DePaul girls all-too-anxious to label him a genius.

I joke with the up and coming young photo goons telling them to have a nice future taking family portraits at Sears. None of them laugh, just like none of the theater students ever laughed when I asked them if they liked waiting tables. These people are too serious. Anyway, I have maintained my belief about photographers for some time, even though I do respect many who dedicated themselves to the art. But still… it seems a bit less taxing then painting or writing, but that doesn’t mean it is less valid (even if the great unwashed flock to it as an easy means of claiming to be “artists”).

I had to re-evaluate my feelings on photography recently. A good friend, let’s call him Mr. X., is doing rather well with his photos, better than anyone else I know. Kudos to him. And his photos are quite good so he deserves all he gets-- some recognition and a few bucks here and there. It is quite good work and I really saw what someone could do with a camera, assuming they have the eye.

Another friend, let’s call her Ms. Diosa, mentioned taking some photography classes. She is well aware of my feelings on the subject and seemed a bit scared to tell me. How silly. I don’t judge people for finding an allure in photography, for wanting to take pictures or express themselves in that way. I simply wish to point out that it can be easy to carry a camera and call yourself an artist, a word I am loathe to apply to most people, especially myself. I suppose it is not very different than carrying around a guitar or a laptop or a set of colored pencils and doing the same. But I digress. So to her I say: go ahead and pursue it. I’m more confident about your keen eye than anyone else’s I know. I love what you have done already.

And another person I know, we’ll call her Ms. S., has labeled herself an “artist” simply because she can point a camera and press a button. Well, that may or may not be the case but I am always suspicious of anyone who uses that word so liberally. The title seems more important to them than the work itself.

It is not the good photography I dislike, it is the all-too-easily crafted mediocrity that fuels my criticism of the whole medium. Like most art, when it is good it is really something amazing, but it is usually bad and when it is bad, boy is it bad.

Then again, what do I know? Oh wait… everything. Art is the one subject I am cocky about. I don’t really know everything about it, no, (just almost everything) but I know enough to know what I like and why. And, goddmanit, I refuse to take it lightly when bad artists take refuge in easy mediums.

Anyway, to the few who read this, I hope this clears some things up. I apologize for calling all photographers lazy and all photography fans illiterate. That was the booze talking.

Kiss kiss.


Lo says I am not updating enough. Okay, here goes a pointless post:

December is a retched month. January sucks too, but December brings the Hellidays and the cold and the sickness and the final papers for class.

6 papers to do in 3 weeks. It can be done. I made this goddamn bed, time to get down to it.

Subjects of the papers, in case anyone cares or wishes to email me some suggestions:

1. Medbh McGuckian: a defense of the metaphor and “obscurity” of her work.

2. The artist in society; the role of the artist and his/her purpose.

3. Possible thesis in Lorriane Hasnberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.

4. Aristotle and/or Kant.

5. Some literary analysis thing that will be assigned on Monday.

6. Personal Reaction to an art exhibit (this one's easy).

On top of all this I have a few reading journals due. Good news: no final exams.

In other news: my grandmother turns 80 soon and am I gearing up for a lean Xmas and a quiet end to this rotten year.

My throat hurts. Damn cigarettes.

Q: You know how to sum up humanity in 5 words?

A: Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch.

Mispronounced Words

Sick Again

This really sucks.