Blog #5 Published 12/12/2020
written by Dianne Post, Attorney, Secular AZ Legal Committee Chair

One random morning my housemate went out to work and found hanging on the door handle a plastic bag with a couple of books in it.  As she was in a hurry, she didn’t look at them but just put them inside on my side of the table and left.  When I found them, I also had no idea what it was as I had not ordered anything and it was too big to be campaign material. 

It was two books indeed, both from a Jehovah Witness sect.  The first was National Sunday Law:  A shocking glimpse behind the scenes.  Forces unite amid a stupendous crisis … by Jan Marcussen.  The first chapter alone had so many misstatements in it that it was hard to give anything credence.  They claimed no one helped Kitty Genovese which is an urban myth well shattered.  They claim crime doubles every 10 years when it has been dropping for 20.  And they make fun of people with an accent.  They do say they are against drugs, pornography and Trump for trying to collapse the separation of church and state, and they want a “humanistic model” of society.   But in that chapter, I learned that the two-horned beast was the U.S.  Next I learned that the beast identified was the pope (don’t ask me).  His problem was that he’s infallible and can bestow forgiveness both of which are traits only god has so the pope is putting himself above god.  That is a no no.  The beast is then described as “compromise,” and we learn that the letters on the pope’s mitre when treated as Roman numerals total – wait for it – 666.

Then comes the “dynamite.” But first he asks if you can even imagine Christians killing other Christians.  I think – haven’t you read the bible, or history?  It has happened gazillions of times.  But oh well.  The dynamite is that the seventh day is not Sunday but Saturday and the pope made Sunday the “holy day” against gods will.  They state that laws proclaiming Sunday the holy day and forcing everyone to worship on Sunday will take over the world.  I suppose if Christians take over the world that could happen but the Muslims worship on Friday and the Jews on Saturday and really, the pope changed the worship day to Sunday to differentiate themselves from the Jews, a sect from which they split.   

In The Human Cosmos:  Civilization and the Stars, Jo Marchant, a real live scientist looking at data, tells us that the seven-day week originated in Babylon around 1st century A.D. The first day of the week was Saturday so the seventh day would be Friday – which is what Islam uses.  So both the Jews and the Christians are wrong. 

The chapter on the mark of the beast makes absolutely no sense.  The mark is on the forehead, the frontal lobe, the brain.  The seal of god is the sabbath.  So Sunday worship is the mark of the beast.  And if you follow that, let me know how. The image of the beast is when the U.S. and the pope work together.  They must be having conniptions now with six catholics on the Supreme Court.  They do think that giving federal money to public schools is wrong and that if catholics take over the world the atrocities of the dark ages will repeat.  Happy to know we agree on something.  We also agree on climate change which is the global conflict to them. 

The author did tell one story that has me laughing still.  Paul is together with his friends on the dark part of the first day of the week – Saturday night.  This is a farewell get-together.  He preached until midnight, when poor Eutychus falls out of the window (Acts 20:9)          I had to look that up in a “real” bible and found:  On the first day of the week we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lords Supper.  Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.  The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps.  As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below.  Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms.  “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive.”  Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper, and ate together.  Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left.  Meanwhile the young man was taken home alive and well, and everyone was greatly relieved.  

So they had a party, got drunk, Paul is a boring speaker, and the man fell out the window in a drunken stupor.  As often happens, the drunk person doesn’t get hurt, because he’s passed out.  So they think he is dead, but in fact he wakes up the next morning with a heck of a hangover.  Apparently, none of these people went to college, not that they had colleges back then!

The second book was called “The Great Controversy: Will two former rivals unite?” by E.G. Gates first written in the 1800s.  It was a longer version of the “Sunday” issue, a diatribe against the catholic church, and the fear that the Vatican and the U.S. will unite to overthrow all other religions. The Vatican and White House do resemble each other in architecture you know.  It’s basically his own delusional interpretation of bible verses and stories, and the progression of religion in the U.S., with lots of prince of darkness, demons, curses, evil, and satan who has been here all along but JC won’t be coming back for 6,000 years.  Since only 2,000 of those years have passed, we got a long wait.  I doubt we’ll make it.  After quoting one biblical massacre after another, he says Satan is a liar and murderer, and god hates rebellion.  Great set up for an authoritarian cult. The book ends with the statement that god is love.  Given the recitation of horrors in the book, it’s hard to buy that.  If it said love is god, it would make more sense.

This reminded me of a list I have gathered over the years from a variety of writers and books of other very strange beliefs from different religions. Some it turns out, have some credence to them then or now.  For example:   

Some 120,000 Zoroastrians believe the bodies of the deceased must be placed atop tall towers to be exposed to the sun and devoured by birds in order to avoid polluting the earth below.  This is actually not such a bad idea and has been brought up recently because we are running out of places to bury people and dumping ashes in a body of water pollutes it. 

Approximately 4.2 million Jains believe that priests should wear masks over their mouths to avoid breathing in and killing microorganisms.  If only people would wear masks, we would be out of this pandemic sooner.

Putting a dirty milk glass and a plate from a roast beef sandwich in the same dishwasher can contaminate your soul. This rule actually had a good reason when it started i.e. to prevent the contamination from unpasteurized milk from harming the meat.  It has of course gotten out of hand.

Some anti-science beliefs that remain popular are:

Fifty thousand Christian Scientists in the U.S. believe that diseases are not caused by  germs, bacilli, or viruses but by lapses of faith. 

Some 1.6 billion Muslims and fourteen million Jews believe in cutting the foreskins of baby boys in service of their faith.  The foreskin of a holy one may lie safeguarded in reliquaries made of gold and crystal and inlayed with gems–or it may have ascended into the heavens all by itself. So I suppose just in case your baby is going to grow up to be the holy one?

Some 4.8 million Jehovah’s witnesses are willing to deny life-saving blood transfusions to their dying children in the name of religion.

Believers can drink poison or get bit by snakes without being harmed. And they do not need to wear masks, they won’t get infected by a hoax virus, and they will be just fine.  Unfortunately, a lot of those are running around today prolonging the pandemic and killing people.

A holy person climbed a mountain and could see the whole earth from the mountain peak.  I guess that was when the earth was flat?

Then there are some beliefs that are just plain psychedelic:

An estimated 25,000 American Scientologists believe that humans are descendants of thetans, a group of omnipotent gods, and that our emotional problems are due to “engrams” in the brain created by trauma in prior lives on another planet. 

Mormons, who number around 14 million worldwide, believe that ancient Hebrews of America buried golden tablets written in Egyptian on a hillside in the U.S., and that they were later recovered and translated with the help of an angel.  Sacred underwear protects believers from spiritual contamination and, according to some adherents, from fire and speeding bullets.  Doctors and lawyers actually believe this! I worked with two who did.  One died of AIDS.  Maybe I should have shot him in his underwear and he would be alive today. 

Christians, no slackers, have the virgin birth, water turning into wine, a fig tree shriveling on the spot, and dead people getting up out of their graves and walking around with perfect bodies. Allegedly, Malcom X’s body was found in perfect shape in the casket eight years after he died so maybe!  Then there is Lenin still in his tomb in the Kremlin courtyard. 

A race of giants once roamed the earth, the result of women and demi-gods interbreeding. They lived at the same time as fire breathing dragons. Where did the women come from?  And where did they go?  I think we need a few right now.

A talking donkey scolded a prophet, and the prophet once traveled between two cities on a miniature flying horse with the face of a woman and the tail of a peacock.

Invisible supernatural beings reveal themselves in mundane objects like oozing paint or cooking food.

In the end times, the chosen people will be gathered together in Jackson County, Missouri. Buy property there now while it’s cheap.

Sprinkling water on a newborn, if done correctly, can keep the baby from eons of suffering should he or she die prematurely.  As we learned August 6 from a story in Detroit, if the person who baptizes you says the wrong words (“We baptize you …” instead of the church’s ancient formula, “I baptize you …”), the baptisms are not valid.  You are not a Catholic.  Father Hood, who before this had been a validly ordained priest, was shocked to find out he wasn’t a priest, a deacon, or even a Christian because the Deacon who baptized him said “We” rather than “I.”  Heavens to Murgatroyd!!  Three days later he was validly baptized, confirmed, received the Eucharist and in a week was ordained a deacon and two days later a priest again.  Thank goodness!  Roasting in hell is not a future to look forward to.

Not to pick on any particular religion because most of them have these kinds of beliefs, but here are some others for your enjoyment:

Evil spirits can take control of pigs.

A righteous man can control his wife’s access to eternal paradise.

Brown skin is a punishment for disobeying God.

[The Holy One] forbids a cat or dog receiving a blood transfusion and forbids blood meal being used as garden fertilizer.

There will be an afterlife in which exactly 144,000 people get to live eternally in Paradise.

Each human being contains many alien spirits that were trapped in volcanos by hydrogen bombs.

Waving a chicken over your head can take away your sins.

Just silly but harmless:

One religion with a billion followers worships a god with the head of an elephant and in the worship of another god, rubs clarified butter on a stylized phallus.

An estimated 2.7 million people believe in waving silk or paper streamers over someone in a rite of purification ,and that new-car owners should take their cars to a shrine to be prayed over and purified. 

Just plain creepy: 

1.2 billion Roman Catholics celebrate their faith by eating the flesh and blood of their heavenly savior through a spiritual transformation of bread and wine.  When certain rites are performed beforehand, bread turns into human flesh after it is swallowed. No cannibals wanted.

It’s all quite funny, until you realize that the Supreme Court wants to ensure that all of us are subject to the beliefs of one particular sect.  They just ruled that churches can ignore public health and endanger us all by holding large gatherings in the middle of a worsening pandemic.   That is no joking matter. I admit I cannot understand how intelligent people can believe these things.  But they are free to believe whatever they like. They are not free to impose those beliefs on me.  That is what I fear.  That is what I don’t respect.  I don’t have to give deference to people who won’t give deference to me.  That’s not respect; that’s abuse of power.  I don’t have to allow you to practice your beliefs when you won’t allow me to practice mine; that’s dominance and submission.  So don’t be fooled.  Don’t be afraid of people telling you have to  “respect” other’s beliefs. I don’t have to respect nonsense. Stand up and speak out about the need to respect freedom from religion as much as freedom of religion.