The heckler in the classic film Miracle on 34th Street calls Kris Kringle “a big, fat fake.” In court his defence lawyer argues that if the American people can believe in God – for “In God We Trust” figures in their national anthem and coins – without any proof, then they can also believe in Santa Claus.
Judging by all the white-bearded and red-suited men in shopping malls at Christmas, it appears that Americans now believe in more than one Santa Claus, just as there are those who believe in more than one god, like the Hindus of India or the Shinto Buddhists of Japan. But from the time of the Babylonian deity Marduk, the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, the Israelite god Yahweh and the Zoroastrian spirit Ahura Mazda, there has been the notion of only one god, bringing us ever closer to the true, round figure.
Sodom and Gomorrah are Biblical cities noted for sin, visited by angels who spend the night in Lot’s house in Sodom, from which we get the word sodomy, a backward practice. The house is surrounded by townspeople intent on male rape, and Lot offers his daughters in place of the angels because they are virgins who “have not known men” (Genesis 19). Later, God makes Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt and his daughters pregnant after they ply their father with wine in a cave and seduce him, taking his “seed.”
The moral lessons here are as obscure as those of Judges 19, in which an innkeeper sends out his daughter and a priest’s concubine to appease a crowd of sexually ravenous men bent on sleeping with a young man at the inn. The man is saved but the concubine is raped until death and her bones are scattered across the land.
Jesus Christ, the protagonist in the Bible’s New Testament and answer to the messianic prophesy in the Old Testament, is a man who condemns people to ever-lasting hell fires. He is remembered by a cross, a symbol of extreme punishment, and by the Middle Ages some his followers become so depraved that they sanctify burning, disembowelment and breaking on the wheel.
The Bible’s Book of Revelation posits as much dangerous nonsense as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, describing armies at Armageddon gathering for a Tolkien-like battle at the end times. Now millions of people believe that global society is destined toward ultimate destruction, showing that religion either gets things dead wrong or comes at a frightening price.
What we as a species are learning about nature and the universe is openly tested in the science and lay communities. In contrast, many in the religious community continue to deflect criticism and punish dissent, particularly female dissenters. An obvious way to move society forward and lessen global conflict is to get people off their knees.
It’s been said that if you could reason with religious fanatics, there’d be no religious fanatics. This book is not an attempt to reason with people who view the world differently, for that is their right. My goal is to bring comic light to many of the claims they make, such as resurrection, for at my age the prospect of erection is dubious enough. The final resurrection in Christianity is called the Rapture, which ominously blends the words rape and capture. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Suppose you believe in the Rapture, and suppose that you’re an idiot, but then I’d be repeating myself.”
Jim McMurtry lives in Surrey and is author of A Joke on Religious Fairy Tales: beginning with the "Virgin Mary" which is available for on Amazon for Kindle eReaders.