Lyndon Hood - committed atheist, Lower Hutt

Friday, December 17, 2004

Mormons! Mormons on the Train!

It's probably a sign but I hate to think what of.

I leave a post on Christmas and Christianity unfinished to go buy some presents. And when I get on the train home I find that in amongst the crowd is a flock of Latter Day Saints.

Is 'flock' the word? An ecstasy of Mormons? An persistence? A doorslammery?

I ended up talking to one woman. I'd love to think it was a kind of Christmas penance to spare my fellow passengers but it was probably more to do with the way I'm not naturally impolite and I couldn't get away. And it's always nice to have someone to chat with, however awkwardly.

I'm interested in religion from a kind of outside perspective. So I could have asked about life in the church, rather than, for instance, letting her keep the conversation on my spiritual wellbeing and how best to fix it. I did feel like I was being hard sold.

I also have to note that she had and absolutely unyielding stare and the kind of slow speech I normally associate with words like 'groovy' and discussions of the inner nature of flowers. Her pupils were the normal size, but I'm not sure if she blinked.

When she reached her stop she handed me over to a guy called Elder somebody. He was younger than I would have expected for an elder. As he was American, I had a gambit towards a more ordinary conversation; "So, you'd be from America then," I said. We also talked of the importance of thinking things over from time to time and how their method is based on encouraging people to introspection rather than ramming opinions down throats.

Though they do make sure people ask themselves the right questions in their introspection.

Anyway, we chatted. He seemed a lot less anxious to convert me, but that might just be a more experienced evangelist showing his chops. Or he might have decided I was a lost cause. Or he wasn't quite so stoned on the God-juice.

I got off the train and nobody tried to follow me home.

Anyway, here's the post I was writing...

Bah! Humbug!

I don't have anything against Christmas. I do resent the way my holiday plans are upsetting a lifetime habit of buying the presents just before I have to give them away. Not that I've actually finished shopping. That's tomorrow.

I suppose I should just relax and contemplate the true meaning of the season. Which is, of course, getting stuff. Oh, all right, it's about family and togetherness and giving. Which is what makes it so depressing for those for whom those things are unachievable mutually contradictory.

I personally find the whole birth-of-the-saviour-of-humankind thing kind of peripheral. Of course I am, though not devoid of spiritual instincts, a godless atheist.

But for a fair chunk of the population Christmas doesn't have much to do with Christ. Maybe some people should just deal with that. In much the same way that some linguistic conservatives (myself included) should admit that maybe sometimes it's not that the language is being abused, it's just that it has moved on.

And I do wish that certain Christians (that is, uppity ones with whom I disagree) would take the opportunity of the season to remember which book it is they're representing. I'm thinking of the actual teachings of Christ: the not judging, the not stone-casting, the turning of the other cheek and so on. Rather than all those fiddly rules in the introduction.

Though in fairness I think we should remember two things.

Firstly, in the context of loving the sinner (well not loving the sinner, obviously...) and hating the sin, it can be legitimate to hate legislation that makes it easier or more acceptable to do the sinning. And if there's one thing the Bible has, it's lists of sins.

Secondly, I actually quite like some Christian activists. I'm thinking of the muscular and vaguely marxist liberation theology that has a natural home doing stuff like resisting dictatorship. I don't mind someone acting with the courage of their convictions when what they're on about is, in Douglas Adams' summary of the New Testament, "how great it would be if people were nice to each other for a change".

Then again, as I recall, Desmond Tutu isn't all that pro-gay either.

Incidentally, while I was shopping I wandered by a radio: Linda Clark was asking Brian Tamaki whether that money might be better spent on good works than on Brian Tamaki. I could hear them shouting at each other as I finished browsing.

Anyway, I'm not someone who thinks that getting Israel and the Palestine together over a turkey and singing christmas carols will sort out the world's problems. Though I was interested in Tariq Ali's attributing of the rise of Islamic and Christian fundamentalism to the moral vacuum and collapse of social institutions associated with 80s monetarism. Perhaps they should issue a security risk certificate for Roger Douglas.