Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Things They Will Tell Children

I was catching up on this week's Atheist Experience and my childhood memories were awakened. This week's topic was hymns. Tracie took direct quotes from religious songs, both old and new (all of the Christian variety I believe), and broke down exactly what it is they are singing about. Most of the songs were directly related to the crucificition of Jesus and all the bloody gore that it entailed. More recently, "modern" churches and choirs have made a habit of changing some of the less tasteful lyrics. You taking the word 'wretch' out of Amazing Grace. Now, while this may appeal to our present-day sensibilities and morals it brings up a very interesting brand of hypocrisy. They don't want to offend the less fundamental parishioners so they edit. Many of them don't want to call themselves or their children wretches, worms, or the like. Yet, as Tracie points out, this is the central theme of their theology. You are a useless, pitiful sinner whose mistakes are so grand that they required a semi-god human sacrifice just to make your ass worth anything. Christianity, like all religions, undercuts personal self worth. They tell you that you're nothing without them, quite a bit like an abusive spouse. There was a moment in the show where 'Noah's Ark' was brought up. Ah, my childhood memories flowed.

Anyone who was ever associated with the Jehovah's Witnesses (my youth's particular indoctrination source) would have some across My Book of Bible Stories. Like the name implies, it is a compilation of 116 bible stories aimed at a young audience, around 4-11 years old. It is fully illustrated, each story lasting only a page or two with biblical references at the end. The stories are pretty graphic considering the age group. Still, they keep with the happy-go-lucky attitude as much as their stone age theology will allow. The horrific thing that I remember are those illustrations. This isn't some over-exaggerated memory either, I've reviewed the book at my mother's house as an adult. I'll stick with the Noah's Ark theme and tell you about the story that discusses the flood. While all the emphasis is on Jehovah's love, Noah's commitment, the animals, and the lovely little rainbow at the end, the picture tells another story. The Witnesses decided it was a great idea to depict all of those evil, useless sinners as they were drowning. One of the most detestable images is of a mother holding her infant as they are about to be engulfed by the rising water. Preschoolers are being told that perfect justice includes the drowning of millions, newborns included. God's awesome love...what a crock.

It never ceases to amaze me that parents could tell their children these stories and not be simultaneously appalled by their own gall. Then again, they probably don't even think twice about it which is even worse.