26 January 2014

Original Joe's And The One True Religion

I ate at the Original Joe’s in Jantzen Beach.  I ordered the steak stir fry lunch special and while headed to my seat I looked for something to read while waiting for my meal and it was either the Vancouver Vector or the Portland Mercury.  Both were free. 

The Mercury cover presented a drawing of a young woman shown from behind wearing extremely low-cut jeans and thong underwear—though it was not really “under” much of anything.  Her right hand was behind her back and, except for her defiant delicate middle finger, formed a fist.  The drawing referenced an article within having to do with, I think, lesbian feminists.  Angry ones. 

It was going to be brickbats aimed at myself and all other men in the world, so I picked up the Vector and turned to page six to read about political, religious and scientific myths by Pat Miller.  You can read the whole thing here:   http://www.vancouvervector.com/life/myths-politics-religion-science/

I’ll concentrate on the second myth that there is only one true religion, but first I’d like to correct a term that Miller uses.  The article is subtitled “3 TABOOS THAT NEED TO BE CHALLENGED”   The author is misusing “taboo” here.  Taboo means: prohibited, forbidden, sacred, accursed, unmentionable, unthinkable, banned.

 It refers to something that is either too holy or too damned to speak of or do in public, or at all. To mention Voldemort’s name aloud was taboo in the witching world of the Harry Potter books. A euphemism, “He who must not be named” was used instead. In the Muggle paleface world there is a word just too awful to be used, except as the title of a book by Dick Gregory. Its scrubbed replacement is “N-word”.

It is taboo for Muslims to draw a likeness of the Prophet Mohammed. It is not taboo for non-Muslims, but we tip-toe around it maybe because of respect, but mostly, because we don’t want the extreme ones to go all bat doo-doo weed whacker scimitar crazy on our necks. Incest is still taboo, as is cannibalism.  The name of Deity used to be taboo, but has since become a common expletive.

Miller wishes to challenge, not three forbidden subjects but, three prevailing or popular beliefs or conventional wisdom

But on to his assertion that there cannot be one true religion because the "Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and so on, all claim to have a monopoly on truth."

Miller is correct that they can't all teach different doctrine and all teach God's truth.  God cannot contradict himself.  The churches cannot all be the exclusive mouthpiece of Deity.  The author says it is "arrogant" to claim to be the only spokesman for God.  But, as a famous St. Louis Cardinal once said, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up."

Logically, Miller would have to admit to the possibility that one of the churches might be the genuine article.  And it would be dishonest for that church to pretend otherwise, no matter how many near-identical knock-offs are out there, being hawked on the street, or how arrogant it appeared.  Rolex should wear its rightful crown, with no apologies.

Miller asks why would God “… give such a small minority of people the real truth…” and forsake the rest of the world?  Well Miller answered his own question in the first paragraph: “missionary work."

Jesus, after all, told a very small select group to go into every land and preach the good news of his resurrection.  Did Jesus have a "warped sense of humor"?  Was he being "sane" or insane?  Was he being "arrogant" to have his followers tell the Jews he was the promised Messiah and that it was time to stop sacrificing doves and lambs and bullocks?
Was it "repugnant" for Paul to suggest to the Romans that they were wasting their time worshipping Jupiter and Venus and all their other deities and dead emperors?  Paul was right and the Romans were wrong, or they were both mistaken.  They can't both be right.  God is not the author of confusion.

Who is the author of confusion? 

I don't know what Miller is trying to say here.  He seems to be saying that if God doesn't instantly strike dead with a bolt from Heaven anyone speaking an untruth in his name, or have the earth open up and swallow all the incorrect churches, or appear simultaneously in the sky to everyone and tell them which church to join, or take out a full-page ad in the New York Times, that if he doesn't force himself on us, God is fostering confusion and, therefore, must not care what we believe about Him.  

That any church we join is OK with God, no matter what it teaches, as long as it doesn't teach that it is the one true religion.  God would never allow his one true church to make that inflated claim.  

Miller's ideal religion would be called: the "Somewhat True Not Entirely Wrong Just Trying To Get Along And Be Reasonable Church Of Vancouver."  You could wear shorts and flip-flops to meetings and The Sacrament would involve smoking something pungent and hanging out near the snack table and his church would never make any demands except maybe  a modest tithe to keep the lights on.  Nothing in it would be holy or blasphemous.  There would be no Heaven or Hell or places in between.  There would be no saints or sinners.  And the idea that its members might just choose torture and death rather than deny their faith... well that would just be fanatical beyond belief.        
I disagree with Pat Miller.  There are spiritual truths and I believe it is important to God that these truths get spread and that we seek them out.  Throwing up our hands in exasperation and whining that it is just too confusing and too difficult, is not an excuse.

That is what I was thinking while eating my stir-fry at Original Joe's.


  1. I find your last paragraph describing his "ideal religion" incredibly condescending. You could call your nephew and ask him what his ideal religion would be and I promise you it is nothing like you described. And fun fact: the editor inserted the subtitle that included the word taboo, not the author.

  2. Yeah Editors can do stupid things. I once wrote an article that included the word "Taser" in it, before they were well known, and she changed it to "laser" without my knowledge and made it appear that I was describing spaceman weapons in a serious article.

    I might have been gentler if I knew Pat was the author. But I was making a point by exaggeration. His claim in the article that spiritual truth is trumped by geography and his scorn of missionary endeavors caused me to ask myself what a reasonable sane church would look like. A church that is trying to be more popular than true. I exaggerated for effect. I don't know of Pat's beliefs but his own article was full of stereotypes, simplicities and scornfull words. I applaud him for writing out his opinions, and getting published. But disagreement with his opinions should not be taken as a personal attack.