“If Jesus came back today, and saw what was going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.”
-Max Von Sydow
“You think if Jesus comes back, he ever wants to see a fucking cross?”
Masala_Skeptic just sent me this link to an article about hard-core Catholics in the Philippines who will be celebrating Good Friday tomorrow by nailing one another to crosses and flagellating themselves with whips. The Catholic Church has expressed disapproval over the custom, and local health officials have urged participants to sanitize their nails and whips in order to keep the crucifixions as safe as possible. Yeah, I just wrote that: “in order to keep the crucifixions as safe as possible.” We wouldn’t want anyone, you know, dying or anything. And then, god forbid, climbing out of a grave three days later to feast on the brains of the living.
I suppose the idea is to suffer for Christ, but not die for him — they’ve been doing this for about 40 years now, and apparently no one has died yet. And, the event attracts curious tourists (and their wallets) to the area. Because of that, I’m not really sure what to say about it all. If people like getting together to endure severe discomfort in order to experience some transcendent feeling, who am I to complain? I certainly wouldn’t complain if they were doing it at an S&M convention. A lot of people get an incredible amount of pleasure from pain and humiliation, and I bet you get even more pleasure out of it if you really believe that doing it is somehow getting you closer to the god of your choice.
So, I read the article, and I did some Googling and found many more articles and photos of the event from years past, and in the end the best I can do is shrug my shoulders and think that this isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve seen people do for an unsubstantiated belief. Maybe in the face of deadly beliefs like snake handling, and exorcisms, and faith healing, I’ve become jaded. I’ve become a weird-belief snob.
Still, though, there is a little part of me that cries out for these people to drop the whips and nails and belief in a god who delights in their suffering, and go do something useful. Stop focusing on death, and start focusing on the life you have. The death part, and maybe the afterlife, all that will come soon enough.
A few days ago, a fellow skeptic was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is sharing his thoughts and fears on a skeptical forum. He’s 37, married, with a family. I won’t pretend to know exactly what he is feeling, but it strikes me how difficult it must be to suddenly be forced to focus on that horizon, and how difficult it must be to then tear your eyes away from where you’re inevitably going and refocus on where you are right now.
He’s already picking himself up. In April, he’ll participate in a Walk to Fight ALS, and you can help by donating to the cause in his name (his name is Michael, by the way), or by joining him on the walk if you live near Philly. I don’t even know Michael very well, and I’ve never met him in person, but I’ll toss some money his way, for the following reasons (and maybe a few more):
- Funding ALS research and patient care is a great cause.
- Skeptics and heathens don’t have churches with bake sales and collections. We do have this community.
- Giving away money to a good cause gives me a little jolt of happiness.
- It beats the hell out of getting nailed to a cross.
By the way, today is the first day of Spring. I hope all of you spend it thinking about sunnier days, budding flowers, little bunnies getting it on in the underbrush . . . you know, life and stuff.