Saturday, July 15, 2006

Another Incontrovertible (sort of) Communiqué from (well, maybe) Jesus (OK, probably not)

I just heard--under duress--a song on the radio, "Jesus Take the Wheel," a ham-fisted country Wal-Mart anthem about a woman with a little baby whose car skids on the ice. As she sees "both their lives flash before her eyes" (which is itself an oddity, since she's only lived one of their lives) she TAKES HER HANDS OFF THE WHEEL and asks... "Jesus, take the wheel". After they survive the event she thus finds herself obligated to just keep her hands off the wheel of life forever. It seems in that instant it came to her, in what strikes me as a way-fucked-up grasp of cause and effect, that how she'd been livin' was somehow at the root of her god's motivation in threatening the life of her (perhaps very evil, admittedly) little toddler. Or perhaps driving in inclement weather is now a sin and this is how we find out.

Why she did not blame the Jesus figure for making her a shitty driver is a question left unexplored.

Personally, I'm much more ready to believe that letting go of the wheel in a critical automotive situation is a bad idea, that if she wants not to live wrong she might start by learning how to be proactive in her driving. But hey, it's not my song.

I'm always amazed that (presumably) otherwise intelligent people are willing to line up--publicly!--behind this lopsided shell game wherein a god figure is thanked for every positive event but is never blamed for people's misfortune or held otherwise accountable for the world's intense misery, let alone that these same people make sappy songs about the shell game and hordes of other people nod their heads sympathetically in the glow of the righteous pap. Quite apart from what we ought to think about the whole modus operandi of a deity who sends cryptic messages by threatening innocent children rather than, say, a personal visit, how can the god figure be thanked for one's dinner and not held responsible for people elsewhere not having enough to eat? How can we thank the god for steering the tornado clear of our house and not blame him for letting it destroy the neighbor's place? It would seem that The Lord works in ways so mysterious as to be perfectly useless as an explanatory device.

Maybe it just takes a certain kind of mind. I read a while back that substantially larger percentages of Americans believe in a "heaven" than believe in a "hell," as though the concepts were somehow separate. Perhaps this is the kind of mind. Maybe when I grasp the one, the other will make more sense to me.

Anyhow, as I listened to the song I was reminded about a plane crash a few years back where the cockpit voice recorder revealed that the plane was deliberately crashed by a Muslim pilot who was attempting to hasten his journey to Shangri-La-La Land by testing his faith with a convenient planeload of irredeemable sinners in tow. He basically put the airplane in a steep nose-down attitude and then let go, saying over and over again in a frantic voice "I put my faith in Allah" (or some such psalmic hooey) while--big surprise--the airplane crashed in a big fucking fireball, killing everyone, including our boy in his dogma bubble.

I guess Bubble Boy knowingly killed a big bunch of people, so that's one big difference between him and our Wal-Mama of Song. But it's the same delusion, and it's not a huge stretch for me to imagine that woman (whose new tactic for livin' right we are supposed to celebrate) as a pilot in the cockpit responding to an in-flight emergency in the same fashion. Indeed, as we've contemplated before (courtesy of Sam Harris), if we are unable to consider Ms. Wal-Mama as having a kind of mental illness, then we are left with the conclusion that she is a better religious person than we are and... we ought to emulate her. If her religion is right, then she is right and we ought to follow her lead.

OK, it's a work of fiction. A really, really, reallyreallyreally stupid one. But I don't get why the writer & performing artist are not hounded out of town for wanton harmful stupidity.


Dzesika said...

Awesome post.

I want to know: Who thinks it is a sensible idea to market this stuff? Do they have solid proof that gazillions of people will buy the single? (Probably. And that is so sad.) And how do the marketing honchos sleep at night knowing that they're touting this, well, perpetuation of I-don't-have-to-do-anything-proactive-to-fix-my-life-'cause-Jesus-will-do-it bull ...

Okay. Anyway. You get my point. You may have a religion, you may have a saviour figure, but for (Christ's? Ganesh's? Allah's?) sake, don't use him as an excuse.

Joshua said...

Well, maybe flip the coin. If your life sucks totally, and you have no hope of it getting better on your own: maybe you are of remedial intellegence and schooling, missing a few teeth, and your sister-wife's black eye is as big as her ever swollen belly, then why WOULDN'T you throw all your eggs in the Jesus basket. What, possibly, do you have to lose by sitting on your ass and wishing to an imaginary figure that your life didn't suck so much?

Which brings me to my follow up question. How many of these singles were sold at Wal-Mart Supercenters acrossed America?

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Truth is stranger than fiction. People actually live this song! Whole families in the U.S. are wiped out in fires or car crashes, and it is chalked up to divine providence at work or the "sinful" nature of man as a consequence of free will. (I place "sinful" in quotes because "sin" is a religious concept that the more I study, the more alien it becomes to me.) The saddest thing is the religious person who justifies the cruelty of his god after a tragedy and becomes an even more fervent believer. Whether this is a coping instinct or simple mendacity, I’m not sure.

Conversely, those who survive a disaster also deepen their faith. God can’t lose! Religious people tend to turn a blind eye to statistics and logic.

1. Statistic: As a percentage of population, just as many religious people die fiery, tragic deaths as non-religious people.

2. Statistic: Prayer does nothing to mitigate time spent in intensive care in hospitals. And has no effect on rate of death.

3. Logic: If God allows just as many worshipers to die in fiery, tragic ways as non-worshipers, then either He/She doesn’t exist, or the rules in His/Her book are arbitrary.

4. Logic: Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc error (after this, therefore because of this). Surviving a plane crash, car crash, burning building, heart attack because one prayed before the event (What about the poor saps who didn’t survive, though they prayed, too, or were prayed for?).

5. Logic: God answers all prayers, but sometimes the answer is “no.” Sorry, but a non-answer is just that. It isn’t the same as “no.” Zeus, Buddha, Allah et al. also answer “no” when prayed to. Can we, therefore, conclude they exist?

6. Logic: Prayer changes things. Like regrowing limbs or eyeballs? Nope. Steering your car when it is out of control? Nope. How about curing pneumonia? Nope. How many believers stop by their church/mosque before heading to the clinic for antibiotics? None.

Alex Random

Joshua said...

Though your little logic exersize was a fun read, there are a few holes in it that might need fixing before you get together with Stephen Hawking and send this one to the community.

1. Honestly, I would love to see this study done. It would be hilarious! I am not sure, though, that it HAS been done.

2. This study HAS been done! check all these out Of course, consider the source before going ahead with any conclusions. Again, I would lov eto see a scientific study on this, too.

3. False Dichotomy. (either this or that) There are plenty more solutions that are equally as plausable here: Misinterpretation of "rules in book", the existence of free will, the existence of afterlife, and the assumed benifit of dying v living, to name a few.

4. Logically, those deaths could all happen for reasons beyond our comprehension, if one wants to argue such. Further, in your example, the full focus is on prayer, and result of prayer, Are there other mitigating factors? For example, "lip-service" prayer v "true-believer" prayer.

5. Strawman, maybe false definition. Could it be God "hears" all prayers? And you defined your set as not answering being different from "no" How, then, do the other dieties not answering equate to "no"?

6. I think it could easily be argued that some people DO stop by their places of worship before heading to the clinic. The refence above proves many people put faith in this above medicine. Also, I think this and some of the other arguements could do for a bit of definition of prayer. It seems to me that you are saying anytime someone talks to God, they are praying. I agree with that. However, can some people think they are talking to God when they aren't? Does this change the study?

I know it seems like the two of us always disagree. Shit, maybe we do. But I thought this an interesting response to Bil's post, and I really do want to see your answers; it is not often I get to talk logic with anyone.

Anonymous said...

"Though your little logic exersize was a fun read, there are a few holes in it that might need fixing before you get together with Stephen Hawking and send this one to the community."

I never meant it as a logic exersize [sic]. It wasn't meant to be definitive in any sense of the word, and I am well versed in logical fallacies, of which the nits that you pick don't measure up, even in my cursory look at religion in this short post.

If you truly want to open a dialogue to "talk logic" with me on this subject, you may wish to begin with a less inflammatory response than your "Stephen Hawking" reference. In the meanwhile, you may wish to address the some of your own logical fallacies before I do.

wunelle said...

Me, I'm sticking to my guns, unyielding & uncompromising:

The song was stupid and irritating.

Joshua said...

There is nothing I can write that will be taken, by you, in the context it is given.

Bil, I agree, the song is both stupid and irritating.

Alex, you are half way there.

The Retropolitan said...

"a ham-fisted country Wal-Mart anthem"


For some reason, your blog never shows up as 'updated' in my blogroll, which is odd for a blogspot blog.