Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I fell down and hit my head

This mammoth piece was written when I still was being "educated" two years ago. If you can stick it out it's almost worth it. Even it's just for the stolen NOFX quote to end the whole thing. This never made it into the zine because of it's size - it's a goddmamn horsecock of an article.

Your loyal author goes off the rails, gets himself a Christian brainwashing, and then gets Satanically un-brainwashed before finally learning nothing.

Much like Jesus’ humble beginnings in a makeshift bed, my quest for spiritual enlightenment started when I fell asleep under a blanket of sand only to be awoken by two starry-eyed twelve year old boys who thought I was a dead tramp on the beach. In true vagrant style I offered them some tasty booze from out of my bag, which the thirsty little dogs proceeded to slam down their throats faster than a shithouse rat. They chatted to me about bikes for about ten minutes before leaving me to go back to sleep. A little while later they woke me up again, gave me £1 and told me to take care of myself. It was at about the same time that I decided to join a church to straighten out my life. I was uncertain which one would lead the best path to righteousness, so I joined three just to make sure.

“Alcohol and Religion - the two greatest downfalls of mankind.” Friedrich Nietzsche

The aim of most Christian based faiths is to secure a place in Heaven by converting as many people as possible, kind of like that deal at the snooker hall where if you introduce a friend to the club, you get in free. I must have been sending out some pretty strong signals into the atmosphere because a no sooner had I started thinking about which religion to choose, I pretty much immediately received a knock at the door from those relentless crusaders - the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I always take a couple of copies of The Watchtower when they bring it round, and I’ve always found them to be charming in a simple kind of way, but I had never thought of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as suitable religious courting material. All of a sudden I was seeing them in a different light, they became a real option. I decided to show an interest in what they were telling me, and after it became apparent that I might get them a ticket into Heaven, they offered me a copy of What Does the Bible Really Teach? Which outlines basic Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. We shared our goodbyes and I said I’d try and read some of the book before they came back.

Now, I don’t know if it was things like “The world as a whole is beyond reform. The Bible reveals that the time is near when God will eliminate the wicked world during his war of Armageddon...” being referred to as “good news.” Or if it was the writing style bordering on comic genius and total insanity, but something about becoming a Jehovah’s Witness didn’t resonate well within me. It was a bit too fixated with death. It wasn’t really my thing, they had nothing to offer, and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be indoctrinated into their gang.

They might have guessed this would happen so they pulled out their trump card – a shimmering, beautiful, young She-Witness called Sophie to try and brainwash me in my own home. They pretty much had me by the balls and I was all theirs. I sacrificed all rationality and spent the next couple of weeks learning the ins and outs of Jehovah in an attempt to impress her, impress her enough so that we might get all lusty outside of marriage. Then someone must have clicked their fingers because I saw what was happening and snapped out of it. There were easier ways to get girls, so I stopped coming to the door whenever they came by and eventually they stopped coming to the door too.

After that unsuccessful episode, I decided to get back to basics. Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses were a bit too “out there” in their ideologies; I wanted to become a better person without having to worrying about apocalyptic firestorms ruining my hairdo. So I spoke to my friend who goes to the Emmanuel Baptist church near my house. He told me that I should come along and that the people there are really nice. So that following Sunday morning I skipped out on sleeping, had a shave and put on my best clothes and went along to the Church with a completely open, unbiased mind.

We got to the Church early so I could meet some people and have a look around. The place reminded me of a school gym; high ceiling, pine floor, what appeared to be a miniature swimming pool behind the altar. I asked my friend why there was an 8 foot swimming pool at the back, hoping that there’d be some sort of religious pool-party after the sermon, but he just told me, “It’s the Baptism pool.” In my ignorance I failed to realise what Baptists actually do. I should have cast my mind to Southern Baptists in America; the righteous preaching, the full body submersions, and the trance-like appreciation of the Lord, Jesus Christ. It would have prepared me for what was to be a painfully awkward two hours of Christian fundamentalism.

Nearer 10:30 the place had filled up to about 200 people, eager to score their weekly fix. Everyone was all smiles; dressed in calming shades like lilac and cornflower blue. It was like a sickly sea of niceness. I was still relatively comfortable at this point, even kind of enjoying myself. Everyone was being friendly to me and seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying. Even when the minister came on and talked for a while I was feeling pretty good about everything being said. But then we sung the first song. When I was in primary school singing hymns was one of my favorite things to do. The natural symbolism and simple songs with a message were kinda sweet. However, I didn’t enjoy singing songs like “I want to be, Holy”, “Make my Heart pure gold”, and “Thank you for the cross, my Friend” It felt, horribly corny and ill-thought out. Thank you for the cross? What the hell? Why would you thank someone for the thing they were murdered with?

Things became progressively worse after the first song was sung. People started singing with their arms outstretched, rocking back and forth. The band started using bongos and chimes, like in a cheesy boyband video, and the songs got more ridiculous and difficult to sing, “I’ll give you more than a song Lord, because a song is not all that is what’s required.” My powerful singing voice was quickly reduced to the inaudible whinings of a weenie wimp.

Thankfully, some genuine entertainment was to come – full body immersion, Baptism ceremony! Rather humorously, the lady’s last name was Angell. I asked my friend why she was being baptised so late in life, and he told me that Baptists don’t believe in Baptising children, they wait until adulthood so that the person can make the choice for themselves, which I thought was fairly reasonable. Anyway, she got up on stage, gave the standard spiel about Jesus becoming more important to her after some challenging point in her life, then the minister dunked her fully clothed just like a filthy little kid who doesn’t want to be washed, schloop! I couldn’t help but let out a little giggle when she emerged like a happy, wet dog.

At this point I knew Baptism wasn’t for me. It was overtly in-your-face, sickly sweet martyr worshiping. I was looking for more of a traditional religion; old church, pleasant hymns, and no people acting all crazy and possessed in the aisles. The real deal-breaker came when a girl’s voice peeped up from behind me wanting to give an impromptu testimony. It was the standard, I was incurably ill, I prayed, Jesus told me not to take the treatment anymore, I got better, medicine is rubbish. The best thing was that the illness was any rush of adrenaline made her pass out. I was sitting there for the whole time she spoke with my fingers crossed desperately wishing and hoping, but no luck. I wanted out. The ceremony finished, I told my friend it was good, but the songs made me feel awkward and I skipped off home feel empty and sad.

So far, Christian based religions had proved to be entertaining and kind of laughable, but failed to give me that funky-feeling which I desired. I found myself agreeing with eighteenth century writer, Tom Paine who referred to Christianity as “Christianism” as to give it that ring of an irrational sect rather than a semi-respected organized religion. Instead of trying for third time lucky, I turned my back on Christ, and checked out Satanism. Hell, why not give it a shot?

Unlike the Kingdom of Jehovah you don’t get Satanists just knocking on your door, and unlike Baptists; there isn’t an obvious Church in your town. Satanism required a little bit of groundwork, and I liked it. I discovered that Satanism isn’t just the preserve of 14 year old girls who like bad black metal; the whole theory is based around anti-stupidity and pro-reason. No eternal damnation, Armageddon, or vaguely homoerotic worship, this was rational ideas presented in a cool way like it was rebellious, and smart.

Founded by Carnival type Anton LaVey in California in 1966, the Church aims for social-Darwinism which means phasing out stupidity, ignorance and violence and creating a more enlightened generation of people. They seem pretty big on “exploring personal skills, talents, and inventiveness.” One section of the information pack encourages young people interested in Satanism to “Learn to play an instrument, paint or build a robot. Use your brain and your heart to find out what is right, what is true, and what makes you stronger.” Maybe it was the brainwashing, but it just seemed like a really good piece of advice. I felt like Satanism, despite its connotations, was a sensible and quite respectable way to lead life. But before getting too involved and shaving my head, I wanted to talk to someone with experience. So I got in touch with a UK representative of the Church of Satan, Matt Dencappo (Most Satanists change their names when they join, and funnily enough, founder Anton LaVey’s son is called Satan Xerxes LaVey). We exchanged some emails, wherein I asked a couple of fundamental questions asking whether Satanism provides any direction for people, he answered blandly, “Those adults looking for a god to make them feel better about their existence, or pending lack of existence would really not find any happiness within the Church of Satan, unless of course they conclude that the gods they are seeking are actually themselves, but then they would be Satanists.” Ok, I think that he meant I’ll only realise direction from within myself, not some fictitious god. But I started to worry. Maybe I wasn’t smart enough to be in Satan club. If I couldn’t understand one stupid email, how the hell was I going to grasp any relevant theory at all?

He talked about some interesting things like how children will grow-up and realise that religions like Christianity and Islam are essentially damaging, life-hating afflictions, and move on to something more like Satanism. But I just thought, surely if these children see two religions as damaging, they’re hardly going to want to join another one. Finally, I wanted to know what his views were on why a normal person might want to become a Satanist. He told me, “Satanism offers very little to the average person on the streets. The Church of Satan doesn’t want the average; we want the extra-ordinary, productive misfits who know they are different from the rest of the herd. Those dynamic, intelligent and creative individuals who do throw in their lot with the Church of Satan will be privy to a plethora of opportunities and receive un-paralleled support in their innovative endeavours. Those who do not belong with us will receive nothing but registered membership.” Whereas it seemed as if Christianism was open to any old moron wanting to find answers, Satanism was this little elitist club that was vigorously selective in whom it lets into their ranks. Like the kids in school who decide who’s cool and who’s not.

I started going off Satanism, and had a moment of clarity while reading about satanic writer Aleister Crowley’s impressive amount of STDs. I thought to myself, what the hell am I doing? I don’t need to join some stupid religion to be a good person, maybe take some of their ideas and philosophies, but don’t align myself with a bunch of kooks. I finally felt pretty good about myself; I had explored a path to enlightenment, and chose to go my own way. It’s not that I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, Satan, or whoever, it’s just I care about other things. The World could certainly use some miracles, but until then I’ll put my faith in human beings.

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