Religion, Healers, The Afterlife, and Other Shenanigans
Did anyone watch that HBO documentary "A Question of Miracles"? I stumbled across it last night while drinking beer in my underwear at the Comfort Inn.
Pretty amazing stuff. They followed evangelists (and "healers") Benny Hinn and Reinhard Bonnke and filmed their respective revivals; one was in Portland (Hinn's) and the other somewhere in Africa (Bonnke's). All of the typical stuff ensued: People crying, becoming ecstatic, chanting, praising Jesus, fainting, etc. Both Hinn and Bonkke commanded their respective stages like orchestra leaders or rock stars. The people were worked up to a frenzy until the climax, when the evangelists would invite afflicted people up on the stage to be healed. People in wheelchairs walked. The blind could see, and so on. With a push of his hand against people's necks or heads (quite rough, I might add, for some of these more elder or crippled folk), Hinn shouted "Fire!" or "Healed!" and the people would fall back into the arms of his posse. Some would convulse. All became dazed.
There were behind the scenes cameras showing the sides of the stages at both revivals, where people who thought they were healed were turned away by the posse because they didn't appear healed enough to get stage time.
The cameras then followed several of Hinn's "healed" folks' stories after the revival. Some died, some remained crippled. Cancers remained. Not many (or none) were healed.
There were interviews with neuroscientists, psychologists, etc. who have studied these phenomenons, and likened a lot of the Hinn and Bonnke stuff to Hitler in the sense of how these guys charismatically work huge crowds into a frenzy, and almost hypnotically changed them via the powers of suggestion. Experiments were done to demonstrate the "presence of God" that people feel in these, and other religious gatherings. It was described that during these mass gatherings people can be coaxed into a state of near euphoria where their body can release pain-reducing chemicals, which could explain the momentary ability for a crippled man to walk, or an arthritic can do jumping jacks. It was explained how we humans are the only beings capable of foresight, and thus are the only living creatures able to envision our own deaths. And how this very part of the brain is what makes our species able to create religion and a sense of the afterlife or reincarnation or any after-death experience. This part of the brain is apparently the same part of the brain that can literally heal us through the power of suggestion.
Anyway, the documentary was fascinating. And I'm not saying I don't believe in miracles, but I can say that at the end of the show I found people like Hinn and Bonnke to be some of the most pathetic and evil human beings on the planet for taking advantage of the afflicted (and their families). They are not only robbing them of their money (some people pledged thousands in order to basically ensure that God was helping them), and by giving them false hope and often coaxing people's belief in the power of God (and thus their disbelief in doctors and Western medicine), resulting often in their deaths or severe disability.
Anyway, after that I watched Blind Date, which was awesome, too.
Then after that show I thought a lot about religion.
I was brought up Methodist, and I always secretly had trouble believing a lot of it. Not for lack of environment. It was simply something that I always never truly felt at ease with, and always doubted, even since I was a kid.
I strongly remember my confirmation day (I was a young strapping lad of, say, 13), when I was all prepared to give myself to God and whatnot. I recall the preacher saying (very similar to a lot of the Hinn stuff) that I would feel God entering my body and my heart. I tried so hard and believed with all my might that this would happen. I felt absolutely nothing, and I remember afterwards feeling kind of like I had not been worthy, or that I wasn't trying hard enough.
And last night thinking about what they were saying about humans being the only creatures capable of religion made me think that we are so vain and self centered to believe that we are the beings that have a god, and that we are going to go to heaven or whatever. What happens when animals die, and why should they not be entitled to a god?
A short story a friend in NYC sent me recently was about God making an appearance over a battle in Afghanistan. It was all over CNN, etc., but as it turned out it was not our god. It was theirs. And boy, he was pissed. In the story, Bush attempted to make a statement to try to quell the fears of the God-loving american people that he would do whatever he could to protect us from this enemy. Which made me think, again, why are we so vain to think that our god is the real one, and that the others are not? And if they are all valid, then are there different heavens, segregated for the different believers of different religions? It's all just too ridiculous for me to swallow.
And another thing. All this religion talk tends to center around the afterlife. Well, let.s think this through logically. If we take away the fixation on what happens after we die, what happens before we are born? Pretend you go through life backwards. Okay? So you are born as an old person. You progress through life getting younger, until at some point when you become a mere infant, your life ends. Where does your soul go then? Does it simply snuff itself out in the sac of your father? Is it absorbed into the egg and simply sparked out into nothingness? What I'm trying to say, people, is if theoretically our souls are eternal, then someone explain to me where they come from to begin with? Is there a heaven for souls that are humans to be? Whose heaven do they come from? And if so, what if you are to become an evil human being destined for hell?