Monday, December 02, 2013

Dispatches from the Earth: United States National Religion

Observational Dispatch from Planet 363972, popularly known as "The Wart."

I believe my cover remains intact.

For the last several decades, I have been observing the peculiar culture which has manifested in the nation known as the United States of America. Of course it would be impossible for a finite being to analyze all aspects of any culture, so I have confined myself to that one all-important element, the national religion. What I have found is fascinating.

The US national religion is very far-reaching and manifestly omnipresent, but I think it may be a form of Gnosticism, for they seem reluctant to name their god.

There are temples to their god, great soaring structures that seem apt to reach into their heavens, with walls that reflect the outside world while revealing nothing of what goes on inside them.

There are priests consecrated to this god. The priests wear a peculiar two- or three-piece getup, involving seams, buttons, zippers, hair-gel and a lofty attitude. The pieces, the buttons and the amount of hair-gel seem to fluctuate; the loftiness of attitude is apparently mandatory. In addition, the priests wear a sort of cassock which is bound about the neck and which points toward the genitalia. I can only assume this is meant to symbolize both mental and sexual enslavement to their god, perhaps with an eye towards gaining favor from him. The priests are mostly male, though it seems a female is not unheard of among their ranks.

Their religion has its saints, as well: like the Special Ones of many religions, these saints seem to be set above even the tacit moral guidelines the national religion requires the commoners to cling to. The saints have gained such favor in the eyes of their god that any behavior by them is permissable, even glamorized. Figures of these saints are placed in people's homes and play out upon the national stages, with the commoners seeming to believe that if they have some part, even some tiny one, in the lives of these saints, the saints' influences will gain them traction with their god. Possibly this is a form of attempted sympathetic magic.

Since they seem so reluctant to name their god, I have reached into their past to find a name for him: most accurately he may be named "Mammon." Their temples they call "banks," their priests "professionals," and their saints "celebrities," but I dislike these names, for they are as revealing as so much fog.

Even the other religions in this nation pay homage to the national god, with sects whose founders reveled in piety, humbleness and servitude seeming to require great spectacles built on a foundation of Mammon in order to be taken seriously.

The ultimate goal of this religion is not exactly clear. While other religions throughout the known universe, and indeed even on the Wart, aim at gaining the believer some traction in the afterlife, or achieving some sort of inner peace or transendence in this life, the worshippers of Mammon seem intent on making the outer flesh and the outer intellect as comfortable as possible in this life. They seem to do this without irony.

Indeed, the fact that their religion is hostile to any experience of what their philosophers have called transendence, religious or otherwise, does not seem to have crossed their minds. Or, perhaps it has: they seem not only willing but eager to banish all talk of philosophy, religion, belief, or transendence of any kind to environments they consider "safe." They can control these things in the classroom or between the pages of a book, or in one of the halls they label "religious," or in the heads of private individuals, so they make sure that those things stay in those places. Again, this may tend toward the Mammonish endeavor of making everything as comfortable as possible; they have a sort of strange idea that comfort means simply the absence of pain.

The religion does have its iconoclasts--or, considering the deadening, image-defying tendencies of the worship of Mammon, perhaps its opponents should be considered iconophiles. At any rate, there are those who work against it. But by the common culture, these people are despised inasmuch as they eschew the work of Mammon, and they are praised inasmuch as they follow his silent dicates.

I see the American religious landscape as a sort of self-imposed wasteland, full of hypocritical priests muttering platitudes to congregations who are not listening anyway, while a few priests teach one of the remaining truly religious religions to a few converts who spend most of their time feeling like exiles. And over all of it, the invisible god Mammon watches, laughing silently.

So ends this report. In my next dispatch I will go into more detail about the clothes these people wear, which again they seem to do without irony.

No comments: