Friday, May 21, 2004

That Old Time Religion

If we are picky here, worshipping me is a lot more ancient than many of the mainline religions. But nobody calls the worship of Echidne of the snakes an old time religion, what they are referring to are the current large-number religions. I'm not so happy right now with some aspects of these religions. At some point (after me) religion took a wrong turn. What we got are all these competing morality plays, each with its own dank underbelly where the prophets hid all the stuff that is not-so-nice, so that it, too, now has the authority of morality.

For example, consider the fourth commandment in Christianity, according to most ways of counting the order: Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you. It tells the believers to treat their parents well. If they do, long life and success is promised. Very nice. But there is something slightly mercenary about the promise of good things for those who obey this commandment, something that smacks of a two-sided contract, and it doesn't work well as an empirically verifiable hypothesis: a most cursory check tells me that many people thrived exceedingly well without having been at all nice to their mum and dad and that others had short and miserable lives despite honoring their parents.

This commandment is often interpreted as a general order to obey and respect those who are older and/or in positions of authority. It is interesting that no corresponding commandment exists about honoring ones children, or people who are younger and/or below us in the pecking order. Why is this commandment missing? I suspect that it is missing on purpose. If a religion is to be acceptable to the rulers of an era, its tenets must not contradict their powers, and if a religion is to be acceptable to a large number of believers, its tenets must not deviate too much from too many of the existing social norms. Understanding this little practical fact makes it much easier to see why the big religions reflect the societal biases of the times when they were written down. Of course, it doesn't make it any easier to comprehend why everybody can't see this.

Oops! I was almost beginning to rave about fundamentalists again. They are not allowed into this post which is to be all about the wonders of religion, the joy of spirituality and the need for a brand new 'Old Time Religion': Echidneism. Yes, I have decided that the snakes are only a part-time job for a goddess still in her prime, and I could easily handle a few thousand human franchises, too. This is a very religious era, so the marketing of me should go fairly smoothly. But first I need to write down what the religion requires from the true believer, and there I got stuck. Hence the beginning of this post, about the difficulties inherent in making moral prescriptions.

I'm tempted to suggest that anything but harming others or the planet will be acceptable for an echidneite, but that wouldn't sell. People want to give something up, to do penance, to fast and so on. I have decided that no echidneite can ever eat a steak-and-kidney pie, and that kidneys, in all forms, are never to be ingested. Something truly horrible will happen to anybody who violates this commandment, but I haven't yet figured out what it might be.

Then there will be the positive commandments: "Thou shalt dance and sing at the smallest opportunity." "Thou shalt hug thy neighbor and thy neighbor's dog." "Thou shalt listen to the trees and the stones." "Thou shalt treasure love as a divine gift to be celebrated." And so on and so on. These are much more fun to make up.

That's about how far I am with my work in creating this religion, though I have also given some thought to its external symbols. I kind of like the idea of a little snake, tattooed just below one corner of the eye, but this might be dangerous during any future religious purges. Something removable is probably better. Perhaps a snake-shaped nose-ring?

What do you think? Echidneism would definitely qualify as a religion, even in Texas where they require religions to have one or more gods/goddesses. That I'm on the internet is just an extra bonus.