Question: What do people living under dictatorships have in common with members of religious, philosophical or pseudo-scientific cults? And what do these poor unfortunates share with fundamentalist followers of this or that faith?
Answer: They don’t need to read a lot. They don’t need to waste time, money or shelf space on books when one book is more than enough, and when you’re not encouraged or even permitted to peruse others.
When you’re a scientologist (a belief based on pseudo-science) you can limit your library to the writings of that reprehensible ratbag L Ron Hubbard. If you were in the Red Guard, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book contained all you needed to know. Ditto for young Nazis, for whom Hitler’s Mein Kampf was their Bible. Other books – particularly those written by Jews – were tossed into bonfires…..
Then, there are the millions who know that there’s only one hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, only one user’s manual – only one sacred text. They disagree as to the title – it’s the Bible, the Koran or the Torah. Which brings us to the sub-groups within these three Abrahamic faiths, who say, of their chosen text, ‘It is written. And that’s that.’
In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Jews – not to mention fundamentalist Hindus. But not enough attention has been focused on fundamentalist Christians, who take the gospel as gospel – deaf to the wise words of Ira Gershwin that ‘it ain’t necessarily so.’ First among their number? George Dubya. Born-again Bush might worship a Messiah who was a carpenter, but he feels no need to call in another carpenter to build him a bigger bookcase. The Good Book is more than enough.
Whether it’s the Gideon, the Good News or the King James translation, it is particularly relevant when one is concerned about sexuality. What does your Bible tell us about the gender of priests? The foul practice of homosexuality? The proper definition of marriage? Here President Bush 2, the Pope, various archbishops of Canterbury, Cardinal-elect George Pell and the brothers Jensen read from the same page. They know that a few thousand years of theological discussion, social change and gender politics have not, for a moment, confused the issues. What the Bible says is all that matters.
In this case, they should be interested in the e-mail I’ve received from my friend James Randi, the magician who, among other things, revealed the metal-bending chicanery of Uri Geller. James told me that a presidential prayer team is urging Americans to “pray for the President” as he seeks wisdom on how to legally codify the definition of marriage. “Pray that it will be according to biblical principles. With many forces insisting on variant definitions of marriage, pray that God’s word and His standards will be honoured by our government.” Endorsing the team’s admirable goals, James proposes the following constitutional amendments:
a) Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women (Gen:17-28, 2 Sam 3:2-5). Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wives. (2 Sam 5:13, 1 Kings 11:3, 2 Chron 11:21).
b) A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed, (Deut 22:13-21). Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3, Num 25:1-9. Ezra 9:12, Neh 10:30).
c) Since marriage is for life, neither this constitution nor the constitution of any state, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19, Mark 10:9).
d) If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow, or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10. Deut 25:5-10).
So James’ proposed amendments to the US Constitution will place a great premium on virginity, permit men to have multiple partners within wedlock and eliminate the necessity for expensive pre-nups. And, presumably, there’ll be fewer problems with adultery, given the official sanctioning of the harem. I always thought that the Mormons gave in on this issue far too quickly.
Praise the Lord and, in the case of George Bush, pass the ammunition! And let us pray that our own prime minister, supporter of the Lyons Forum – that cluster of devout parliamentarians who seek God’s guidance through regular prayer sessions – will join President Bush in this matter. Think of the savings. We could close down that detestable Family Court, set up by the lascivious atheist Lionel Murphy, and make every marriage a life sentence. Moreover, full implementation of biblical policies will help the rural sector recover from the drought – by reintroducing the blood sacrifice of sheep and goats.
Talking of blood sacrifice, obviously George Bush has been inspired by the Old Testament’s line on beloved children. You’ll recall the story of the true believer (Abraham) preparing to sacrifice his son in the wilderness – a policy that the President has taken up with considerable gusto in both Afghanistan and the Middle East. Mind you, they’re other people’s sons, not his.
By Phillip Adams