Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Watch Out, People - Here Comes the Sun, Part 3

Gosh- another 20 minutes on Google, another batch of sun-drenched church logos (check out the first batch here). Again, I have no reason at all to believe any of these institutions are not perfectly orthodox in their theology, but the looking at this in light of the links between solar symbolism and ancient astronauts (in 2001: A Space Odyssey, for instance) certainly brings to mind interesting and strange possibilities.

(Double click to enlarge)

I'm not anti-Christian, in fact I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood experiences in church, and attended a local church here for a few years. Actually, it wasn't until I went online and saw the blistering ignorance and hatred that was being spewed by Fundamentalists (primarily towards other Christians who didn't adhere to the Dobson/Falwell/Robertson/Swaggart party line) that I began to seriously question the foundational principles of Christianity. I hadn't seen any contradiction between my counter-culture leanings and Christianity, in fact my interpretation of the New Testament was that of a distinctly counter-cultural movement.

But I was so traumatized by the rancor and verbal violence I saw online that I felt there was something seriously wrong with a belief system that could not only tolerate, but encourage such behavior. I came to realize that there are millions of perfectly decent Christians who have been criminally manipulated by unimaginably powerful political and corporate interests for the past 30 years or so, and there's no reason to believe that that manipulation won't continue indefinitely.

The so-called "culture wars" have framed the division in society into the simplest rhetorical terms- those who have "faith" and those who don't. But surveys repeatedly have shown that most American Christians are biblically illiterate and have only a vague notion of what their religion actually teaches. It's simply become a matter of tribal divisions- to be a Evangelical Christian in America you simply need to vote Republican, loathe secularists and liberals, and refrain from (openly) gay sex. We've seen a huge exodus from traditional churches into megachurches - Stalinist auditoriums where stately hymns are replaced by cheeseball pop songs with vaguely devotional lyrics that you can close your eyes and wave your hands above your head to. 70s cult indoctrination techniques and 80s New Age "self-improvement" horseshit have made a major comeback in these establishments, and yet the number of the unchurched has grown in response to the megachurch phenomenon. The local community churches are in rapid decline, unable to compete with these corporate behemoths.

Ask yourself this- given the centralized, authoritarian structure of these churches, how hard would it be to gradually steer a hyper-politicized and overly-subordinate laity towards a very strange new interpretation of the faith? You wouldn't have to really change a jot or tittle, you simply would immerse your parishoners into a new symbol system and introduce a "bold new interpretation" of scripture. Or even use actual coercion to install this new "revelation." Already, we see believers acting more like militant Mithraists than Christians, and isn't how you behave more important than what you claim to believe?

It's been said that it's easier to steer the believer to a new belief system than to make a believer out of an agnostic or atheist. History is filled with precedent for coercive mass conversion, and if the dividing lines today are simply between "belief" and godless secularism, it seems to me that it wouldn't be hard at all to steer the believers towards a faith that their grandparents would find completely alien.

Aw, heck- this is all just idle speculation. I'm sure we'd never see such a thing.