Sunday, October 29, 2006

Faith and Religion Part III: The Afterlife

All religions deal with death in some way, but making your child understand the concept can be difficult. The death of a pet, thankfully, is a perfect starting point for this kind of discussion. In most cases, a child will lose a pet before they lose a close family member. You can increase the chances of this happening by buying a pet that is guaranteed not to live longer than a few months, like a goldfish or an injured kitten rolled in bacon grease.

When you broach the subject, do not begin with death itself. The inevitability of death is a terrifying notion for a young child to comprehend. Instead, engage your child by showing them how fun and interesting a skeleton can be, especially a giraffe skeleton, which can be used as a scarf rack or a kind of escape scaffold for a treed kitten. Also, its legs can support several hammocks at varying heights, making it perfect for slumber parties. Let your child know that when they die it is quite likely those they left behind will use his or her skeleton as some kind of percussion instrument, or wind chime. This is not out of disrespect, but rather a celebration of their soul and spirit moving to another plane. Or ascending to heaven. Or being reincarnated into a new life form. Really, you could tell your child when they die they’ll spend eternity in a world where everything is made of chocolate and flying whales crap pink helicopters out of their eye sockets. Kids will pretty much believe anything.

Let’s assume your child’s dog has died. Unless your child has been raised Buddhist, the permanence of death will not be easy for them to contend with. That is not to say that raising a Buddhist child is easy. A Buddhist child will often smile at inappropriate times and be generally smug and annoying until you just want to smash the little bastard in the face with a lamp.

What the child will see when they look at their dog is not the decaying vessel of a freed spirit, but rather a friend and companion they will never be able to play with, or confide in, again. You can concoct some vague concept like “dog heaven,” but I would not recommend it. Once you’ve planted the notion of a specific “heaven” for one animal, you’re going to have to do the same for all creatures. This may not seem like a big deal, but there are over a million species on this planet and new species of insect are always being discovered. It’s not a journey you want to embark upon, unless explaining what the insect order Mantophasmatodea considers eternal paradise seems like a constructive way to spend time with your child. I will submit that it is not.

Our idea of what heaven is changes considerably as we grow older, and often reflects our terrestrial, and finite, perception. When I was five-years-old I thought of heaven as a tropical paradise with coconut trees and deep, unclouded lakes. Now I realize how foolish and simple-minded this concept is, and that they’re most likely banana trees, not coconut. Jean Paul Sartre once described Hell as “other people,” which means heaven is people you haven’t met yet. Belinda Carlisle sang that heaven “is a place on Earth,” which, if true, means Belinda Carlisle will never die. This cannot be, however, because someone, somewhere, envisions heaven as a never-ending Go-Go’s reunion concert, and if Belinda Carlisle is spending eternity on Earth like some kind of mildly sexy vampire, then that person’s idea of the afterlife can never be realized. The works of both Sartre and Carlisle have confounded theologians for ages, and ultimately they prove that heaven is a concept far beyond our understanding.

This kind of non-answer will not satisfy a child though, especially one who has lost a pet. You can appease you child, however, by using their natural inquisitiveness against them. For example, if your child asks what happened to their beloved dog, you reply: “He went to the most wonderful place imaginable. By the way, how many times a day do you think Aquaman uses the bathroom? I think he just urinates while he’s swimming around in the ocean. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that’s okay. Have you been doing that to the ocean, young man? Answer me!”

If you say this forcefully, and with enough conviction, your child will have no recourse but to answer for himself, even if your family lives in Wisconsin and has never been to the ocean. In 1982 my own father skirted the issue of heaven and the afterlife by suddenly and inexplicably blaming me for the death of Leonid Brezhnev. To this day, I have no memory of ever having a pet, but rather a nagging uncertainty as to my whereabouts on November 10, 1982. If you can achieve the dual task of squelching your child’s fear of death while simultaneously instilling them with a vague yet deeply ingrained sense of guilt that controls every major decision they make in life, then you’ve already achieved what would normally take several years of Sunday school.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Faith and Religion Part II: Protecting Your Child from Reason

The Amish have taught us that faith thrives when it’s contained. Cultural isolation has served them well, but such luxuries cannot be afforded by most children who are more apt to burn a barn to the ground as opposed to building one. When outside the home, your child will have his religious faith challenged and derided by peers, hedonistic celebrities, and some of the more confused elements of the Amish community. It is important for your child to meet these challenges head on, and you can help them considerably by providing them with a small card on which is written several rebuttals to some of the more common critiques leveled at their religion. What follows is an example for Christians, which should be viewed as a template only. People of other religious persuasions will have to create their own.

Quick Reference Guide For Christian Apologists:

Homosexuality:
It's "Adam and Eve" not "Adam and Steve."

Outboard Motors:
It's "Noah and the Ark" not "Noah and the Mercury Verado 275 Motor Boat."

Square Chocolate:
It's "He died for our sins" not "He died for our Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownies."

Making an attempt on a child’s life as opposed to making an honest wage through beekeeping:
Abraham tried to slay Isaac, he did not attempt to earn extra money by entering into a co-op with other men, harvesting honey from a colony of several hundred bees, and splitting the profits.

Advertisement for a state lottery during which a giant check is handed via trick photography from one person in one town to another person in another town and so on across the state:
Jesus healed the lepers. He did not hand them giant checks because the weight would have easily severed their arms.

As your child becomes mired in the secular educational system their religious faith will slowly give way to a more scientific mode of thinking. No matter how much influence you have over your children, you cannot force them to adopt a specific belief system. You can however, use subtle methods to trick your child into coming back to the fold and living a pious and spiritual life in accordance with their upbringing. It is not impolitic to use reverse psychology on a child who has discarded religion for a purely scientific mindset. You can do this by playing along with your child and actually worshiping science. Baptize your computer by throwing it into the bathtub. This will cause an electrical failure throughout the entire house. You then explain to your child that the family has sinned against science and must endure the darkness for two weeks. This will give you ample time to locate an electrician who looks like Jesus Christ and will cast away the darkness and jostle your child’s mind back to a more Christian worldview. This will also require you to convince your child that Jesus no longer sits on the right hand of God, but instead works as an independent contractor for the electric company.

If this approach seems too complex, you can demonstrate God’s sway over the universe by trying to control weather patterns with a calculator, or attempting to resurrect a deceased pet by reciting passages from the owner’s manual of a John Deere 2210 Compact Utility Tractor. In time you will convince your child that there are many things science can’t do. In the event your child asks why God didn’t resurrect the family dog, explain the dog would then be a slobbering zombie that would immediately leap from its grave and devour your child’s face.

Remember that religion begins in the home, and it is your responsibility to steer your child clear of the mindtrap of purely scientific thought. Although, one cannot deny Jesus’ carpentry skills would have been vastly improved with the help of certain scientific advances, such as the miter saw or the plunge router. Perhaps more people would worship him today if he had been able to build a truly striking roll-top desk with a long-lasting polyurethane finish. Christ’s unwillingness to use his infinite knowledge of time travel to accomplish this is but a small part of the great and wonderful mystery of God’s plan for us, at least the part that concerns woodworking.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Bully Menace Part I: Understanding the Problem

The classic schoolyard “bully” is often depicted as a Goliath: large and intimidating, sometimes waging war on Israelites, but revealed for the milquetoast he is when confronted with physical retribution.

This image is not only antiquated, but dangerous. As technology and medical science have evolved, bullies have evolved as well. It is now speculated that a single bully has enough power to not only force a twelve-year-old boy through a garden hose, but can also convincingly call into question the sexual orientation of any person, place or thing, based solely on the fact that they once wore a Hello Kitty shirt to school because my mom was sick the day before and didn’t finish the laundry. Experts agree that by the end of the next century, everyone and everything will be homosexual, whether it is or not. But how did we let things get this far, and what of the future now that it may be impossible for ironing boards to mate with one another?

Bullies now transcend the playground, affecting every aspect of our day to day lives. In the early part of the century physicists were forced to abandon their pursuit of a universally-accepted Grand Unification Theory when they were overtaken by an army of bullies who repeatedly punched them in the arms and told them to “stop being such faggots and play some tackle football outside. What the hell’s your problem?” Since then, physicists have spent their time drawing highly-detailed hybrid creatures and pining for the day when they might have an unhinged jaw and mighty talons like the CobraHawk, then those jerks would be sorry.

The other night while eating a gay sandwich I began to ponder just how a child in this day and age can defend himself against such a seemingly unbeatable foe. As a child I would often remain quiet and keep to myself. By blending in to my surroundings I remained, for the most part, free of any physical retribution. This worked quite well, but now children must take a more literal approach and actually meld their DNA with that of a chameleon so their pigment can coincide with whatever wall they happen to be standing against. My theory is that bullies, unable to detect those weaker than themselves, will have no choice but to beat themselves to death. Violence is always triggered by ignorance or confusion, and once it is roused, it cannot be sated until it has found an outlet. This is why advanced calculus is the cause of every war and conflict ever fought in the history of mankind.

Unfortunately, this approach is not feasible in the present day, and several animal rights groups continue to thwart my efforts to perfect a chameleonic pigmentation system. They’ve staged protests, called me “brutal and unethical,” claimed I have no training or schooling, and that feeding crayons to a monkey is grossly unscientific. I remind these people that the main component of science, besides potassium, is experimentation. Copernicus didn’t find out that the Earth revolved around the sun by sitting on his hands, nor did he discover this cosmic truth by feeding pastels to an orangutan, but he could have. Science must remain untethered from the anchor of human emotion. This is not about simply watching mold grow in a dish or studying the movement of planets. This is about crayon-eating monkeys teaching us how to eventually trigger the self-inflicted genocide of several million young people. I think we can all get behind something like that.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Faith and Religion Part I: Gently Kicking Your Child Down the God Staircase

Recently, in an effort to interest more young people in Christianity, passages from the Bible were posted on messageboards across the internet. What follows is one of the exchanges that took place:

The Bible:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Canadian_Cutie:
Shut up. Seriously.

Bev:
I’m assuming this Jesus guy is Mexican, yes? Or at least of Hispanic lineage? I was a Hispanic Studies major in college and spent a year in Mexico City. A surfeit of petulant retorts leapt to my tongue whilst perusing the verbiage to which you have subjected us. Perhaps you are merely dabbling in a bit of schadenfreude, and if you are, I doff my chapeau to you in humble submission to your razor wit. However, if you are so deluded as to believe that a Mexican could be promoted to the status of “King of the Jews” despite not even being Jewish, then perhaps you should reconsider posting on a public messageboard until you’ve reached a level of intelligence beyond that of a vacuous troglodyte.

Legolas:
Dude I totally agree this person is soooooooooooooo STOOPID!!!

PuddinTame:
Come to worship him??? ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Canadian_Cutie:
I just googled this Jesus and found like NO mention of King Herod whoever the hell that is… this guys an idiot

Foxy_Wolf:
WE are come to worship him, even. That’s priceless!

McLuhan:
Okay, most people know me as the voice of reason on this board. First of all, it is possible to name a star via the International Star Registry, so he may very well have a star in the East.

Canadian_Cutie:
He may very well be a dumbass to.

Legolas:
Did you guys watch fear factor last nite?

Anonymous:
Don’t fuck wit da Jesus…

Karma_Deemun:
Fear Factor is retarded. “Hey, let’s watch people eat a donkeys rectum!” And Joe Rogan is so not funny.

Foxy_Wolf:
Lebowski rules!!!

The use of the Web as a teaching tool was strictly condemned by the late Pope John Paul II, who described messageboards as “playgrounds for assholes.” But one needn’t be Catholic to know that explaining religion to your child requires one-on-one interaction.

It’s not easy to talk to kids about religion. Most major religions were designed as a way of making boredom more complicated, and children are bored enough without confounding the situation with deep spiritual thinking. The key to explaining your family’s religious beliefs to your child is to make them understand they will never be able to comprehend what you cannot explain to them.

A decidedly atavistic stance most parents take when explaining religion is to threaten their child with a fiery eternity in Hell when they begin to question their faith. If one’s family is not of the Judeo-Christian persuasion, the same end can be achieved by threatening to baptize the child as Methodist so they would then be considered “Hell worthy” in the eyes of God. This doesn’t really explain anything and only serves to confuse Hindu children, so a softer approach is more suitable.

It is important to explain to your child why your family believes what they believe, and more importantly, to be proud of their religious heritage. Explain to them that as they go through life they will be encountered by naysayers who will try to lead them astray using logic and empirical evidence, neither of which are substitutes for pure, blind faith. In order to drive this point home, be as illogical as possible when explaining religion to your child. Pause every few minutes to punch your child in the chest and then dive behind the couch screaming and sobbing. It also helps to periodically apologize for inventions you had nothing to do with, and for which no apology is really necessary, such as Wiffle Balls. This will confuse your child initially, but you will have proved that if God was so hung up on logic he sure as hell wouldn’t have created a babbling ass such as yourself.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

How to name your child

Most experts recommend you give your child a name within the first ten years of their life. My own parents refused to name me until I was seventeen, choosing instead to represent me as a sustained B-flat played on a Casio keyboard, resulting in bouts of paranoid schizophrenia that still plague me today whenever I hear the Yes album Tormato.

The name you choose for your child should reflect on you, and only you. It should be so clever, so esoteric, so unpronounceable that a mere utterance of your child’s name would immediately cause anyone within earshot to renounce all religious affiliation and begin worshipping you full time, for you are truly a cultural and intellectual demi-god who names offspring with the same awesome authority with which God bestows names to the flora and fauna of this planet Earth. Or you could name your child “Mary,” thus diverting all attention from yourself, but I would not recommend it. Your child has the rest of their life to carve out a place in the annals of human history. Your time to shine is now.

While people choose to have children at different times, the most opportune time to name your child is in your twenties when your “Pretension Level” is at its peak. At age twenty-three I responded to the phrase “Hey, check out that raccoon over there” by spouting off on the prison industrial complex and its metaphysical connection to the animal kingdom for seven straight hours. If only I had a child at that time I might have given them a name that would forever symbolize my subjectively superior intellect.

I had chosen many names for my non-existent child, but finally settled on a name that would be pronounced differently every time it was spoken and would never appear in print. This, I believed, was the next logical step in baby naming after an entire generation of acid freaks beget offspring with names like “Starshine,” “Vortex Division,” and “Train of Mayonnaise! Too Many Kittens In My Brain? I Fucking Hate These Damn Ass Cops, Man!” which was the lengthy name given to my friend Jeffrey’s youngest boy five hours before Jeffrey realized he had no children and that the boy was actually a crude drawing of Snoopy he had scrawled on the back of a phonebook.

A recent article documented the ongoing trend of giving children brand names. For the past several years, more and more parents have given their children names like Lexus, Disney, Armani, and V8 Splash With Beta Carotene. This is possibly the most ingenious method of baby naming ever conceived, even more so than naming your children after celebrities. Yes, we all want our children to end up like Slim Pickens, but those children are rare, and Southern.

Considering how easy it is to have kids, adopt them, or just find them at amusement parks and shopping malls and raise them as your own, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay ahead of the curve and come up with unique names. The Bible, once the source for all kinds of names, has been tapped out, and the practice of slightly modifying the spelling and pronunciation of a name has grown tiresome. Scientists, many of whom have yet to grasp what a scientist’s real job is, speculate the name “Mike” now has seven hundred variations. Our culture is an amalgam of everything that came before us, ideas piled upon ideas, and the names we choose for our children are no different. Drop by any playground on any weekday in any city in the United States, and you will find children with names as diverse as “Dakota,” “Sears Automotive Center,” “Bubble Yum Hitler” and “Winona Jesus.” In turn, these children will bestow equally peculiar names to their own children, which can only mean a global “Children of the Corn” style genocide will occur within the next two or three generations as children becoming increasingly confused by their own names and lash out at their parents for not making things simpler. However, this should not stop you from bestowing a clever name upon your child like a branding iron applied to a retarded draft horse. Remember: you own your child, and they will someday have kids of their own which they can use as living, breathing promotions for themselves. It is every parent’s duty to make this clear to their children before they lock us inside the local diner and force us to watch while our own severed limbs are fed through a meat grinder.