A Secular Rapture

Just to be clear, this is not a picture of Jesus. It is a picture of the Great Prophet Zarquon. And he is quoting Carl Sagan. Allow me to explain:

At the end of Chapter 18 of Restaurant at the End of the Universe, the Great Prophet Zarquon returns to his flock.

Here is what Zarquon said as he stood in front of a audience of delighted diners just as the universe was collapsing outside the time bubble:

“Hello, look, I’m sorry I’m a bit late. I’ve had a the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment. Er, how are we for time? Have I just got a min–” And so the Universe ended.

Slightly edited for convenience.

Douglas Adams is so perfect that to discuss the bit of fun, the gentle teasing that he is directing at Christianity and very idea of the Rapture that has been “nigh” for the last two thousand years, you kind of take a little away from it. I’m going to do it anyway, but there it is. He’s saying that at this point, it’s probably not ever going to happen, and we should just accept that fact. The universe is going to end at some point whether Jesus/Zarquon returns or not. This is empirically verifiable.

It is said that atheists and secular humanists do not believe in anything. That they don’t have faith in a better future in the afterlife. And in a way, there’s a point to be made there. It is a comforting thought. As long as I believe in Jesus, I can go to heaven and be deliriously happy for the rest of eternity. Awesome. Atheists look forward to what, exactly? Oblivion? Non-existence?

I would say that non-existence is certainly a step up from eternity in hell. And there doesn’t seem to be any real consensus about how it is, exactly, that one is supposed to get into heaven.

What do I have to do make you happy, God? Well, it depends largely on who you ask. God’s pretty silent about the topic, but Catholics would argue that you must confess your sins and pray to a saint to intercede on your behalf and take part in a number of sacraments and go to church like fifteen times a week. It’s really a business transaction. The business of guilt.

Calvinists say that it doesn’t matter what you do; it’s all predetermined. It is only the fear that maybe you are destined for hell that keeps you in line.

Modern protestants, I’m increasingly convinced, are insane. What does a protestant have to do to get into heaven? Nothing. All they have to do is believe in God and accept Jesus as their savior. Being a nice person doesn’t really factor into it, it seems.

Regardless, all Christians believe that someday Jesus is going to come back and sweep up all the good, believing Christians and take them up to heaven. Atheists think this is ridiculous. What, they ask, is God waiting for?

I meant that initially, to sound flippant, but the question is valid. What’s the hold-up? It’s been two thousand years since Jesus promised he was coming back and…he’s not here. It’s sort of like Groundhog Day. Humans just keep making the same stupid mistakes, killing each other, not learning their lessons, sinning, calling each other names, and it just never fucking ends. Where is Jesus? Maybe we’re supposed to learn our lesson before we can get out of the cycle. The problem is, we are actually running out of resources.

Here’s the thing. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in things. I believe people when I think they are telling me the truth. But I don’t believe in things. That’s weird. If I can observe it, I can accept it. Otherwise, there’s going to have to be a heap of circumstantial evidence. Jesus coming back is one thing that I just can’t bring myself to count on. Especially as a matter of faith.

What I want to put to you, dear friends, is that despite this, atheists still believe in a rapture. Rather, we hypothesize, that if certain conditions are met, then yes, humans will get to live in paradise for-fucking-ever.

Yeah. Here’s what we hypothesize: if humans will just figure their shit out, stop killing each other over stupid shit, start treating each other with respect and dignity no matter what they look like or who they are, and begin really throwing every conceivable resource at their disposal at science, philosophy, art, and education, eventually we will all live in an awesome futuristic, super paradise Star Trek world. We will live in a world where all our needs are met. We will be free to pursue whatever career or interest meets our fancy. We will get to fly in awesome space ships that travel faster than light. We will actually ensure that the human species (and many others besides) doesn’t go extinct. That is the Secular Rapture.

The difference between the Christian and the Secular Raptures? One requires that you not do anything and never forget that you are scum and deserve to roast in hell, and as long as you can grovel and snivel at Jesus’s feet, you will go to a place where you will be incapable of being crabby for the rest of eternity. Boring.

The Secular Rapture is something that requires hard work, a thirst for knowledge, genuine innovation, a drive to be better than we are, and some real imagination. One comes about because of God. One comes about because of us. One is beyond our control and is apparently the result of a whim from some selfish human-hating deity (and before you tell me that God loves humans because of Jesus…just shut up, I don’t buy it…he allowed us to kill his son so that we could be forgiven? That doesn’t even make a single bit of sense.). One is completely within our control and might not happen if we don’t get our collective asses in gear. And hell, it might not even happen if we do.

It might just be too late. Just like Zarquon.

Peregrinari inter sidera est mea maxima desiderium.

Obligatory Santorum Joke. Gross.

A few months ago I was completely convinced that Romney had the Republican nomination all wrapped up and that he was just going to casually waltz into GOP-NatCon2012 and delightfully feign surprise as they handed him the gilded nomination certificate, made of the finest Swiss Alps calf-skin vellum, imprinted with the ink of an endangered octopus that only exists off the coast of Madagascar and absolutely must be handled only by the hands of virgin boys from a very specific tribe of shamanistic slave people called the M’Klurdu.

Somewhere along the line, he fucked it all up. To think that both Newt Fucking Gingrich and Rick Fucking Santorum and even Ron Fucking Paul have all outscored him on one caucus/primary or another is utterly bizarre. I did not think it possible. I really thought the graying wizard was going to clean up.

Don’t get me wrong; I hate Mitt Romney. He’s rich and doesn’t understand what that means and that makes him very dangerous in political office. But he’s a closeted Keynesian (for what that’s worth), and he isn’t insane except insofar as he’s a Mormon. Honestly, Mormons are actually somewhat more trustworthy than your work-a-day Christians because I truly believe that every Mormon, deep down inside, knows–really knows–that his religion is looney toons. And I think that, in a way, this leads to far more rational behavior than…well…Rick Santorum.

Gingrich is, of course, not actually a Christian. He’s one of those guys that says he is because people like that sort of thing. No. Gingrich hasn’t done a Christ-like thing in his entire life and the majority of Americans understand this fact. He won’t get the nomination and even if he does, he will never be president.

No, my friends, the only good man that ever stepped up to the plate was Jon Huntsman. Yes, it’s true, he is also a Mormon. But you know how I feel about that. Huntsman truly is a good and intelligent man. A conservative, sure, but a decent human being with a good head on his shoulders and, from what I could see, he was really pro-science. That’s big from my perspective. He just ran a terrible campaign and Americans didn’t give shit. So it goes.

I’m not going to talk about Ron Paul here. It’s too much. There’s just…too much to say.

So I don’t know. I do not know what’s going to happen. If I had a gun to my head and someone told me to accurately predict the outcome of GOP-NatCon2012, I’d still bet on Romney, but I would be sweating bullets from now until Con Time.

My real confusion with this whole fiasco of an election cycle is this: what the hell is wrong with Americans?

The fact that both Gingrich and Santorum have a fighting chance of getting the nomination certificate boggles my mind. I don’t even really have words to express my confusion over this issue. It is absolutely ludicrous. Santorum isn’t a nice person. Gingrich is worse. Romney is clearly the best of the three. I cannot even conceive of a passable argument for either of those two other hateful motherfuckers.

I know why people like them: because people are hateful motherfuckers. But I don’t understand why perfectly decent American people like them more than they like Romney. It’s weird. I mean, Romney’s rich. He fucking loves business. He would have sex with business through a hole in the sheet, he loves it so much. He’s kind of a social conservative but he doesn’t really push the issue, which is appealing for moderate conserv-oes. So aside from the lunatic fringe of the right, why does anyone like these other two nutjobs? Can someone adequately explain this to me? Because I can’t figure it out.

Please tell me it’s not that America is populated with crazy people.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Herr Präsident.