Thursday, December 13, 2007

Two themed satirical pieces by Milan Smith

Two satirical pieces
by Milan Smith

God: A Biography

In the beginning there was God, and with Him the ball of matter he played with. This ball amused God for much of unmeasured time, and so God was happy. Then one day, while tossing the ball about space, it exploded like a firecracker and splattered throughout the universe. God then chased it, grabbed it, gave it unfollowed orders, but quickly gave up the effort. Not because it was impossible to control, but because He was too lazy to do much about it. Now known to Christians as Genesis, and to the secular-minded as The Big Bang, this description of the beginning also begins Martin Cruzada's book, "God: A Biography."

At 7,000 pages, condensed from the original 23,000, the book details the career of God from the beginning, using extensive interviews and religious documents. But, Cruzada has also turned to science when needed, which rounds out the book and fills in details we may not have known otherwise. This is the first true biography of God, dark side and light, with all the shadings in-between.

After describing the "accidental creation," the book goes on to say that as swirls of matter congealed and formed planets, God grabbed a few and shook them until they started to glow, and through that created light – one of the great inventions of all time. After He did that a few trillion times, God got bored and decided to create other things to play with. So He found a small planet that he called Earth (not for any special reason, "Earth" just sounded good) and made sea creatures that flopped around in the water. But after watching them swim about for a few million years, he got bored – again – and decided to play with Jupiter for awhile.

While God was gone, a strange thing happened. First, the things that flopped in the water grew legs and walked on the land, then some of the things that walked grew fur or wings, while others developed brains that could paint on walls and tell stories. When God came back, He was thrilled with what he found, and decided to teach the humans, as He now called them, to worship him. The humans did, and they built altars and burned animals in His name.

But, the humans got bored with God pretty quick, and made their own gods, which angered Him, because He didn't want to share the credit. So He created diseases and wars to express His displeasure, and the humans came around rather quickly and were devoted in their attentions for many years. Then over time God decided to create many different religions – Hinduism and Christianity and Buddhism – just to see what would happen. This would seem to contradict God's earlier actions, but Cruzada assures us it's not, that these new religions were all based on God himself, and so He was pleased – as well as entertained.

But, because everyone decided their version was the true religion, everyone tried to kill everyone else off, which frustrated God, and He ran off to another galaxy for awhile. When He came back, everyone was still fighting, so He decided to flood the planet, kill off humanity, and start over. But because He liked one man, Noah, he spared his life and that of his family, which turned out to be a mistake. After the flood, Noah and his family repopulated the world and everyone fell back to fighting.

This fighting went on for thousands of years, until God decided the whole thing wasn't worth the effort anymore and went away for a much longer time. And when He left, the fighting got so bad it soon led to the two world wars. Despite prayers and sacrifices for help in these times, He didn't respond. Cruzada assures us that God is omniscient, so He did hear these cries, He simply chose to play with the Andromeda constellation instead.

At what point the Devil becomes important is unknown to everyone, apparently including God himself, but Cruzada scored a major coup with his exclusive interviews with Satan. And Satan, it turns out, isn't such a bad guy after all.

"I've been unfairly portrayed," Satan told Cruzada. "God and His damned little book, in all it's forms, has maligned me for centuries. ‘Satan did this, Satan did that,' always the opposite of the good and pious holy Lord, of course, and never any of the truth, just His version over and over. I tried to get my view out, but He saw to it that no one had the chance to read it. He sent his mindless little minions out to burn every copy written, and burn those that read it, if necessary. Oh, He is very thorough. Don't get on God's bad side, you will lose, and you will regret it."

Satan, said Satan, was simply the loser in a power struggle between two powerful beings. Satan lost the struggle for the heart and souls of men not just because of God's power and willingness to use it, but because of the devil's tolerance. "I never asked for slavish allegiance from anyone," Satan said, "just a fair hearing. If you disagree, then go your own way and I'll go off with my followers and life goes on. No one has to worship me, I don't really care. After all, one must be narcissistic, or perhaps insecure, to demand blind love and loyalty, wouldn't you think? But, God sees to it that my followers are tortured, slaughtered, forced to convert. Hardly the actions of a good and just god, now are they?"

Satan does bring out relevant points. What kind of god kills for obedience? Or, would allow his people to suffer the various wars and genocides over the last millennia? And of course, no one has a good answer for that, not even God's followers.

Cruzada tried to interview God himself, but He chose to remain aloof, perhaps to enhance His image, although Cruzada did manage to obtain a copy of one of His diaries. Cruzada didn't say how he got it, either in the book or interviews, but there are rumors of certain angels who are unhappy with God's regime and would like to discredit him. But, the diary was a disappointment, since it reads more like a to-do list than an expression of God's thoughts. Still, it does give insight to the things He thinks about and what He thinks of them. For example, on one page, presumably from the early seventh century (none of the passages were dated), God wrote:

New religion? Islam? give Mohammed fellow visions
talk to pope again
create new planet, better humans, two heads?
burn new Satan book
populate Mars?
Squelch Mithras revival in south Europe, perhaps forced conversions
write sequel to Bible?
impregnate another virgin

This short entry, actually a typical one, shows the disparate thoughts of God on any given day. They show His mundane side, a stark contrast to the glorious and glamorous vision usually given.

Besides Satan, various angels also spoke to Cruzada – off the record – and they provide the book with its comic relief, as they describe God's efforts on earth and how everything came out backwards. For example, upset over the fighting between his Christian and Moslem children, he tried to mend fences and told the Roman Catholic pope in 1095 to send men to the Middle East to establish ties, religious and cultural, between the two groups. At some point the purpose was perverted and the result was the Crusades, in which Christians murdered Moslems and pillaged cities and created hatred between the two religious groups for centuries.

Then there's the Jesus issue, probably of the greatest interest to Westerners. One particular angel, which many speculate to be Gabriel, said that Jesus was not the Son of God, but in fact, a crank. God disliked Jesus and had him removed (as he had done with John the Baptist a few years earlier.) He orchestrated the crucifixion to show people that Jesus was the unfavored of God. Why else such a gruesome death? But, somehow his followers twisted this into a badge of honor and started carrying around crosses, which defies all logic and rationality. After all, why would God have to sacrifice his only begotten son to forgive mankind? Wouldn't God have simply said, "I forgive thee?"

The truth is, this angel says, God wanted Jesus dead so He could further the career of others He did favor, but the Jesus cult grew and it overshadowed and then killed off the others. Seeing that Christians were winning, God tried to direct and mold these passionate believers, and gave them the New Testament, with the words, "Love Thy Neighbor." An inspired phrase, and to drive home this message of love, Christians have burned people at the stake and killed millions of Jews, Moslems and pagans over the years to show them how much they loved them. An irony on a global scale.

Unfortunately, Cruzada's book shows that the history of God is full of such unintentional results, which leaves the world as random seeming as if there was no God at all. And by the book's end, one has to assume God is the unluckiest deity imaginable, and human beings luckier still.


Finding Friends: The Story of James Wolfe and the Friends of Truth

James Wolfe, atheist preacher and founder of the non-theist religion, the Friends of Truth, wandered through his first 27 years with no direction, feeling he had the ability to accomplish great things, but that his purpose in life had somehow missed him and that he was doomed to die unnoticed. This feeling occurs to most failures, and it nearly happened that way to Wolfe, but in 1968, he came across a manuscript called The Book of Thought, written by one of his ancestors. Although Wolfe lacked direction in life until then, he still had strong intellectual convictions, and among them was atheism. This was fortunate for Wolfe, since the Book of Thought was an atheist handbook, and from that small volume Wolfe found the purpose of his life, and he began to live in pursuit of it, which he called The Truth.

This is the beginning of Dana Marcum's biography of James Wolfe, "Finding Friends: The Story of James Wolfe and the Friends of Truth," but the book doesn't really take off until the second chapter when Wolfe, the heir of a small trust fund, travels the country spreading the word. Throughout the late 60s and early 70s he often stood on street corners and proclaimed that there is no afterlife, no god, no intrinsic human worth, only the values we adopt for ourselves. These ideas were unpopular in many places, and Wolfe learned quickly the problems of sharing his new vision. One day, on a street corner in Cervantes, Florida, there stood a Baptist, a man who screamed the Word of the Christian God, and proclaimed Jesus Christ the savior of all. Wolfe stood on the opposite corner and shouted to passerby that man has no inherent worth but that which he gives himself. The Baptist, unhappy with Wolfe's vision, crossed the street and beat Wolfe senseless with his over-sized copy of the Holy Bible.

Then, as Wolfe lay bleeding on the sidewalk, the Baptist preacher went to the nearest abortion clinic, joined the protest there, and killed the doctor as he left the building. So, under the circumstances, Wolfe considered himself fortunate.

It was at this point that Wolfe's tactics change. After his uncomfortable meeting with the Baptist, he saw that street corner preaching had certain dangers, and afraid that he'd die before he could spread the word, he decided to start a group of followers instead – perhaps to let them face the dangers. He had no idea of how to do this. He'd assumed people would simply show up when he talked and throw themselves behind him, but it hadn't worked that way, he usually got ignored. So he put an ad in the classifieds:

"I, a friend to all, seek non-spiritual enlightenment, an approach to life that is honest and just. I ask for followers to spread the word of Truth to the unknowing, and to reform the actions of the uncaring. Those interested may reach me in Andrew Jackson park Saturday afternoon. I am wearing the long black overcoat."

The first to answer were hippies in a van painted with flowers and peace signs. They figured Wolfe was another bogus cult leader who'd supply them with marijuana and a place to sleep. When they learned he was serious, they left.

The next was an 85-year-old lady who somehow got the idea he was starting a charity group. She was a life-long Christian, and when he explained his true motives, she had a heart attack and died at his feet. This seemed a bad start, and Wolfe was ready to give up, when a man approached him and asked about the ad. The man, now known as Friend Thomas, was tall and bony, and he leaned over James, the newspaper in one hand, open to the ad. What happened between them was later recorded by Thomas in his personal journal:

"You're interested?" Wolfe asked me.

"Maybe. What're you about?"

"Atheism. But atheism with a purpose. Atheism with a moral code and a specific view of life. Not simply a negation of god."

"And you're the leader?"

"In a way, for now. I'm just a friend to all. A friend of all men, and a friend of Truth."

"So, you're the Friends of Truth?"

"Something like that."

"I'd like to hear more. Is she a member?"

James looked down at the old woman, who lay just a few feet away, by the bust of Andrew Jackson. "No, she isn't a member. She's ineligible to join now anyway. We don't believe in an afterlife."

"I see."

"What's your name?" he asked.


"Well, friend Thomas, I'm James."

"Hello, Friend James," I said, and shook his hand. James then led me away and gave me my first lesson.

The first days with Thomas were the happiest of Wolfe's life. This was his first pupil, one eager to learn, and as Wolfe had hoped, unwilling to accept things without question. When he disagreed, Thomas said so, and demanded solid answers. The following conversation also comes from Thomas's journal:

"You are the perfect pupil, Friend Thomas," James told me.

"Thank you, Friend James," I said. I was flattered, and should have shown more gratitude I suppose, but there was so much I wanted to know, to learn, and I couldn't seem to focus on anything else, so I just kept asking questions, forgetting the small talk. "Tell me, is there a list of actions the Friends must follow, maybe a set of commandments?"

"Only one, respect all men."

"I understand, treat others as you would have them treat you."

"No, we don't ask anyone to treat others as they would be treated, because some people are self-loathing masochists."

"I see," I said. "That could end badly."

"Yes, we would be responsible for many fights and wars. We are to respect all men, not necessarily like them, or agree with them, but to respect them, show them respect no matter how you feel about them, that is central to everything. And to respect others means to respect their property as well. If we all did this, the world would be a wonderful place."

"This makes sense."

"Exactly. You are learning quick. You will be able to rush out into the world soon, and sing the song of the Friends of Truth. Then I will have to find a new pupil, perhaps many at once."

The day did come when Thomas was ready to leave Wolfe, and when he did, Wolfe was depressed. He had his first victory, and after a year of hard work, was alone again. So he sought a new pupil, and he began to travel the country again, spreading the word. He found his message better received outside the South, where Christian conformity was less expected, but he still met resistance, like beatings, threats and even a kidnaping, which left him naked and abandoned in a poison ivy field. Still, his word got out, he made converts, and in these early days, because he dealt with people in twos or threes, it was easy to weed out those who would embrace his movement mindlessly, and so threaten it with thoughtlessness.

During this period, Thomas wrote Wolfe every month, describing his adventures, which were numerous. In 1973, he was almost lynched by a group of Christians in California, but somehow was saved by the Hell's Angels. Wherever Thomas went, he drew dozens, then hundreds of people, although many of them at first threw eggs and rocks at him. But his public speaking exploits became the glory of the Friends, and he drew in more people than Wolfe, and many of these people were sent to Wolfe for training, then sent out again to speak the Truth.

Within a few years Wolfe had created a small group of tough-minded preachers and in a few cities small but close communities of Friends. It was at this point James began to reach farther for converts, recruiting more Friends, but also found more problem people.

The most notorious of these problem pupils he found in San Francisco, a man he met on the street whom Wolfe talked to for an hour one day on Haight-Asbury. The man, known as David, later wrote a long article that made Wolfe's philosophy famous, and gave the group overnight national recognition. Soon after they met, David came to Wolfe's apartment and they worked together for the next two years.

But, Wolfe found there were many problems with David. David did not question things as Thomas had, he accepted everything said and written, and repeated them almost verbatim. Wolfe contradicted himself within the same discussion, and waited for David to find the flaws, but David said nothing. For a week he tried to provoke David into contradicting him, and then David began to ask for Wolfe's guidance on even the simplest things of life, and James saw he had to do something drastic. The day came when Wolfe told David he must leave immediately on an errand, then told him he mustn't leave for the rest of the day. The conversation was pieced together from various people, among them Wolfe and David, but also two disciples of Wolfe who happened to be in the room:

Confused, David knelt and bowed his head. "I would never be one to question your wisdom, Friend James –"

"Is this true?" Wolfe asked. "You would never question my wisdom?"

"Of course," David said. "I would never doubt you."

"You really mean that?"

"Of course."

"Then kill yourself."

"What?" David now fell back on his hands. "I don't understand."

"You said you'd never question my wisdom, and here you are, questioning it. Is understanding really that important? Or did you simply not understand the statement?"

"Well, no, I understood, but –"

"Well then, if you understood what I said, then what else is there to say?" David sat silent, shocked, unable to speak. "Either question my wisdom, or go to the window of your room, and jump out of it. We are on the seventh floor, you will certainly die."

"I never expected you to say something like this, Friend James."

"You are questioning my wisdom?"

"Well, no. I mean yes, just a little."

"If I understand you, you are saying that perhaps some things I say deserve an explanation?"

David got to his knees again, and bowed so low his head almost touched the floor. "Forgive me Friend James, but I feel that I must ask even you to explain things more thoroughly. Especially now."

"Well, it's quite simple, Friend David, either you think for yourself, or someone else will, and sooner or later they will take advantage of you."

David rose and stared at Wolfe. "I understand now. Perhaps Friend James, I should have said that I hate to disagree, but I think ..."

It was at this point, in June 1985, that the first book ends. The movement was still only several hundred strong, but the Friends were close-knit and motivated, and James at 44 was full of hope. He also had a wife and two girlfriends on the side, so that probably helped his morale, but that is saved for the second book, when the author also delves deeper into James' liberal views on sex, which is sure to make part two a runaway bestseller, and really help the growth of the Friends of Truth.

Author bio:

Milan Smith has published short stories in the magazines Lines In the Sand (Sept.-Oct. 2000); PKA's Advocate (Dec. 2000-Jan. 2001), (Oct. - Nov. 2001), (Apr.-May 2002), and (April-May 2007); Enigma (Fall 2001), The Circle (Winter 2002), Clockwise Cat (Oct. 2007) and one in a regional zine Mylxine (#15). After he received his B.S. degree in business from the University of Florida, he worked in the business world for two years, then got job as a reporter at The Destin Log, in Destin, Florida. He'd written poetry and short stories in his spare time for several years up to then, and finally decided to work at it full-time. He now works a part-time job at night and write during the mornings. He's been working on a novel the past few years and is now back to writing stories.

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