Saturday, December 25, 2010

A different perspective on the Nativity story

This satirical interview is just hilarious and pretty much sums up how absurd the traditional nativity story is.  It was Posted to RfM by: Hervey Willets Date: December 25, 2010 12:59AM in the thread titled: TBM in-laws sent me a big box of shun for Christmas!

Your name, please.

>Ben Cohen.


>Retired. I was an innkeeper.

In Bethlehem.


And in fact it was your inn where Jesus was born.

>That’s right. Well, not in the inn itself. Out back.

In the animal shed.

>Yeah. I still get a lot of flak for that.

How do you mean?

>I mean that people still criticize me for not having room at the inn. They say to me, you couldn't give a pregnant woman a room? You couldn't give a room to the woman pregnant with the divine child? Couldn't even spare a broom closet for the Baby Jesus?

How do you respond to that?

>I say, well, look. First off, it wasn't just me. If you go back you'll see that every inn was full.

Because of the census.

>Census, schmensus. It was the foot races. Bethlehem versus Cana. Also there was a touring theater troupe from Greece. Only appearance in Judea. The city was packed. We had reservations for months.

But Mary was pregnant.

>I had three pregnant ladies at the inn that night. One was giving birth when Joe and Mary showed up. She was down the hall, screaming at the top of her lungs, cursing like you wouldn't believe. Her husband tried to encourage her to push and she kicked him in the groin. Think about that. She’s crowning a baby, and she takes the time to put her foot into her husband’s testicles. So maybe you'll understand why even if I had a room, I wouldn't be in a rush to give it up to those two.

But you ended up letting them go out to the animal shed.

>That was an accident.

How so?

>Joe comes in and asks for a room, and I tell him we’re all out of rooms and have been for months. Foot races. Theater groupies. And such. And he says, come on, please. I've got a pregnant lady with me. And I say, you hear that down the hall? I’m full up with pregnant ladies. And he says, this baby is important. And I say, hey, buddy, I don’t care if he’s the Son of God, I don’t have any rooms.

So there’s some irony there.

>I guess so. And then he says, look, we'll take anything. And so I say, as a joke, all right, you can go and sleep with animals if you like. And he says fine and slaps some money on the counter.

He called your bluff.

>Yeah. And I say, I was kidding about that. And he says, and my wife’s water just broke in your lobby. What could I do? I pointed him in the direction of the animals.

It’s better than having the baby in the street.

>I suppose so, but you know, if the reason they were in Bethlehem was because of the census, then he had family in the area, right? It’s his ancestral home and all that. He can’t say to a cousin, hey, give us a couch? There are some family dynamics going on there that have been conveniently left unexamined, if you ask me.

Joseph had a lot on his mind.

>Must have.

So the baby is born, and they place him in the manger.

>Which, by the way, I told them not to do.


>Because how unsanitary is that? Do you know what a manger is?

As far as I know, it’s the place you put infant messiahs.

>It’s a food trough for animals.

Oh. Interesting.

>“Oh, interesting” is right. Let me ask you. So your baby is born, and the first thing you do is put him in an open container filled with grain and covered in oxen drool? Does this seem reasonable to you?

You did have them out with the animals. Their options were limited.

>I rented cribs. I asked Joseph, do you want a crib? And he said, no, we’re fine, and then sets the kid in the food box. And I say to him, you’re new at this, aren't you.

In his defense, he was.

>And then someone says, look, the animals, they are adoring the baby. And I say, adoring, hell. They’re wondering why there’s a baby in their food.

On the other hand, the image of the Baby Jesus in the manger is a classic one.

>Yeah, I mention that when people get on my case about not giving Joe and Mary a room. I tell them that having a Christmas carol called “Away in a Hotel Room” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. They never have anything to say to that.

It’s said that a star appeared on the night when Jesus was born. Did you see it?

>No. I was too busy trying to convince Joseph to rent a crib.

It’s said it was bright enough to lead the Three Wise Men to your inn.

>Well, three men showed up at the inn. I don’t know how wise they were.

How do you mean?

>The baby is born, right? And then these guys show up. And they say, we have brought gifts for the child. And I say, that’s nice, what did you bring. And they say, we have brought gold and frankincense and myrrh. And I say, you’ve got to be kidding.

What’s wrong with that?

>Let me quote another Christmas song for you. “A child, a child, shivers in the cold, let us bring him silver and gold.” Really? Silver and gold? And not, oh, I don’t know, a blanket? An newborn infant is exhibiting signs of possible hypothermia and your response is to give him cold metal objects? Who ever wrote that song needs a smack upside the head.

You’re saying the gifts were inappropriate.

>What’s wrong with diapers? A nice jumper or two? A Baby Bjorn? They were riding around on a donkey, you know. A Baby Bjorn would have come in handy. Have you ever in your life gone to a baby shower where someone says, congratulations on the baby, here’s some perfume. No. Because most people have some sense.

I think the idea is that all the gifts were fit for a king.

>Yes, a king who first pooped in my animals’ manger. I would have appreciated a gift of diapers.

Point taken.

>And another thing, they brought all these expensive gifts, but do you ever hear about Joe and Mary and Jesus being anything but poor? Or at the very most working class?

Now that you mention it, no.

>Exactly. I think what happened is these three guys show up and they say, here are all these expensive gifts we got your baby. Oh and by the way, we happen to know King Herod thinks your baby’s a threat and plans to kill every kid younger than two years of age just to be sure, so you better go. Egypt’s nice this time of year. What? You’re traveling by donkey? Well, then you can’t take all these nice gifts with you. We’ll just hold on to them for now, write us a letter when you get settled and we’ll mail them. And then they never do.

I don’t think there’s scriptural support for that theory.

>I’m not saying I have any evidence. All I’m saying is that it makes sense.

After the Three Wise Men, were there other visitors?

>Yeah. It got a little crowded. The animal sheds aren't designed for a large amount of foot traffic. And then that kid showed up with a drum, and I said, all right, fine, we’re done.

The song of that incident suggests the drum went over well.

>Let me ask you. You’re a parent, your child has just been born, he’s tired, you’re tired, people won’t leave you alone, and then some delinquent comes by and unloads a snare solo in your baby’s ear. Does this go over well?

Probably not, no.

>There you go.

After the birth, did your inn benefit from the notoriety?

>Not really. Jesus kind of slipped off everyone’s radar, for, what? Thirty years? Thirty-five?

Something like that.

>Right. So there wasn't much benefit there. I got some mileage out of telling the story about the crazy couple who rented my animal shed, and the visitors, and the drumming, but I mostly told it to friends. Then just as I’m about to retire someone tells me of this hippie preacher in Jerusalem who got in trouble with the Romans. And I say, hey, I think I know that guy. I think he got born in my shed. And then, well. You know what the Romans did to him.


>Romans, feh. Then I sold the inn to my nephew and retired to Joppa. By the time Jesus became really famous I was out of the game. And then my nephew sold the inn and they put that church there.

The Church of the Nativity.

>You been?

I have, yes.

>It’s nice. I liked the inn better, of course.

Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

>I would have comped Joseph the crib.

That still would have changed the Christmas carol.

>I know. But, look. You didn't have to wash out that manger.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Jesus Smith day!

With my daughter sick, and my son whining about his must-have presents I thought I would write a quick blog here to distract myself from our traditional, non-religious celebrations that are Christmas.  Today is Joseph Smith's birthday!  Happy birthday, ya old scoundrel!

Many years ago I believed in Santa Claus.  Some atheists are militant opposers to misleading/lying to their children about Santa, but despite my parents doing everything they could to reinforce my belief in Santa, and my massive disappointment in finding out he isn't real, I could really care less.

My son wanted so badly for Santa to be real that I had to sit down with him and argue that -I- was the one who purchased, wrapped, and placed presents under the tree while he was sleeping.  I never discussed Santa with him beyond saying things like, "maybe Santa will get that for you for Christmas" and doing the traditional thing of making presents magically appear under the tree.  That was just enough to reinforce his Santa beliefs that there was no way I was going to convince him otherwise without offering him absolute proof of Santa's non-existence. I think he still believed up until last Christmas.  After being placed on high alert for any signs that Santa indeed was a children's story, he watched me closely for signs that I was the one who purchased and placed presents under the tree.

My four year old daughter, on the other hand, I am not sure.  She seems to believe Santa is a real person, and is somehow representative of the holiday season, but does not seem to associate him with gifts in any way.  She also knows that Daddy dresses up as Santa every year to pass out presents to the children of his friends. She has a knack for finding virtually everything I've purchased for her and apparently her dad has the same problem, so I imagine her Christmas morning will be curiously devoid of presents from Santa.  I am not sure how to explain to her the abstract concept of Santa bringing toys to children while they sleep, so as it turns out, she will never have the opportunity to complain about being a disgruntled ex-Santa Claus supporter who was tricked and lied to by their parents.

I believed in Santa until the Christmas before I turned 9 years old.  Nothing was going to convince me that Santa wasn't real.  My friends tried to talk me out of my belief, but I held firm.  Two years before I had told my father I did not believe in Santa.  Extreme measures became necessary to ward off this Santa-apostasy.  That Christmas eve my dad took us out for a drive to see Christmas lights.  While we gathered into the family car he quickly ran around the back of the house and threw all the presents into the living room.  My snow-bird grandparents assisted by neatly setting up the presents while we were away.  During our drive an airplane flew over and my father declared it was Rudolf's red nose leading Santa to our house!  When we returned, lo and behold, Santa had come!  It was truly a miracle of miracles and I excitedly combed through all the gifts to make sure I had my fair share.  It was two years later that my father sat me down to laughingly tell me how well he had fooled me.  Santa is not real.

Santa is a prime example of how we can convince ourselves and others into believing in an obvious myth.  This Jesus Smith day, I sit and ponder the day I realized God isn't real and how much I had done to convince myself this myth was real.  I had been reading a book called The Goddess versus the Alphabet by Leonard Shlain.  It explores the history of religious belief in a very objective manner.  Reading the book made me really start to wonder how people can be so convinced of their belief (just as convinced as I was), all have spiritual experiences to confirm their belief, and all claim their belief is the only one that is true.  I wrestled with these thoughts throughout my reading of the book and about halfway through I concluded that the only logical explanation is to conclude no religion is true.  All religious belief is man-made, and "spiritual experiences" are nothing more than feelings people generate within themselves as a way to reinforce a belief they already think is true--including my own.  This is why people don't have these same feelings when examining belief systems not their own.

Perhaps my seemingly sudden loss of belief was a long time coming, but the moment I could objectively ask the question, "Is there a God?" I knew without a doubt the answer is no.  I felt a sudden intellectual relief.  I no longer had to do mental gymnastics to reinforce a belief in a deity.  I was empowered to make up my own mind about what is right or wrong.  I could shed the guilt of even thinking of things my religion deems are sinful thoughts.  I no longer had to worry about some all-knowing, all-powerful God watching and judging me.  I could free myself from an authoritarian, oppressive, and misogynistic world view and dissociate from people who viewed women as somehow inferior to their male counterparts.  I was free!

This Jesus Smith day I am celebrating my freedom from not only LDSinc, but from the dogma that imprisons peoples minds.

Merry Smithmas everyone!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Faith > Facts

Silly science!  Who needs it?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A visit from the home teacher

I resigned but I don't think he got the memo.  He knows no one here takes lessons so he just drops by a box of donuts once a month without coming inside.

I've known him since I was 15.  Nice guy, has a daughter my age who has the brightest red hair you'd ever seen on a person.  His wife has been the ward's organist for about 20 years now.  He himself has never held any substantial callings despite being an upstanding member who worked two jobs to send his kids to BYU.

Unfortunately he stopped by just as I was pulling out of the driveway to take my son to his choir practice.  I had to take a rain check.  I think I'll drop by his work to let him know I resigned.  His reaction will be interesting!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Have you ever been so angry you just ripped your own arm off?

I just found this so funny for some reason.

It's been a long while...

Quite frankly, I've been wanting to update this blog for a while.  Revamp it a bit and start blogging again. With Taolung now blogging here it just didn't feel right.  He was always the better writer.

For those who have gone back and read old posts, my sister is in remission from her cancer.  She had a bone marrow transplant up in Salt Lake City.  She is living with her boyfriend (much to my parents' dismay) and is actually really happy.

I have finally officially resigned from the LDS Church.  I am still dealing with the fallout over doing that with my family.  I expect that will be ongoing.  More on that later.

Monday, August 6, 2007

We've been dead for awhile

We've had a hard time keeping up with the blog and podcasting ever since this.

I just wanted to let anyone who's been visiting know that we are still here, and hopefully I'll be posting more often soon.