I was raised a fundamentalist Christian and I have religious scar tissue. And a fair whack of residual anger as well. I keep it under control most of the time, but occasionally, especially if I’m pre-menstrual I can get quite snarly and rude, as some unfortunate Jehovah Witnesses discovered last week. They had no way of knowing that on that particular day I was snarly enough to head butt puppies and stomp on cute little bunnies without a second thought. So when they came knocking at my door, I tried to be polite but couldn’t stop myself from blurting out something along these lines, ‘Don’t waste your time my friends, I’m really not interested. I was raised a Mormon and nowadays I don’t want anything to do with that violent nut-bag Yahweh or any of his minions.’ They were a little taken aback. I don’t think they’d ever heard their god described as a nut-bag before.
Sadly, this is not the weirdest thing I’ve said to religious types who’ve come knocking at my door. Many years ago I was living in Brunswick. It was the anniversary of the Granville train crash and I was thinking about my father, who died in that crash. I’d always blamed his death on the fact that that day, of all bloody days, he’d decided to give up smoking. Instead of sitting in the smoking carriage at the back of the train, he’d sat in a non-smoking carriage in the middle of the train: the carriage that took the full impact of the bridge collapse. If he’d been sitting in the smoking carriage as he usually did, there was a good chance that he would have survived. The reason he had given up smoking was because he had become a Mormon shortly before his death, but for some reason I hadn’t really linked those two things before. I’d blamed the non-smoking for being in the wrong carriage but not the Mormons for making him give up smoking. That day however, I suddenly made the connection and felt a surge of anger towards the Church. In an example of gob-smacking synchronicity, just as I had this realisation there was a knock at the door and there were two Mormon missionaries. I spluttered incoherently for a while and then managed to spit out, ‘YOU GUYS KILLED MY FATHER!’, before slamming the door in their face. I’m not proud of it, but hey these things happen. If either of those guys ever read this, I’m sorry. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There have been many other times and occasions when I’ve got very angry about religion and its effects, but in all that time I’ve never once been tempted to smack someone in the gob. For that level of outrage, it took a New Age person. I loathe the New Age movement. I see it as a pointless, smug, middle-class, secretly self-loathing, self obsessed, navel-gazing adventure that usually ends with people disappearing up their own fundament and thinking they’ve found God, instead of their own crap. I particularly hate the idea that there are no bad things in the world, just ‘valuable lessons’. The most vivid example of this pathetic sort of thinking happened to me after a gig. I’d been talking about being a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I hasten to point out that it was my step-father who abused me, not my real father. After the gig a New Age wanker came up to me said, ‘Wow, your step-father must have really loved you to give you that beautiful lesson. He’s probably your soul mate, because only someone who really, really loved you would choose to incarnate as your abuser so you could benefit from such a difficult, wonderful lesson.’ I am rarely speechless, but that day I was without speech. I was too busy trying to figure out whether to punch her in the nose so hard that it would end up in her brain or whether I should try and rip her ears off. She didn’t seem to have a single clue as to how insulting and horrible her misguided thoughts were. It is the closest I have ever come to doing physical damage to another person.
Since then I’ve thought a lot about this ridiculous magical thinking of the New Age. For starters where is the head office or the clearing room where all this careful allocation of necessary lessons is being organised? Who is behind it all? ‘Cause if there is some organising committee, they’ve failed dismally. If all this crap is being carefully meted out for the personal growth and development of every single person on the planet, then no one would ever commit suicide. Someone must have got the dose wrong. Taken to its logical extent, this sort of thinking is a recipe for apathy and non-action in the real world. Because if every single person in the world has ‘chosen’ all these things, if there really is a good reason for all the horrible things that happen in this world, well then, we don’t need to change a single thing. The world is perfect exactly as it is and we don’t need to worry about stuff like poverty, hunger and disease any more. It’s all meant to happen. And if you believe that, then a) better check and see if your brain has accidentally fallen out of your skull and b) I’ve got a bridge AND an Opera House I’d like to sell you.