Endless Absurdities of Religion


t
know (Image: Joachim Fenkes / Flickr)
Pentecostalism—in which worshippers compulsively spout incomprehensible sounds called “the unknown tongue” (glossolalia)—has become a major world religion. An estimated three hundred million North Americans and Southern Hemisphere residents now attend churches where glossolalia occurs. This faith is surging, while most other branches of Christianity fade.

By James A. Haught | CHURCH and STATE

Santeria worshippers sacrifice thousands of dogs, pigs, goats, chickens, and the like to a variety of deities that are partly Catholic saints and partly African jungle gods. Bodies of the unlucky animals are dumped into waterways. Miami police patrol boats fish out the carcasses. Santeria (“way of the saints”) is somewhat similar to voodoo, but it arose among Spanish slaves instead of French ones.

Many millions of Hindus pray over models of Shiva’s penis. They make pilgrimages to a Himalayan cave where a penis-like ice stalagmite rises in winter. In San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, many worshippers pray at a phallic-looking traffic barrier.

About five thousand fervent young Muslims have detonated themselves as human bombs in “martyrdom operations” to kill tens of thousands of “infidels.” The phenomenon peaked on September 11, 2001, when nineteen suicide volunteers hijacked four airliners and crashed them like projectiles to kill nearly three thousand Americans. The year 2007 had more than five hundred suicide attacks worldwide—well above one per day.

Another exception to Christian decline is the steady rise of Mormons. Latter-day Saints say an angel named Moroni revealed buried golden plates in New York State and gave Joseph Smith magical stones enabling him to translate the writing on those plates. The plates and stones cannot be examined as evidence today, because Moroni allegedly took them back to heaven.

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