Here Thar Be Monsters!
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A God Is Born!
It started off with International Labor Day on the 1st. We were supposed to have the usual mass demonstrations demanding higher wages and better working conditions, but instead it was rather quite, with a couple of small demonstrations around town just for image sake. Guess everyone was too comfortable to brave the heat.
This past weekend we got a four day reprieve. On Thursday, Jesus ascended to Heaven and on Friday, Mohammad followed him. One says Jesus had to go first to make sure Mohammad's reservations were in order, while the other side said Jesus was waiting at the gate until Mohammad showed up with the keys. Takes your pick.
On the 22nd, we get Buddha's birthday. Usually a quiet affair and this year, it's on a Sunday, so no real bonus there for the non-subscribers.
Most impressive of all, though, was that the world witnessed the birth of a new god, and I'm starting a new religion because of it.
All of that is followed closely by Ramadhan from the 6th of June to Eid al-Fitri on the 7th of July. Not much happens during Ramadhan. Though the Quran says that one should work harder and push one's self to the point of collapse, not eating or drinking or even swallowing saliva from sun up to sun down, in practice many folks nap through the day to avoid the worst parts of the month-long fast.
One thing I will grant Indonesia's obsession with religion is that it offers lots of nifty holidays - roughly one a month - for those of us who just need an excuse to go to the mountains.
Indonesia's Constitution recognizes five religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. Outside of that, you are pretty much screwed.
When I first got here, one's religion was boldly listed on identification cards - native or foreign. A couple of years ago, they stopped the practice, and increasingly folks aren't listing religion on their job applications, but the topic is still one of major concern. Your religion comes up fairly close to the top of any conversation with someone you've just met. Needless to say, someone like me gets into all sorts of interesting conversations on the subject.
One of the major complaints here is that there are dozens of very ancient religions practiced by the nearly 300 cultures that make up Indonesia. Obviously, these highly regional and very old religions don't fit neatly into one of the five authorized check boxes. Nor does atheism. For that matter, neither does my refuse-to-follow-any-religion-but-not-an-atheist designation. Since I had to put something on the immigration forms when I first got here, I chose Buddhism, since it is more properly a philosophy than a religion - at least in the original teachings. When asked my religion these days, I usually answer that I believe in my own divinity. Often shuts the topic off at that juncture.
My wife and I have achieved a truce on the matter. She is a fanatic holy roller and says that she doesn't believe in idols or magic, but has magic water, magic string, magic stickers and magic pictures all over the house. The compromise is that she will not longer ask me to go to church and I have one room in the house that isn't stuffed to the rafters with magic artifacts. Nor will I stop her from attending gatherings and even the occasional missionary work outside the country. I have always been a firm believer in "to each his own." Don't step on my tail and I won't step on yours.
Religion is one of the most dangerous creations ever devised by Man. It has caused more bloodshed, hatred, distrust, and discord that just about any other of our creations. The worst have been and continue to be the proselytizing religions, which are most often those that involve secret revelations to one person, who then must run around convincing others that s/he has seen and talked to god and has the unerring instructions on how to live our lives. This generally involves slaughtering anyone who thinks the messenger is full of shit, and burning at the stake anyone who doesn't follow the precise recipe for salvation.
On a side note, the recipe frequently involves giving up or heavily regulating anything that could possibly be considered fun, and is most often obsessed with sex, drugs and dancing.
I like Buddhism. It basically says we are all gods waiting to discover ourselves. We get multiple chances to discover our god-nature. And if you fail, it's because of karma from your last attempt, or you are piling up karma for the next one. And when you finally get it right, you become One with the Great Nothing. Yes, I know it's a bit more complex that that, but this isn't a theological dissertation.
As a youth, I attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to my first year of university. I was an altar boy for eight years. I later entered a Benedictian monastery. I have read all the books and studied the subject intensely for a long time. People curse the day they try to convert or convince me to follow a cult.
Through all of this, I have come to one clear conclusion: it's all bunk.
No, I'm not an atheist. In fact, I have a new god. I call him Donald Trump. He speaks in contraditions and people agree with him. He is rich, so he must be full of magic. He can say anything and get away with it. He's had multiple wives and children, so he affirms Life. He likes the finer things in life, like steak. He defies all logic and attempts to categorize him, just like any good god would. And he is a walking brand name, just like all the really successful gods are. Finally, in Scottish Gaelic, his name (Donald) means "Great Chief." What more do you need in a god?
If I hurry, I can open a 501(c)3 and start the New Church of the Quaffed Hair and make a billion bux before the spell wears off. Oh, and instead of fasting, we'll make an entire month of the year a holiday for feasting on steaks, wine and Bacchanal.
You KNOW this is going to be a popular religion!