MANN TALK: Polytheism

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann

The articles and columns I read in the newspapers have convinced me long ago that there are as many experts in education as there are parents and that there are as many gods as there are people.

God one: In a religious column a woman describes a scrape with death on an interstate and she attributes her and her friends’ escape from death and injury to the guardian arms of God’s angels and to His intervention personally. The Buick, headed for Charlotte, NC, with the writer and her three female friends therein, hydroplaned from the southbound lane, crossed the median and came to a stop in the northbound lane crosswise with traffic bearing down on it. But not to worry. “God’s peace immediately entered our hearts;” and “an unseen hand reached down and took control of our wayward vehicle.” Furthermore, God directed the oncoming traffic to avoid the Buick, allowed the driver to start the car and drive to the nearest exist, which God place very near to the scene. He even allowed them to remain dry from the rain by providing an overpass bridge as an umbrella while they examined the damage to the vehicle.

 

“We concluded the reason none of us panicked during the accident was that all four of us were ‘ready to go.’ There was nothing between us and our Lord, no unconfessed sins, no barriers, no need to pray for help during our ordeal. We were in the safety of his will, and we knew it. We were all ‘prayed up’ and ready to go home.” How could God endure such pious presumption and consuming complacency?

 

God two: A letter addressed only “A Letter to God” was delivered to a newspaper. The editors decided to print a part of it: “Dear God: I know I haven’t been the best person, and I’m not going to say I always tried. But I want to be.

 

“God my life is a mess right now. I made a bad choice job-wise, and now I am suffering from it. Please, Lord, help me to get back on track again....

 

“God, all I want is happiness and love and good fortune in my life. And more so for my family. They come first before I do.

 

“Please, God, I beg of you, help me, please. Take care of my family, friends and animals. I love them so much. Thank you, God. Love always.” Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

 

God three: Members of a multidenominational organization called Religious Witness for the Earth are in the manner of Moses trying to destroy the Golden Calf of the 21st century, namely, the SUV. They pose the question, “What Would Jesus Drive?”

 

“Some hope rage against the SUV will spur a new, broader civil-rights movement. Perhaps this car can become a symbol of the seductions of wealth and the obliviousness of arrogance. Maybe the SUV, like the fur coat, will eventually be labeled a consumer product of shame. “ In India the cow is worshipped; in America the automobile. There is more dignity and sanity in worshipping a cow than a car.

God four: The god of Guns and Game. Andy Hansroth, West Virginia’s clone of Charlton Heston, is a high bishop in the hunting hierarchy. He divides the world between those who hunt and kill game and those who do not, judging the latter as lesser men. His religious creed: “I am for anything that benefits hunters in general, sportsmen of all kinds and particularly gun owners.” Some people never evolve beyond the hunting stage of man’s evolutionary journey.

 

God six: A god with a greater following is the god of a Catholic who wrote: “Catholic theology teaches that God wills human life to exist. If this is so, then human life, and the processes that lead to human life, are sacred in design and purpose and therefore inappropriate areas for experimentation and manipulation.” That is, his god is against invitro fertilization, artificial birth control, stem cell research, extramarital sex, abortion, infanticide, capital punishment, assisted suicide and euthanasia. “If this is so,” maybe yes. But is it so? How is his premise authenticated?

 

God seven: A god with a lesser following is the god of Dr. Brigitte Boisselier, a French scientist employed to clone a dead son for a lawyer. She is a Raelian, a UFO cult that believes space aliens called Elohim created all life on Earth, including humans, through genetic experimentation. Its founder is a race car driver named Rael, who has a UFO theme park in Canada and claims 50,000 followers in 85 countries. It makes one wonder how anyone can have a doctorate and believe such nonsense.

 

God eight: Last but not least is the god of Mark Twain, the god of the Skeptics. Twain wrote a book titled “Letters from the Earth.” In it Satan, who displeased the Creator and was sent to Earth for a day as punishment, writes letters to his buddies Michael and Gabriel. A quote from one letter is sufficient to convey Twain’s theology: “This is a strange place, an extraordinary place, and interesting.... Man is a marvelous curiosity.... He thinks he is the Creator’s pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens. isn’t it a quaint idea?” Consider what Twain would have to say about God’s intervention on behalf of the women in the Buick or the Catholic who thinks God is an anti-abortionist.

 

Wherever there is mystery, particularly unsolvable mystery, and wherever there are questions, particularly unanswerable questions, there is a vacuum into which all sorts of people are drawn, all of them with a solution and an answer, some inspired by profit and others with piety. Dogma is born and becomes the psychological and spiritual anchor of the believer. Churches arise and denominations, and sects, and cults, the members of each believing that they have evolved the dogma more nearly in conformity with God’s will.

 

The Church may not have intended to put itself in business in perpetuity. But it has by the very scheme it has put together over the ages. The Church deals in absolutes and reminds man that relatively he is hopelessly wicked and can only be saved through it. Then it dilutes its absolutes with rituals that are easy but are, it says, indispensable to salvation. Man faced with absolutes between him and heaven turns quickly to rituals and the intermediation of the Church. Thus, power in perpetuity.

 

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Perry Earl Mann was born on the 12th day of March 1921, in a cottage on Russell St. in Charleston, West Virginia, to a young couple who had left the country for the city after World War I. He lived there during the "Roaring Twenties," that time when men gambled recklessly on the market and women cut their hair, shortened their skirts and took to cigarettes. He's a former prosecutor for Summers County and lives and practices law and philosophy in Hinton.

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