Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Man With the Lightbulb Head

I spent five years earning a living as a journalist in Los Angeles from 1995 to 1999, living in West Hollywood and hanging out on the sets of Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine. And although I haven't been a full-time journalist since '99, I still enjoy doing the occasional interview with interesting people I would enjoy talking to anyway. But of the five hundred plus interviews I've conducted since 1995, I don't think any have been as exciting to me personally (with the possible exception of last year's China MiƩville piece) than this new interview with musician Robyn Hitchcock that is out in the March issue of the Believer. Robyn himself says it's the most in-depth interview he's given in some years. We range from George Bush, to Bob Dylan, to Doctor Who, to science fiction and even the eventual fate of the human race.

One tidbit which was cut from the final version, and with which I will whet your appetites now, concerns religion: In a world like this, we cannot afford to go around having separate gods, worshipping Allah, Mohammed, Jehovah, whatever it is, and tearing the wings off people who think differently. If there is a god it should be standard issue and pan-global, and of course it is, it’s called money. The dollar always has the final word, and a cynic I find it deeply satisfying that behind all the piety and bullshit that people toss out there’s usually some financial motive. But I wonder whether it matters if you believe in god or god believes in you. But I think my god has a small “g.”

1 comment:

A.R.Yngve said...

To me, "God" is a concept, an abstraction -- the kind of notion you can hold late-night debates about at a party, but not something to wrap your whole life's meaning around -- nor an adequate "existential security blanket". I can imagine a creator god who is utterly indifferent to life on Planet Earth -- or even a malicious creator, or a trickster god who made the universe as a joke.

Now, my theory about religion's appeal is less cynical -- it's not just about money, though obviously there are leaders and demagogues who use religions for financial and political gain.

There are many "roles" of God, but the strongest role is as "Dad" or "Mom".

To most believers, God is simply a parental figure inflated beyond all proportion.
Note how God is called "Father" and "Him" in so many religions! It's the patriarch of the clan culture writ large.

To the mystics and Gnostics, God is that-which-cannot-be-named, the word for the unknowable.
But the majority of believers do not want a mystery. They want the security blanket, the parental figure, the symbol of the authoritarian clan patriarch.

This god-symbol does not work on the frontal lobes, but on the earliest part of the human mind -- the little infant in us that looks up at a physically larger mother/father-figure with awe and fear.

And if infants are brought up with threats, beatings and inscrutable commands, they will be more vulnerable to the "god-as-parent" idea. Again and again I hear people tell the same story about a stern devoutly religious father who beat and abused them during their childhood.

This most common version of God can be neatly summed up in the classic phrase: "Just you wait until Father comes home and hears what you've done!

That's what the preachers' sermons about Hell really are -- when Father comes home and hears what you've done, there'll be hell to pay.