I am losing a friend. To the mephitic and odious infection of evangelism, to the bloodless and sinister cult of ‘faith-healing’ and it’s leprous and wart smothered sister, ‘prophesying’. Practices still peppered with fakes and frauds, only too excited to steal advantage and rob the true believers of reason and scepticism of any kind. My friend is no fake. A few sinful years ago, it was drink and merry friends that gave meaning to his life, and it is no hollow rationalization of mine to assume this. It has been a snowball from the beginning, and it is reaching speeds and mass no reason can match. The snow, was provided by a visit to an eccentric church that ‘specialised’ in indoctrinating the young and aimless. Dragged along by a friend, he experienced what too many atheists and non-believers dismiss as hokum. A religious experience.
Churches such as these are constructed to provide a setting that makes such experiences happen. The structure of the service, a concert atmosphere followed by a hauntingly convincing preacher, of similar age and social status, soothing his audience with flowing tones and hypnotic prose. A thoughtless mass of susceptible minds, so ready and unconscious, so disgustingly manipulated, so the next, is just an inevitability. Some are homed in on - new faces, stand-alones, the disabled and the melancholic – and are told something about themselves, statements so weak and transparent to anyone who does not already ‘know’ and expect it to be true. But they do know, the whole service provides this knowledge, they have been told and suggested to by a seemingly trustworthy authority, and this knowledge sticks like a tape worm to the very intestines of their will. It takes only a touch or a shout that “Jesus, he knows and loves you, he has been with you and suffered all your sufferings, He Loves YOU.” The expectation does the rest, and they feel God, inhaled through their lungs, through every blood vessel down to their toes.
These experiences do exist, it is real cognition, and you, reader, have heard many versions. It is obvious that they often lead to religious belief, though do not always happen in a church. The experience comes, and then the mind fills all the gaps with whatever religion that is most known or comforting or convenient. Instant faith. It is sinister. And there is absolutely not even one minute piece of evidence that it is supernatural. No evidence suggesting it is not just brain-function.
It makes nauseous to even ponder on these ‘stage-masters’, whether they manipulate knowingly or unconsciously, I will always hold them responsible for cultivating a distrust in scepticism and evidence.
So know, my friend, is a ‘faith-healer’, he walks the streets using techniques that psychics and astrologers have used for centuries. He ‘fixes’ broken thumbs, minor headaches and tobacco addiction, all miracles all Jesus, yes I know, yes whatever. “But what proof, what evidence do you have to reason that bone has grown instantaneously, that increased cranial blood-pressure has decreased, that it is not simply endorphins you supply, not simply illusions?”, I ask, “God told me.”
There is clear blockade, armed guards every twenty feet, ordered to kill any reason that should try meander through to consciousness. It is at best distressing. Argument is not useless, it is impossible. To approach any conversation with the expectation of coherence is idiocy on my part. He now considers moving to the middle-east on an evangelistic crusade, and my warnings of the violence and prosecution, maybe even death he feels compelled to subject himself to, are desperate and still unheard, unlistened, condemned and executed as reason by his minds zealot protectors, at the impenetrable blockade.
It is exponentially heartbreaking, to feel compelled to witness so much self-prosecution and self-disgust, so much damage and compulsory misery, -the will of god - which one can force on himself. To feel never once lost for words, when all words are so impenetrable.