Friday, October 9, 2009

The Golden Compass and religious humor

Greetings.

Jewish date:  21 Tishri 5770.

Today’s holidays:  Hosha‘na’ Rabbah (Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth).


Worthy cause of the day:  “Friends of the Earth: Sign the petition”.

Topic 1:  I began reading The Golden Compass (AKA The Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman last night.  This is the first book of the reportedly atheistic and anti-religious His Dark Materials trilogy, and in the first two chapters it lives down to its reputation.  It is set in an alternate version of Earth where John Calvin became the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  Please keep in mind that Calvin is not fondly remembered for his doctrine that people are predestined to be either saved or damned.  After Calvin’s death the Papacy was abolished, but the Roman Catholic Church morphed into a Byzantine bureaucracy and menacing government known as the Magisterium.  This sets the book up for attacks on organized religion in general and both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism in particular.  Already in chapter 2 we have some of the characters seriously worried because there is evidence that one of the Magisterium’s doctrines, that there are only two worlds, the material and the spiritual, is wrong, and this is disturbing because it is “heresy”.  This sets up the book for the cliché that religion is intolerant and close-minded.  Furthermore, all the humans in this book are accompanied by a “dæmon” in animal form, which is supposed to be a manifestation of that human’s soul.  This is a strange way of dealing with the notion of the soul, and my intuition does not like it.  We will see how deep a grave Pullman has dug for himself.  I am only expecting things to get worse.

Topic 2:  I have some religious humor references I want to get out of the queue, and the day before Shemini ‘Aṣereth—when we are supposed to rejoice—is as good a day to present them as any.  Not to mention they make a refreshing contrast to His Dark Materials.

funny pictures of cats with captions
(I have no idea how to grow a tomato like that.  I suspect it’s fake.)

funny pictures of cats with captions
(Considering that Basement Cat represents the Christian Satan, I think the captioner of this picture may be a bit confused.  Either that or he/she has invented Grim Reaper Cat…)

And finally, an oldie but a goodie, “Endothermic or Exothermic?

Shabbath shalom and ḥagh sameaḥ.

Aaron