Inhuman Swill : Christianity

Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

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Dear email forwarder—

Please don't mistake my opinion on the email as any condemnation of you or your character. But here's what I see as the danger of forwarding emails like that one: The information in them is only vaguely sourced, and the contents may not be accurate. The email has been forwarded a hundred times already, and may have been changed or added to along the way. The people who receive the email may just hit delete, but they may also read it and decide that it's true without doing any thinking or investigating of their own. I think that before you forward an email like that, you have a responsibility to investigate it for yourself and find out whether or not it's accurate. Otherwise you are spreading something that is no better than gossip, and potentially very damaging.

I did some investigation online and discovered that the account by Rick Mathes has been disputed by credible sources that were present at the event in Missouri where he claimed the discussion took place. You can read all about the doubt that has been cast on his account here:

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When you absolutely, positively have to be a smug asshole to your friends and love ones one last time, there's:

In a nutshell, the site queues up messages from you to your infidel friends that will be dispatched after the Rapture. And how does the site know that the Rapture has happened? Because at least three of the site's five designated holier-than-thou's will have failed to log in for three days running.

This begs the question of what would happen should, God forfend, a catastrophic but non-Rapture event should wipe out those saintly designees all at once. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue should all those ha-ha-I'm-in-Heaven-now messages get sent while their authors are still miserably earthbound? I hope someone hacks the site and makes it happen.

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William Shunn

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