Liberal comedian Jimmy Dore has been talking about politics and religion for years now, and his new collection of essays and rants is called Your Country Is Just Not That Into You (Running Press, 2014).
In the excerpt below, Dore talks about the problems with religion, including the concept of Hell:
I find that people who need to be publicly religious are always putting on a show of one form or another, and I am always suspect of them. All the mainstream religious “group thinks,” and that scale scares me. You don’t get to think your own thoughts about things inside religions.
Oh sure, I hear the religious now, “No, no, no, we encourage questions!”
Oh really? You encourage questions? But you only encourage one answer, correct?
What if your answers aren’t the ones the church has to those questions? I mean, you can’t start coming up with your own answers to questions that contradict church doctrine and still stay in the church, can you?
Why do religious people get a pass for being ignorant in ways other people don’t? For instance, if I think that gays are defective, immoral, and will burn in hell, then I’m just a good Christian. Or just a good Muslim, or a good Jew. Why is it that the more religious you are, the more ignorant you are allowed to be in America?
In our society, there is the expectation that we should watch what we say around the overly religious. Some members of my family are waaaaaay too religious — like the “born again” kind of crazy. Last year, I was at a family reunion with my parents and a few of my brothers, sitting around a picnic table having some laughs and talking about the latest, craziest thing Pat Robertson had said when some “born agains” pulled up in their car.
“Hey, watch what you say about religion, here comes Angela and her family, and they are really sensitive about that stuff,” my father immediately warned us.
And we all quickly changed the subject as to not offend this overly religious family member. And it pissed me off, I mean, ’til this day it pisses me off that I let that happen and didn’t say something.
Why? Because I am sick of politely dancing around the people who claim to be saved and know they are going to heaven. If you are so sure and so filled with God’s love, then what in the world could anything I say ever mess you up?
Thinking you are going to heaven, forever, eternity, everlasting life with Jesus, in just a few short years…but you can’t stand being in the presence of a little public secular reasoning? Really? Then I guess you aren’t really all that sure of yourself. Sounds to me like you aren’t standing on too solid of ground if you can be thrown into a tizzy by anyone expressing their own disbelief.
I wanted to tell my dad, “Hey pop, you know how I’m an atheist? How about if you ask those religious crazies to swallow all their Jesus talk when they are around me, cuz you know how sensitive I am about it.”
See what I mean? Turning the tables, why aren’t knee-jerk reactions to atheists filled with the same kind of reverence for my ideas and the same kind of concern for my easily hurt feelings? Why are atheists not allowed to have sensitive feelings about our beliefs? Why is it that the woman who is super sure that she’s going to heaven and so sure that I’m going to hell gets to scream it at me? Why is it that she gets to play the victim instead of the bully that she is?
I think it’s because those people secretly don’t believe their own bullshit. Anything that undermines the fundamentalist fairly tale they are living in is “offensive and insulting.” Because they secretly doubt it, too, and when you give voice to those doubts, they have to shut that shit up, and quick.
I’ll never forget the time I was on stage in Cleveland, and I was doing my usual jokes about growing up Catholic with 11 siblings:
“I grew up Catholic, but I was never that into it. My parents, on the other hand, were reeeeally Catholic. I mean reeeeally Catholic, like they almost molested somebody… I’m talking hardcore Catholics… I was more of a “buffet Catholic,” I didn’t follow all the dogma, only took what I liked — a little sin forgiveness without judgment, and some unconditional love… but I’ll skip the molestation and subjugation of women parts.”
At that point I heard a noise. It was a woman very loudly putting her coat on. I don’t know how you put a coat on loudly, but believe me, she did it.
As she walked out and I asked “What happened? Was it something I said?” and she responded at the top of her lungs, “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” You know, just like Jesus would say.
And it struck me at that moment that she didn’t really think I was going to hell. She was wishing that I were going to hell. In my mind, if she really did think I was going to hell when I died… wouldn’t she be nicer to me now???
Does she always take so much satisfaction in delivering such horrible news to strangers? Does she run up to smokers the same way? Does she get in their face and scream gleefully, “YOURE GONNA GET CANCER!! HA HA!”?
If she really and truly thought I was going to hell and was going to burn in hell for making a couple of jokes about religion, don’t you think her response would be concern?
Her outburst wasn’t concern for my soul or pity for my eternity of burning in a lake of fire. As I learned from Oprah, anger almost always masks another emotion, and that emotion is fear.
She was not angry that what I was saying was wrong and blasphemous; my comedy was agitating that part of her brain that is worried that her whole life might actually be a fraud. Unlike this woman, who has internalized other people’s thoughts and ideas on spirituality and the meaning of life, I was giving myself the permission to not only think contrary thoughts about religion, but I was also giving myself permission to say those things publicly without fear of repercussions.
Those feeling a need to publicly shout down people expressing disbelief in a higher power, or for ridiculing religion, is a manifestation of their own internal doubt about their own beliefs, and they are unable to shout them down inside their own heads, and so do it externally.
So those that do that are really immature, un-evolved, emotional children who are too scared to actually confront their own inner doubts, so they become outer assholes in a very loud, dysfunctional way.
That’s my theory, anyway. And if you don’t like it, then tell me to go to hell. Just don’t do it in the middle of my stand-up show.
Your Country Is Just Not That Into You is now available online and in bookstores.
Adapted from Your Country Is Just Not That Into You: How the Media, Wall Street, and Both Political Parties Keep on Screwing You — Even After You’ve Moved On by Jimmy Dore. Available from Running Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2014.