Here’s something I recently came across.  During my working travels across the U.S awhile back, I made the following observation about religion:

The emphasis on religion in America seemed especially profound.  It appeared necessary to express a religious belief of some kind, with some kinds preferred over others.  Despite the multicultural reality of American society, accepted wisdom dictated that when it came to religion the most ‘American’ expression of the almighty was best found in traditional notions of Christianity.  Within this general concept there were many variations.  They ranged from the standard Catholic or Protestant church on Sunday routine within a well established and well endowed cathedral, all the way to snake handlers assuring you torment in the afterlife unless you forfeit your soul and your wallet.

Seem a bit harsh?  Well, witness the following conversation made in my presence between my friends, an otherwise affluent and well-educated couple I knew:

‘I’m worried’, she said.

‘What’s wrong?’ 

‘Stacey down the street told me the other day that she had found a new church.  The pastor said his church was the only true way.’

‘Did she give them money?’

‘I don’t know but the pastor said that anyone who doesn’t pray at his church will go to hell’

‘Well dear I don’t know…’

‘No, I’m really worried.  Stacey said if we don’t go our children are damned to hell.  I don’t want our children to go to hell.’

‘Ha, well no but…’

‘I think we should go this Sunday, just in case.  We need to make sure our kids don’t go to hell.  We have to go.’

‘We’ll see.’

‘We really have to go.’

I’m sure this sentiment is not confined to our southern neighbors, but this was the first time I had met this intense species of irrationality up close and personal.  In any case, I don’t recall if they went to the church on Sunday, or if they went to hell, or if their children drowned in a lake of fire.  Hell, I suppose it’s a possibility.  But I do remember they later took a trip to Disneyland.  ‘Oh waiter, check please…’