We are born into darkness. Though the light of the world somewhat illuminates this thing called “existence,” that primary darkness never abates. The darkness stays with you, nestling into a nice little void within your soul. It is a foul, gnawing hole of emptiness consuming you from the inside out, forcing you to ask yourself difficult and oft-tortured questions like, “Why am I here?”, “Is there a purpose for me?”, “Why do people think Larry the Cable Guy is funny?” Many people try to fill this inner void with money, sex, drugs, power and fast cars and this really, really works. Most of us (and by “us” I mean “you”) don’t possess the means to acquire these distractions. Perhaps you weren’t born with a trust fund, have herpes, don’t care for the taste of meth or you’re a paraplegic and can’t work the clutch on a Lamborghini Diablo. If you can’t find fulfillment through sex, money and power (or as I call them, “The Holy Trinity of Self-Actualization”) then you might as well get with religion.
Religion has welcomed the poor, unattractive, compact cars drivers of the world for decades, maybe longer. Are you a fan of drugs? Religion’s got you covered. As Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people” and unlike your black tar heroin, this drug doesn’t cost money. It only costs your soul.
Now that we’ve determined you have nothing to lose, let’s go find you a religion. Being new to this stuff, you might feel like shopping around a bit. Perhaps test drive a few faiths. This is terribly time consuming and in the end you’ll only discover most major religions are basically the same, the main difference coming from your meat preferences (Like bacon? You can scratch half the religions off your list right from the start). When choosing a religion, you’ll find it’s much like shopping for a car: it really comes down to the options. Do you want a religion with power steering? How about one that’s liberal about divorce? Get a religion with heated leather seats, or one that cures AIDS and hiccups the same way, with decapitation. You could go for an eight-cylinder, sport-tuned religion or one that allows gays to marry.
Because spiritual journeys can be incredibly long and super boring, I’ve assembled a quick guide to the main ones to focus on, beginning with some quick and jaunty pros and cons.
Christianity: There’s Something about Jesus
Pro: Of all the messiahs/prophets/deities you could choose from, Jesus is arguably the prettiest. The boy is easy on the eyes, if you catch my drift. (Grrr.)
Con: Most Chinese people won’t go to Christian Heaven. Think you could spend an eternity in the afterlife without General Tso’s chicken? Do you?!
The Back story: Once upon a time there was a man. A man with a vision whom some called crazy. This man set himself on a quest to spread his message to the entire world. Throughout this quest he endured taunts, persecution, even temptation that might lead him away from his mission. That man’s name was Mel Gibson and his message was The Passion of the Christ, a movie that made the bible accessible by combining the word of God with the kind of gory, Saw-style torture porn all the kids clamor for these days. The movie told the story of a dude named Jesus who apparently also endured terrible trials to bring his message to the world. Just like Christ, Gibson was crucified for his efforts, and by “crucified” I mean he pocketed 300 million dollars. Since this Jesus character was good enough to headline a film made by the guy from Lethal Weapon 4, it’s probably worth a few minutes of our time to get to know the guy.
Jesus H. Christ was born in 0 A.D. on Christmas, which made remembering his birthday super easy. He was born to parents Mary, a well know prude, and Joseph, a failed handyman. Before marrying Joseph, Mary held a reputation around town as quite the “hot property,” just oozing with virginal purity. Oh how she used to flit about town, sidling up to boys, batting those big brown eyes, and just like that, dashing off again. This hard-to-get nature of Mary’s led the boys of Nazareth to refer to Mary as “Princess Cocktease.” Mary inspired lust and jealousy. Women wanted to be her, Men wanted to offer her father a sheep for her. Meanwhile Joseph, a burn out, was voted by his high school class “Most Likely to Be a Regular at the Blood Bank.” Though these two did not orbit in the same social circles, star-crossed circumstances (and booze) conspired to bring them together.
Every kid in Nazareth knew Tad Nebuchadnezzar threw the most off-the-hook ragers, thus everyone looked forward to the graduation bash at his house. Mary came to the party escorted by her off-and-on again boyfriend Blane Holofernes, Captain of the school Stoning team. Little did Mary know, another kind of stoner made his way to the party. Joseph, who normally stayed far away from such “Jock Rock” affairs, found himself dragged into a double date by a friend.
Early on at the party, Mary and Blane erupted into argument after Blane insisted a “hummer” wouldn’t count against her virginity. Mary slapped Blane and proceeded to get very drunk and very belligerent, hitting on every guy and vaguely masculine looking woman at the party. When someone called out to play “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” Mary pushed herself off the wall she was using to stay upright, lurched diagonally and slurred, “Yeah, anyone want to get in the closet with THIS! We’ll see who’s the virginiest of all!” In her drunken myopia, Mary tripped on her way to the closet, grabbing the nearest object on her way down. That object just happened to be Joseph and Mary hurled him, along with herself, headlong into the dark recesses of the closet. Partygoers slammed the closet shut to catcalls and a howl of “Oooooooo” rising from the peanut gallery.
Mary made a quick play for tonsil hockey but in launching herself at the silhouette of Joseph in the dark, only succeeded in diving into a pile of shoes and tossed coats. The partygoers completely forgot about Mary and Joseph and the two remained locked in the closet for the rest of the night. The whole time Joseph cared for the occasionally conscious Mary. For most hours of their internment, Mary woke briefly into states of consciousness to slug Joseph in the shoulder or vomit on him. When morning broke and a hungry party straggler mistook the closet for a pantry, the two were finally freed. Brushing her teeth, Mary realized Joseph remained a complete gentleman during their time in “heaven,” never taking advantage of her compromised virtue. Then and there Mary fell, against her better judgment, in love with Joseph.
Before Mary’s father could have Joseph castrated, the two were wed. But as a wise man once said, “The cure for love is marriage” and a malaise descended upon the newlyweds. Mary failed to tell Joseph the virginity thing came with the package, married or not. To temper his sexual frustration, Joseph took many cold showers and focused on his model airplane hobby (which mainly consisted of huffing model airplane glue). Mary harbored frustrations of her own. Remaining a paragon of unvarnished purity proved a real drag. Until, that is, Mary found a loophole: sex with deities. She could get her freak on and keep her earthly vessel clean, so to speak. Soon Mary was making the rounds with all the biggest names in transcendence. In supernatural being circles, Mary became known as a real “divinity slut.” “It doesn’t even count,” she’d tell Joseph on those nights he detected the telltale smell of brimstone and burnt goat hair on her clothes. “They don’t even have bodies.”
For all his anger, Joseph had little choice but to just take it. Now and then he’d become so infuriated over the discovery of another tryst he considered attempting revenge against the god dujour by ordering a dozen pizzas to the god’s house or leaving a flaming bag of dog poop at his door. But remembering he didn’t posses the power to wield lightening or crush entire cities with his mind, Joseph refrained from the tossing of fiery dog turds at all-mighty beings homes, knowing such action would only start a fight Joseph couldn’t possibly finish.
Things turned a good deal worse once Mary started seeing “The” God. You know, the God rappers and football players always give shout-outs to after winning Grammys and Super Bowls. Mary found something so reckless and mysterious about the guy. Like the way he would rain fire upon whole cities, smite his truest believers or tell some dude to kill his son just to mess with him. Each time God performed one of these transgressions, he just gave Mary a mischievous look, adjusted the collar of his leather jacket, flicked his cigarette and patted the seat of his hog, telling Mary to hop on. Yep, this God was a total bad boy, the kind of guy good girls like Mary fall for every time.
And, oh Lord, the sex was powerful, to say the least. Soon, though, the initial flame of passion got dampened by the big wet blanket of reality. Mary tired of God’s aloof distance. One morning after, she awoke to find an empty spot next to her in his bed. On his pillow lay a note, “Hey, good stuff last night. Had to go do a thing. Let’s grab brunch or knock over a liquor store sometime. G-” Then and there she broke it off. She needed a man who put her needs first. A man who—oh, no—Joseph! What had she done to her poor, suffering husband? She had the perfect man all along, and look how she treated him.
Mary ran all the way home, found her dear Joseph, pulled herself into him as tightly as she could and sobbed into his shoulder. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” she cried. And that’s how Mary and Joseph stayed, holding onto one another for longer than either can remember.
After that, the relationship between Mary and Joseph took an upswing. They started talking more, laughing, just enjoying each other’s company. Joseph became enraptured with his wife again, bringing home flowers and romancing her like they were teenagers once more. In return for all his affections, Mary let Joseph touch her ankle now and then. One morning, in the midst of the marital bliss, Mary woke up and vomited. She immediately sought the town’s doctor to perform a pregnancy test, which in those days consisted of collecting the blood of a dozen or so chickens, then tossing said blood into the air. Whomever the most blood landed on was deemed pregnant.
Joseph sat in the garage working on lyrics for his band, Joseph and The Lepers, when Mary approached. Joseph looked at his blood soaked wife, bit into a carrot and asked, “What’s up?” Mary looked deeply back into Joseph’s eyes and said, “We need to talk.”
Joseph took the news as well any man could. Mary asked if he wanted to leave and Joseph said, “No.” Eventually Joseph came to terms with this development, helped by consuming copious amounts of alcohol and marijuana. Mary’s baby shower proved an awkward affair as no one could figure out what you get for the son of God. In the end, they chipped in for a fondue set. The baby was born and, well, you know the rest. You don’t? Well Google it or something. What am I, Wikipedia?
Fine, here’s a quick synopsis, Jesus did some stuff, made wine, healed somebody, something about “he who lives in glass house shouldn’t throw stones.” Um, something or other about turning the other cheek (or as I call it, a game plan for losing a bar fight). Oh, I think once at dinner with friends he declared someone at the table would murder him. Unfortunately, his friends thought Jesus was throwing a Murder Mystery-themed dinner party. Blah, blah, blah some stuff about looking a gift horse in the mouth. Happy? Let’s skip to the cross.
While upon the cross, it’s is said Jesus winked at the audience and said, “Stay tuned folks.” A rapt audience watched their messiah expire. They followed him to his burial place and continued to wait. Three days later, and with only two-thirds audience retention, a rumbling came from the ground. Smoke billowed from beneath the curtains. A spotlight sparked to life over Jesus’ grave. The air erupted with the strains of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Suddenly the ground broke; Jesus flew out performing a handspring and a flip with a double twist whilst sticking the landing. “TA-DA!” Jesus cried. The audience exploded with applause and thus began Jesus’ illustrious career as an illusionist. He played all the biggest rooms: Vegas, the Catskills, Showtime at the Apollo. Jesus often performed under different stage names, oft preferring “The Great Christini.” Jesus’ career hit a high point when he made a Boeing 747 disappear on live television.
In the 1980’s Jesus got into a well-publicized feud with up-and-coming magician David Copperfield. This upstart Copperfield had more than a few tricks up his sleeve as he constantly goaded Jesus into a game of magical one-ups-manship. If Jesus levitated over the Snake River, Copperfield soared over the Grand Canyon. When Jesus transformed an attractive woman into a tiger, Copperfield took thirty Bangkok prostitutes and turned them into a pyramid of African Elephants. Finally fed up and seeking to put an end to the game, Jesus invited the press to see a once-in-a-lifetime trick that would blow Copperfield off the map.
At Lake Tahoe, before dozens of photographers, reporters and an audience filled bleacher, Jesus performed his greatest trick to date: walking on water. Ever the showman, Jesus didn’t merely walk on the water. He strode out to the middle of the lake, did a brief tap dance number, jitterbugged, even did The Robot. At one hammy moment, Jesus looked down to the near bottomless depths below, clasped his hands to his face and feigned a look of horror, as though he might drown. The crowd ate it up.
As the applause died down, one single, lone clapper continued to put his hands together. The crowd parted to find Copperfield, front and center, giving Jesus the slow clap.
“Well done, Jesus, surely a trick so magnificent could never be replicated. There is no way I could ever top that! Unless of course I performed on top the water…with the entire cast of Cats!” From seemingly nowhere, a battalion of feline costumed characters burst onto the beach and joined Copperfield on the water, launching right into the musical’s first number, “Jellicle Cats.” By the time Copperfield and company came to “Memory,” there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. When the curtain closed on his buoyant production, Copperfield called out, “How about an encore?” The audience erupted into shouts of “Yes!” “More, more!” Copperfield brought out a fresh cast and put on a full-scale production of The Phantom of the Opera, with Copperfield as the Phantom.
Jesus could watch no more. Somewhere during “Music of the Night” he quietly slipped away, never to be seen on the magic circuit again. Professional crushed, Jesus remained out of the spotlight, retreating into obscurity. Then again, some say he secretly returned to magic, performing now under the pseudonym Lance Burton.
The H. in his middle name stands for “Herbert.”
When Jesus plays the old “got your nose” trick, he actually has your nose.
His sandals have cleats.
Was known to “go commando.”
Invented the exploding fist bump.
Con: You have to drink Jesus’ blood.
Pro: The blood is wine! That dude must have been soooo tanked.
Catholicism is a gigantic entity with its presence inserted into many aspects of society. The Church gladly accepts huge handouts and treats its top brass like royalty. Basically the Catholic Church is the Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs of religion.
Pro: Bald is sexy.
Con: Richard Gere gets your email address.
Buddhism is based upon a lyrical and beauteous faith sprung from spiritual awakening and temperance. It’s a terrific option for those who want to piss off their parents.
Also to be covered:
Religion Also-Rans (Scientology, Suicide Cults)