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Black Nazarene, Black Opium

As the dust settles from another year of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, we again hear numerous reports of stampedes and injuries. Just shy of 1000 people were injured during the feast.

The feast is characterized by literally millions of devotees (largely comprised of children dragged along by relatives, the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, and the poor) moving along with an over 400 year-old statue of Jesus throughout the streets of the city of Manila. As in the tradition that St. Veronica (derived from the Latin for “true image”) wiped Jesus’ face as he marched to his execution, true believers scrimmage to wipe white cloths on the statue. The devotees shuffle and push against each other just to get a touch of the Black Nazarene wooden idol, which is believed to have magical powers of wish-granting.

Millions, particularly the poor, skip out on work (which likely earns them barely enough for a living) in the hope that the statue will turn their fortunes around. Of course, they are only met by rains and crushing stampedes. We can, naturally, expect at least some of the devotees to have a lucky day. It is practically certain that at least one of the poor and sick people marching in the streets of Manila will enjoy a significant cash windfall or be healed of a serious affliction—just by random chance. In fact, if none of the 3 million reported attendees had at least a marginally interesting anecdote of supposed providence, then something would be quite peculiar about the Feast of the Black Nazarene worthy of deeper investigation.

The familiarity of the Jesus story has anesthetized us from what is at the heart of the ritual. Millions of men, women, and children are parading around with a wooden statue of a bloodied victim of torture, capital punishment, and God-sanctioned human sacrifice. The Black Nazarene is an ironic pornographic celebration of violence—the overt violence of the past and the more subtle violence of the present.

The media attention to this event is huge, as expected for any congregation drawing millions. However, it is quite disgusting how society has made a spectacle of the poverty, ignorance, and anguish. And though, like the Feast of the Black Nazarene, the supposed terror threat appears to have been based on zero intelligence, the broadsheets praised not the fact that the threat was not plausible and celebrations were able to commence safely, but that the devotees ignored the warnings regardless of credibility. (In fact, some devotees relished the prospect of mass murder as an opportunity to test their faith.)

It is taken as a badge of honor that the devotees suffered for 22 hours—from the mild discomfort of crowding and walking barefoot to the intolerable pain of being trampled—in a desperate appeal for things to change for the better, if only they could get to touch an old block of wood. Stories such as those of the man with a disability, unable to walk on his two legs, are elevated as exemplars of faith and worthy of emulation. Suffering is glamorized as a bargaining chip, in exchange for which, God will grant them respite from the day-to-day torment of poverty and illness. Life on earth is reduced to a theological economy that runs on agony.

There is an often misquoted observation by Karl Marx that “religion is the opiate of the masses” or some other paraphrasing. The quotation in context reads: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Marx was not merely comparing the addictive and reason-diminishing qualities of the drug to religion. He was pointing out that religion is an illustration of despair from those whom state and society have failed. It is the imaginary relief for those who have been prevented access to real consolation.

Those who flock to briefly brush against the Black Nazarene are those whom our society has forced to take solace from fictitious sources. That we celebrate and glorify the misery and debasement of our fellow human beings—whether in the form of one Jesus Christ or three million of his devotees—is vile.

Image credit: GMA News Online

Posted in Religion, SocietyComments (14)

Just My Remarks on Pastor Orlaer’s Comments (Part 3)

We are now on Part 3 of my comments and I’m now going to tackle some of Pastor Vince’s issues using the Christian Bible.

Suffering (A Question on Job’s Theodicy)

There was this site that Pastor Vince recommended that we Freethinkers should read regarding why good people suffer.

After reading it, I noticed that it is quite typical for Christians to use the Book of Job to explain this theological dilemma. The Book of Job seems to be a good case in point why God allows good people to suffer…or does it?

Unfortunately to Pastor Vince and Bro. Tom, the Book of Job fell short in accomplishing such task.

In the first chapter of the said book, we find that Satan has tempted God in an issue regarding Job and his faith. Well…well…well…I thought God cannot be tempted? Now, in the first part of the test, God killed Job’s family…that I think is Test No. 1.

I thought God was omniscient? God perfectly and eternally knows all things which can be known, past, present, and future. So why did he need to give a test to Job? Surely he did not need to test Job’s faith because He already knew the entire outcome.

Why would God kill the herdsmen, the shepherds, the camel care-takers and Jobs’ sons and daughters? What did they do to deserve being killed? Job was the subject of the test, wasn’t he? These other people had their own lives and families.

Christians will quickly answer this by saying that since God gave us life, he has the right to take it back from us. Really? Is that a moral thing to do? If I gave someone something…like a gift, or blood…could I just demand to take it back? Are Christians telling me that God is such an “Indian giver”…there’s always a string attached to his gifts?

What is shocking on the Book of Job is that the whole story is really not about Job’s fidelity. Nope…the so-called test was not about Job nor his faith; it’s about a conversation between God and Satan. God was just proving to Satan that he was right, so he allowed Satan to inflict harm to Job and his family. Good grief!

Somewhere in the middle of the story, Job was allowed to see God and to ask the reason for his suffering. But instead of giving a clear answer, what this braggart (that Pastor Vince called “God”) did was to boast his inflated ego all over the pages of the book…Wow! Talk about a bigheaded son of a bitch!

So why would I worship such a jerk?

According to Bro. Tom, people suffer because of these five reasons: Adam’s sin, other people’s sin, our own sin, satanic oppression, and God’s chastening hand.


Now why am I being punished for Adam’s sin? After all he and his wife were the ones who ate the “apple”, not me. (Note Deuteronomy 24:16 says: The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.)

Why would God harm others for the sin of someone else? Why would God send famine and pestilence to kill innocent children to punish other people?

Why would God send storms or flood to some impoverished community in Bangladesh to punish a sinner living in a large penthouse in Beverly Hills, California?

Oh, and now we must blame Satan? Based on Job’s story Satan needed to get God’s approval first before he could make any damage, right? So why blame the “Yes Man”? It was God’s call, not Satan’s.

So just like these pastors, theologians and parishioners, both Pastor Vince and Bro. Tom are still struggling to find the answer to their own question and by using the Book of Job, the issue on “why do good people suffer” became more problematic than ever.

Who’s Right?

Pastor Vince: Yes, the Bible will be contradicting itself my friend espcially if the one interpreting the Scriptures interprets it all literally and as is without understanding the Bible itself.

I will not explain more of the Bible since it will be a one BIG GIANT topic to discuss. But I can assure you that most if not all of the passages quoted by the article you cited are simply a bunch of misinterpretations.

Who’s making a bunch of misinterpretations?

Ah…the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit, eh?

Pastor Vince, if I will put you in a police lineup, together with the Roman Catholics, the Mormons, the ADD, the INC and the Pentecostals, all of you guys will claim that you are “right” and everybody else is wrong. All of you are claiming certain knowledge on theological or biblical hermeneutical background.

Just an illustration: Let us look at your Matthew 16:17.
Your interpretation here is that it is telling us that faith is enough to be in heaven…Let me refresh your memory:

Biblical teaching from Ephesians 2:8-10 says:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Matt 16:17; Eph 1:19;
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. Rom 3:27; Col 1:29;
10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
To summarize this:
Grace (Coming from God) + Faith (coming from man) = Salvation
Totally different from what Catholic Church teaches:
Grace + Faith + Works = Salvation.

Roman Catholics interpret this differently. For them this is proof that Peter was the first Pope. According to the notes on the New American Bible, “[13-20] The Marcan confession of Jesus as Messiah, made by Peter as spokesman for the other disciples (Mark 8:27-29; cf also Luke 9:18-20), was modified significantly here. The confession was of Jesus both as Messiah and as Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). Jesus’ response, drawn principally from material peculiar to Matthew, attributed the confession to a divine revelation granted to Peter alone (Matthew 16:17) making him the rock on which Jesus would build his church (Matthew 16:18) and the disciple whose authority in the church on earth would be confirmed in heaven, i.e., by God (Matthew 16:19)”.

Beside, the Bible also justifies faith with works. Jesus says that we need to do certain actions before we can be in heaven (see: Mt 5:16; Mt 13:3-9; Mt 16:27; Mt 25:34-36; Mark 10:17-25). You should also read James 3:14-26). Based on these passages, Roman Catholics can justify Grace + Faith + Works = Salvation.

Let’s face it: Christians interpret the Bible to fit their agenda. Martin Luther (1483-1541) created Sola fide to free him on his guilt so he could find inner peace. That is why most evangelical Christians teach the same doctrine…it all boils down to Martin Luther…to the Protestant Reformation.

There is really no truth in these so-called “Bible interpretations”. It’s not interpretation but rather justifications of a certain denomination’s doctrine.

Posted in ReligionComments (2)