Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Everybody Loves Hypocrisy

Thinking outside the box doesn't come easy for most people, and that's understandable because life is routine. We're programmed to follow the path of least resistance; our brains are trained to seek patterns. This also means we can't see when things may be different for others to whom those things aren't routine. And only when we see something through the eyes of someone else can we recognize what outside the box actually means.

The other day I watched an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond titled Prodigal Son. The biblical parable by the same name is about a son who demands his inheritance before his father dies, rather than wait for the event to actually happen. The son takes the inheritance, runs off, spends it all and then is forced to return home penniless. The word prodigal means wasteful. This is a long way about getting to my point, so forgive me for clearing my throat. 

In the episode, Raymond hates going to church, but because he feels guilty that his family (especially his father) goes every Sunday, he gives in and returns to church. And when he gets there he discovers his father actually turns church into his own little lodge gathering with his buddies, serving as ushers rather than sitting in the pews listening to sermons. His father even refers to church as "mumbo-jumbo" and Raymond actually uses the word hypocrisy, my favorite part of the episode. This is how my family thought of church when I was younger, a waste of time.

But that's not the real problem with this episode. En route to the church (on the Sunday when Raymond chooses not to go), his daughter asked her grandfather what happens to people who don't go to church, to which he replied, "They go to hell, Sweetie." 

She then goes home and is so scared by the prospect of her dad roasting in eternal hellfire that, as adolescent therapy, she draws a picture of her father in hell and shows it to him, which of course infuriates Ray when he learns it was his father who taught her this. 

Do you see what's wrong with this yet? Telling children they will burn for eternity for their sins is psychological child abuse, and telling them their daddy is going to hell for not attending a ritual every Sunday in some building bought with the tithing collected from believers is even worse. Imagine as a 5-year-old you're told your parent, whom you love and honor above all else, is going to be tortured forever, and you will too if you do anything wrong. How would you react to that?

Indoctrinating children is beyond contempt. Just because you're irrational and follow myths created by desert goat herders in a time when they thought the sun revolved around the earth doesn't mean you should force your beliefs on your children. Let them know about both sides of the coin, and do it in a way that is fair to them. And scaring them into belief should be a crime. It's no better than beating them for talking back or cussing. It may not be physical abuse, but it's certainly psychological abuse.

Because most people believe in some sort of religion and had those beliefs forced upon them as a prepubescent sponge, they watch this episode inside the box and laugh at the situations. Only when you denounce religion and its fear-laden practices can you recognize the themes in this episode are offensive. But add a studio audience, a laugh track and label it comedy and all critical thinking goes out the window.

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