eleven things tagged “religion”

Under the Banner of Heaven (2022) IMDb B+

Disturbing fictionalization of a real-life tragedy (cached). Based on a book by Jon Krakauer. Andrew Garfield is simply excellent as a devout Mormon, dogged detective, and patriarch (“priesthood holder”) of his family.

Features some quick lessons in the History of the LDS which was not very flattering to the Church. Characters say “I’ve had a revelation” a lot before proceeding to perform all manner of shitty deeds. It’s a meditation over common-sense and rationality, spiritual doubt and loss, and the unbridled power that most religions impress into the hands of men by upholding and sanctifying patriarchy.

Each episode would start with one of the beautiful title cards I’ve seen for a show:

Title Card for Under the Banner of Heaven with exquisite typography

Kali

Drawing of Kali from 1900 at a Museum in Baltimore

Unknown artist, circa 1800

The terrifying goddess Kali, wearing a necklace of skulls and holding a severed head in one of her hands, is worshiped here by other gods. From the left, we see Indra, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver), and Shiva (the destroyer). Kali is associated with violence and sexuality; she stands for the forces of destruction, but she is also a life-giver. Her posture is that of a woman giving birth.

Kali as the Supreme Deity”, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Not gonna lie: Her head reminded me of the Dust Bunnies in Spirited Away 🙏

On Old Gods

In the succession of religions, there are only so many ways the old gods can end up. They can fade away, in which case they are lost to us for good; they can be held up to scorn as pagan demons who persisted in their old, evil ways; or they can be recruited into the new faith as its servants and defenders.

[…] This pattern of subjugation and conversion had already occurred during the rise of Buddhism in India with the Vedic gods and demons (the deva and the asura). Indra, the storm god of the warriors, became Sakra, who piously requested teachings from the Buddha. Brahman, the creator god, turned into a defender of the Law. Lesser deities too resurfaced in new roles. The nymph-like yaksi came to decorate the gates of the stupas at Sanchi, and heavenly nymphs became angelic musicians, scattering flowers in the air (they remained scantily dressed, as fertility deities should). Satyr-like yaksas ran errands for Yama, the old moon god who now supervised the Buddhist hells, and so on. Their fate is not unlike that of the gods of Old Europe. Those who did not fade away ended up either as denizens of hell or as saints in the Christian calendar.

[…] This is not an uncommon fate for the old chthonic gods. In India an equally insatiable “Face of Glory” is stationed outside temples, supposedly to scare away the evil spirits. In Rome, the griffin was the guardian of the sarcophagus (which means “meat-eater”). In medieval Europe, gargoyles likewise crouched watchful on eaves. In Egypt, Anubis the Jackal – Dog-Man by another name – witnessed the weighing of souls. In Buddhism, Mara the Devil holds samsara in his jaws. In Tang China, a pair of life-size hounds with human heads (and sometimes single horns) stood guard near the dead.

Whalen Lai, "From Protean Ape to Handsome Saint: The Monkey King, Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1994), pp. 29-65

Portrait of Hotto Enmyo Kokushi

Portrait of Hotto Enmyo Kokushi

This beautiful piece was sculpted in Japan around the 13th century and is about three feet tall. The subject is a Zen Buddhist monk Shinchi Kakushin, who lived till the ripe old age of 95. After his death, he was given the title “perfectly awakened national teacher of the Dharma lamp” which is what “Hotto Enmyo Kokushi” means.

It’s at the Cleveland Museum of art. More info here.

The Unborn

“The unborn” are a convenient group of people to advocate for. They never make demands of you; they are morally uncomplicated, unlike the incarcerated, addicted, or the chronically poor; they don’t resent your condescension or complain that you are not politically correct; unlike widows, they don’t ask you to question patriarchy; unlike orphans, they don’t need money, education, or childcare; unlike aliens, they don’t bring all that racial, cultural, and religious baggage that you dislike; they allow you to feel good about yourself without any work at creating or maintaining relationships; and when they are born, you can forget about them, because they cease to be unborn. It’s almost as if, by being born, they have died to you. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, or privilege, without re-imagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

Prisoners? Immigrants? The sick? The poor? Widows? Orphans? All the groups that are specifically mentioned in the Bible? They all get thrown under the bus for the unborn.

Dave Barnhardt, Methodist pastor

and

They’re all in favor of the unborn. They will do anything for the unborn. But once you’re born, you’re on your own. Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that, they don’t want to know about you. They don’t want to hear from you. No nothing. No neonatal care, no day care, no head start, no school lunch, no food stamps, no welfare, no nothing. If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.

– George Carlin, Back in Town

The Convicted Love Charger

Al Jazeera on godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh:

This is insane:

Chauhan: One day the Guru summoned a meeting of his closest male devotees. There were about 400 to 500 people. He said “We are going to remove your virility. After that, your mind isn’t going to wander. You’ll come closer to God.”

Narrator: Chauhan says he didn’t understand that the Guru was talking about castration.

[. . .]

Chauhan: Guru had put a lot of property under the names of castrated devotees. He knew that we would never get married or have children. When we died, we would leave the property here and he would put his name on our Power of Attorney.

The charlatan is responsible for the most horrifying song I’ve ever seen:

There’s a book by an investigative journalist on the whole sordid enterprise.