No, what worries me is the mental calibre of the people who subscribe to this particular belief system, and want to enforce it on the general population (good and wholesome as it undoubtedly is).
When I was a young feller, a few mates and I would irregularly attend the gospel services of the Assemblies of God church in Hamilton, Newcastle. We did this for one of the following reasons:
1. We were interested in discovering the answers to the "big" questions of life, as all inquisitive young men of that age are.
2. We were intrigued by the goings-on there, including the propensity of various and sundry parishioners to participate in the mesmeric, ullulate practice of "speaking in tongues".
3. We were impressed by the lucid explanations afforded us as to the origins of life on earth, and the simultaneous logical rejection of the evil called "evolution".
4. There were young chicks who went to this church who we considered to be eminently fuckable.
I'm fairly sure you can guess which one of these criteria took the biscuit.
Well, by this stage of my life, I was pretty confident that I knew absolutely everything there was to know; after all, I was sixteen, right? So, with the confidence that only extremely large doses of testosterone can give you, I became good at making my opinions known in an absolutely unmistakeable way. One of the things I knew for sure was that religion was bullshit. The Billy Graham crusade in 1967 had been an epiphany for me; apart from getting hold of a couple of mammalian protuberances for the first time (see below), it had taught me that snake-oil merchants had not gone extinct just after the garden of Eden episode. Billy was one of them - a guy who later went on to say that his best friends were Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr; so while Reagan was murdering Niceraguans, Billy was in the kitchen of the White House making iced tea and praying that his mate would get over the line in the 1984 elections.
Fueled up on testosterone and skepticism, my mates and I invaded the Assemblies of God. One Sunday night was a "special" night - the minister of the church had advertised that he was going to "refute the atheistic doctrine of evolution and reveal God's truth". I knew this because my spy in the church, a girl who I'd gone out with once or twice, and whose parents were raving pentecostal nut-jobs, showed me the newsletter this minister would put out once a week advertising churchy-type goings-on. This was 1969; the Moon landing had just occurred, and my mates and I were filled with a kind of righteous, evangelical pride in science and everything scientific. This latest buffoonery needed to be opposed, was going to be opposed, so help me Werner von Braun! We laid our plans.
The evening in question came about, and three mates and I, dressed in paisley shirts, coats, very thin black ties, black denim jeans and Beatle boots (fashion being intelligent in those days), disposed ourselves quietly about the church hall. The only problem that might discombobulate our plans was that one of the mates, Chris, had spent the afternoon at a friend's place invading the absent parents' liquor cabinet. He'd polished off half a bottle of creme de menthe, and, apart from smelling like a cross between a doctor's surgery and a lolly-shop, was having trouble co-ordinating the vestibular system and the perambulatory cortex. For the layman, this means he was fucking legless. We managed to get him into a seat, and whispered sternly to him to keep his trap shut. An old lady, one of the grande dames of the congregation, came in shortly after and sat down beside him. The rest of us were freaking - if Chris did anything stupid, then all our plans were laid waste.
Now, it was a practice of this church to indulge in the pastime of "speaking in tongues", or glossolalia, to use the medical term. This was an event I'd witnessed a couple of times, and one that had filled me with a morbid curiosity. In this church, being "filled with the spirit" meant that a parishioner would rise to his (or more usually her - go figure, atheist girls) feet, and begin to vocalise in a quasi - speech pattern way. they'd hold their hands up in the air and start to intone things like this: Ahmakalinda davra karmakarmakarmachameleon, and so-on, for a couple of minutes, with a look of ecstatic concentration on their faces, and their eyes shut tight. It was very amusing, but also intriguing, because another member of the congregation would always get up and profess to be able to interpret the message from the said afflicted glossolalialist. Are you thinking what I'm thinking, dear reader?
This lunacy was too good to resist.
After the initial prayers, and a hymn from Sankey's Sacred Songbook, where we all got up to sing a ragged version of "Nearer My God to Thee", it was time for the pastor to let loose on the evils of evolution. He was a little guy about five-feet four, thirty-five or so years old, who had a mouth that was as dynamic as the words that came out of it were cretinous. He was a vapid moron with intense glassy eyes who frolicked around the stage yelling one inanity after another. I'd seen him in action a few times before, and already hated him with a passion.
"Friends," the drongo began, "today I want to tell you a story. It's one of the most beautiful stories in all of history, and one of the most terrible. It tells us of the Eden we all may have had if we had just followed the command of God. But one fine day, the mother of all mankind disobeyed our Lord, and since then we have been in the bond of SIN! AND EVIL! AND WICKEDNESS!"
The staccato volley of high-volume terrors was obviously designed to wake up any member of the congregation who might have thought that a late-afternoon doze could have been the order of the day. He continued in this vein for a while, reminding us of the power of sin over our lives, and the incredible burden of Christ's sacrifice. It was making me feel queazy, and I looked over at Chris, whose face was beginning to take on the hue of the liqueur he'd been unwisely quaffing all afternoon.
"And so, friends, we come to the greatest evil ever devised by a man. The evils of Hitler, Goebbels, Stalin and Kruschev have nothing on the evil this man perpetrated on the world. CHARLES DARWIN WAS THE SON OF SATAN HIMSELF!"
It was time to act. As planned, I rose from my seat, put my hands above my head, closed my eyes, raised my head towards the ceiling and began to call out in a very loud voice "Delam arkel oprodin balesque i todanti felkurn condrit a chenba lal entwokan!"
I started to rock backwards and forwards while I continued uttering completely ridiculous noises. I opened my eyes, and saw the entire congregation staring at me, transfixed. The pastor, too, had been stopped dead in his tracks, and was eyeballing me with a look of utter consternation.
The trouble for them was that they were in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, I had disrupted the pastor's sermon, but, on the other, I was having a moment of rapture which was regarded by this church as being a gift from god. They could hardly shut me up, now, could they?
At this moment mate number one, Colin, jumped out of his seat and began to jitterbug across the front of the church, bellowing unintelligibly in a succession of wild howls. To make things worse, mate number two, John, came over to me, put his hands on my head (I was still doing the cosmic rumba), and began to yell at the top of his voice "MY BROTHERS, MY FRIEND HAS A MESSAGE FROM THE LORD JESUS HIMSELF - PASTOR WHITTICOMB IS THE DEVIL'S AGENT ON EARTH. BE NOT BEHOLDEN TO THIS MAN - HE IS LEADING HIS FLOCK DOWN THE PATHWAY TO ETERNAL TORMENT. CHRIST SAYS IT IS SO: EVOLUTION IS TRUE, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT!"
He didn't get a chance to say anything more, because, at this moment, mate number three, Chris, got staggeringly to his feet, but instead of carrying out his part of the choreography, turned to his right and, loudly and copiously, vomited all over the matron sitting next to him. She was covered in green slime (with carrots!), and let out a scream of outrage and anguish.
"Oooh, fuck!", I thought to myself. Sure enough, five or six fairly big blokes, who had sussed that things were not quite kosher, grabbed hold of the lot of us and gave us the biggest bum's rush, straight down the aisle and out the front doors, then proceeded to give us a good old-fashioned evangelical hiding on the street in front of the church.
We finally managed to tear ourselves away. Even Chris seemed to have been a bit sobered up by several blows to the head, because he was running faster than anybody. The thugs gave up the chase, and we ran, trailing blood from several open wounds, into a nearby park, where we all collapsed under a tree. We checked our wounds, which were really only superficial, except that I had a great big shiner that made my girlfriend avoid me for the next week or so. Sitting under that tree, one of us began to chuckle. Before long, the four of us were rolling on the ground hooting and braying with undisguised joy. Good had been done, and plenty of it!
The following Friday evening, the Assemblies of God church in Hamilton was burned to the ground. Police reports confirmed that the cause was arson.
I prefer to believe that it was an Act of God.