Sunday, October 25, 2009


I have always found religious rituals somewhat bizarre. The bar mitzvah – Now there's an interesting tradition. "Today, you are a man. Yesterday, you got in trouble for giving someone a wedgie in gym class, but today you're a man. If a 20-year-old woman tried to have sex with you she'd get arrested, but you're a man." I guess when the custom first started people only lived to about 35, so 13 was a grown-up. You got toilet-trained, threw spitballs, had wet dreams, tried drugs, got married, had kids, found a gray hair in your crotch and died.

The bar mitzvah's kind of like a one-man show. You've got your props, the Torah and shofar, which is made out of a ram's horn (and when you're talking about 13-year-old boys, any kind of "horn" is apropos). Your relatives are stagehands; they hop on and off stage to help with the props. This is to make sure no one dozes off for too long. "Wake up Grandpa, it's your turn to unwrap the Torah." The kid stands up on stage and recites prayers for two hours. As long as he's up there, why not have him tell some jokes? "A priest, a rabbi and a nun were sitting in a boat..." The kid sings in a foreign language, kind of like an opera in Hebrew. As long as he has to sing, why not do some tunes from Fiddler on the Roof? Or maybe a Barbara Streisand number. Why does religion have to be so serious, anyway? Have fun with it. Priests should all wear big red clown noses. You go to church, have a few laughs, you get a balloon animal on the way out.

I give Catholics a lot of credit. How do they keep track of all those saints? How do they decide who becomes a saint? I guess if you suffer enough, you can be a saint. In that case, all Jews should be saints, since we're good at suffering. Suffering's our thing. Yeah, Saint Goldfarb, patron saint of PMS. I think they should have a patron saint of hospital food. Saint Barf.

By the way, what does it really mean to take the Lord's name in vain? You stand in front of the mirror and go, "Goddamn, I'm good-looking."

Religion does have its good points. The lure of heaven is certainly tempting. Heaven is like the prize dangling there at the end of the endurance contest. You enter the contest, you jump over all these hurdles, and if you don't kill anyone along the way you get the prize.

But it's a mystery prize. No one really knows what the prize is. What if it turns out to be like those holiday gifts from your aunt, like bunny slippers? Can you pretend to like it? Sure, you can fool your aunt, but if there is a God of some sort, he or she is probably less gullible.

Some people say whatever you want heaven to be, that's what it is for you. My idea of heaven would be the men I wanted to sleep with but couldn't, all lined up next to a six-foot-tall hot fudge sundae. Now that's heaven.

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