“In missile silos from Omaha to Leningrad fingers were poised over launch buttons. American bombers were flying provocatively close to Soviet borders, Russian submarines were running threatening forays into American waters – but in Crumlin, with the threat of nuclear annihilation just hours away … Father Cullen’s only concern was a pre-emptive strike against the sins of the flesh.”
With this threat of Armageddon begins the explosively funny and utterly irreverent journey of Faithless. From 1950s Dublin to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, it charts both a personal and social history of religion’s conflict with secular thought. With deeply philosophical ponderings on triangular sandwiches, psychotic chickens, comely maidens and a partially cremated cat, Tony Philpott deftly, and hilariously, packs his luggage, heads to the departure area of doubt, and finally emerges in the godless arrivals hall of atheism.
Many will be offended, some may be perplexed, a few could develop stigmata – but all will laugh
Visit the website: http://www.faithlessthebook.com
Below is an extract from Faithless:
Christianity had always predicted dire miseries for mankind. From the time it first gained a position of power it threatened Hell on earth to those who didn’t toe the line. Unless you were without sin, unless you followed Church teachings, unless you stopped playing with your parts – then God was going to see to it that you suffered horribly.
When the Black Death came it was a godsend (well, not really). Here, at last, on the backs of brown rats, came the fulfilment of one of God’s promised retributions. Mankind was deemed to be bad, and because of this came the punishing plague. It was an almost perfect post hoc rationalisation. Only one problem: it killed cardinals just as frequently as it killed adulterers. The demonstrably pious, the visibly devout, the obediently faithful all broke out in black boils, vomited up their internal organs and lapsed into states of living decomposition with the same frequency as the murderer and the thief. This little fact was not lost on the emerging thinkers of the day. Why had Pope Clement IV – the holiest man on earth, and the one person who must surely be exempt from the wrath of God – quarantined himself at Avignon until the plague had passed? Seems like a distinct lack of faith to me.
In the aftermath of the Black Death not only was the plague’s divine origin questioned, its democratic infection of priest and pickpocket opened the door to the type of scientific enquiry that led to the Enlightenment. During the recovery from the epidemic the population of Europe had been reduced by half and labour costs rose as a consequence. Medieval prosperity blossomed as a continent-wide labour shortage meant workers could command higher wages.
When once it was profitable for the Lord of the Manor to have fifty peasants manually threshing grain, now there was an economic imperative to find methods that would reduce costs and require fewer workers to achieve the same results. Out of this imperative came the invention of the vertical mill, water-powered forges and moveable type. It was the beginning of the machine age, the beginning of the search for the true causes of disease, and it heralded an embrace of empirical thinking. Out of these embryonic thoughts and technologies came the foundational elements that spurred the advance of Western Civilisation.
Religion, however, did not then, and does not now, advance.
Forward sociological motion requires the fuel of new and challenging ideas, it requires that established beliefs be examined and critiqued. But the Catholic Church forbade any inquiry – it had a visceral mistrust of human intelligence simply because the more educated one became the more likely one was to arrive at conclusions that religion might just be all ceremony and scented smoke, a contrivance in which Papal pronouncements were just as valid as the ravings of an elk-skinned Shaman ranting to his Neanderthal congregation in a prehistoric cave. Although, it has to be said, the Pope had much nicer robes.
The Aztec priests, well versed in the post hoc thought process, had nice robes too – multi-coloured garments of exotic bird feathers guaranteed to impress the impressionable. These pre-Columbian theologians believed that the sun wouldn’t rise without tearing the living, beating heart from a sacrificial victim every day. And, true enough, the morning after they performed their daily cardiac excisions the sun rose. Cause and effect – who could doubt it?
‘Er, excuse me, Quotzapalotle – just a thought. I have a hunch the sun might rise without ripping out Axylotle’s heart here.’
‘You really think so, Popacatapetle? Well we’ve been doing it for years and it’s never failed us yet. Sounds a little close to heresy to me. Besides, we’ve a big crowd here today and everyone’s hoping for sunny weather for the match tomorrow.’
‘Yes, but I really think we might be in some kind of false cause-and-effect loop here, O Great One. No disrespect.’
‘Listen, Popacatapetle, just pass me my dagger, unless you want to be first up on the sacrificial slab tomorrow?’
In 1950s Ireland no one wanted to be next up on the slab. Writers faced the threat of excommunication, politicians risked losing their seats, and ordinary people who might have had concerns about the country being a virtual theocracy kept their mouths shut lest they face being ‘read from the pulpit’. Not exactly the same as having your heart ripped out before sunrise, but quite the fearsome prospect nonetheless.
And that fear made everyone complicit.
Our acquiescence was a delight to the hierarchy. A wise man once said, ‘You can’t oppress anyone without their permission.’ So in the Catholic power centres of Armagh and Drumcondra the theocrats could relax. A devout, accepting population didn’t just surrender – Ireland as a nation celebrated its collective submission while pridefully defining itself as a jewel in the Vatican’s crown.
While Catholic zealots knelt to receive their daily communion wafers and revelled in the restrictions placed on dancing, music and literary expression, the rest of us led unleavened lives. We had become a people with a cloying obsequiousness who collaborated in the attempted removal of all whimsy and joy. We would pay later for our myopic acquiescence – or at least our children would.
- Additional Information
Author Philpott, Tony Editor No Print Format Electronic, Paperback E-Book File Formats epub, mobi Paperback ISBN 9781908308481 Hardback ISBN No E-Book ISBN No Date of Publication October 29, 2013 Number of Pages 268 Illustrations None