Death and suffering can’t matter nearly as I think they do. Since they are so common my taking them seriously must mean that I am insane. I must try to be Saber.Kurt Vonnegut in Palm Sunday
by Kurt Vonnegut
Palm Sunday is a collection of some interesting essays by Kurt Vonnegut that I would recommend to any one as summer, winter or whatever season reading. They are full of humour and every once in a while something to make you think. One of the essays is titled religion and I want to just share some passages that I found to be quite good.
His uncle Clemens, he tells us wrote
whoever entertains liberal views and chooses a consort that is captured by superstition risks his happiness
and I think this is true for both men and women.
The portion I liked best is this farewell from the same uncle addressed to friends and opponents & to next of kin present to deliver his body to the earth
Do not mourn! I have now arrived at the end of the course of life, as you will eventually arrive at your. I am at rest and nothing will ever disturb my deep slumber.
I am disturbed by no worries, no grief, no fear, no wishes, no passions, no pains, no reproaches from others. All is infinitely well with me.
I departed from life with loving, affectionate feelings for mankind; and I admonish you: Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally, and if they would contribute mutually to each others’ welfare.
This world is not a vale of sorrows if you will recognize discriminatingly what is truly excellent in it; and if you will avail yourself of it for mutual happiness ad well being. Therefore, let us explain as possible, and particularly at the departure from life, that we base our faith on firm foundations, on Truth for putting into action our ideas which do not depend on fables and ideas which science has long ago proven as false.
We also wish knowledge, goodness, sympathy, mercy, wisdom, justice and truthfulness. We also strive for and venerate all of those attributes from which the fantasy of man has created a God. We also strive for the virtues of temperance, industriousness, friendship, and peace. We believe in pure ideas based on truth and justice.
Therefore, however, we do not believe, cannot believe, that a thinking being existed for millions and millions of years, and eventually and finally out of nothing – through a word- created this world, or rather this earth with its firmament, its sun and moon and stars.
We cannot believe that this being formed a human being from clay and breathed into it an immortal soul, and then allowed this human being to procreate millions, and then delivered them all into unspeakable misery, wretchedness and pain for all eternity. Nor can we believe that the descendants of one or two human beings will inevitably become sinners; nor do we believe that through the criminal executions of an innocent one may we be redeemed.
Quoting Bertrand Russell famous declaration that in case he met god, he would say to him, “Sir, you did not give us enough information” that he would, “All the same, Sir, I’m not persuaded that we did the best we could with the information we had. Toward the end there, anyway, we had tons of information.”
On the White House prayer breakfasts (and now we have our own version of national prayer days) he writes the
lethal ingredient in those breakfasts wasn’t prayer. It was a virulent new strain of hypocrisy which did everyone in.
And I agree with him when he writes
I don’t think anybody ever dreaded hell as much as most of us dread the contempt of our fellow men.
To end this already long post, I will add one last thing, about community. He says if you are going to be a leader with a mission to help us find an amazing future, then you should consider helping us find an intelligent and imaginative way back to some of the more humane and comforting institutions of the past. Say extended families for example. He argues the nuclear family doesn’t provide nearly enough companionship.
So, my friends, go and be lonesome no more.
Happy weekend everyone.
and while we are still here, I hope no one who reads this blog also believes in this
In his book Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut wrote that American freedoms will disappear, as all freedoms disappear when men start to believe in lofty ideas such as divine and natural laws. Only human laws- constitutions- offer a bulwark against despots and I think he was right.
He said of adherents of natural law that it made the belief that the African is only fit for menial tasks and is inferior to his white companion allowing even Jefferson to have slaves of his own.
Seeing as the religious groups have so much influence in the US government, protections offered by human laws will get eroded over time and soon there will be nothing to stand on.
Maybe it is time to take a stand for human laws
America has produced humorists, literary giants and all and I think Kurt Vonnegut must be included in that pantheon. In A man without a country, he writes
I don’t know if there are men on the moon, but if there are, they must be using the earth as their lunatic asylum.
He continues to write
We are killing this planet as a life support system with the poisons  and practically nobody cares. I think the planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of us with AIDS and new strains of flu and tuberculosis and so on. I think the planet should get rid of us.
But it is the epitaph that I find most beautiful
The good Earth- we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy.