My baby sister (she was in her thirties and had two kids of her own, but she’ll always be my little sis) died a few years ago of one of those sudden, massive infections—the kind of unexpected reminder of bacterial dominance that killed Jim Henson. When I attended the funeral, I was reminded of another lower life form that afflicts humanity: the minister was an ecstatic Jesus freak who, rather than talking about the young woman we’d lost, or trying to give words of reassurance to a grieving family, instead tried to turn the affair into a revival meeting, asking people to TESTIFY FOR JESUS!!! and otherwise making her superstition the center of attention, rather than Lisa and loss. It galled me no end, as you might guess, and if it weren’t for my respect for members of my family I would have grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and thrown her into the street.
Maybe I should have anyway. Goddamn all preachers, pastors, and priests.
My anger was rekindled by Ken Ham’s “eulogy” for Steve Irwin. The sanctimonious prat uses it as an excuse to babble rationalizations for his religion, throw a little fear at readers to proselytize for his false promises, and use death as a threat. He doesn’t come right out and say it, but the implications he makes are clear. Irwin wasn’t a creationist. Ham knows that people tried to reach out to him with creationist literature. For all his wealth and popularity, Irwin died—and you will too. Repent or burn in hell for all eternity. We’re left to guess where Steve Irwin is right now…except you’d better accept Jesus or you’ll end up in the same place.
Ham is a vile little man, but his sentiments reflect standard Christian tropes. The promises and fears of an afterlife are used to herd the flock into the approved norms of behavior—norms that include respect for and gratuities to the shepherd, naturally—and death becomes an opportunity for reinforcing ‘spiritual’ authority rather than a time for reflection and appreciation. They don’t even use it as a reason to emphasize the importance of living well—death is a reason to waste your time in worship of a phantasm.
The life and death of Steve Irwin reminds us of mortality and enthusiasm and danger and passion. The life of Ken Ham reminds us of how low and despicable and worthless our lives can be if we let religion leech our minds away. Just remind yourself that someday death will whisk Ham away, too, and all he’ll leave is a legacy of lies.
Speaking of insensitive jerks, I’ve been told that Scott Adams also did a little corpse-spitting, had second thoughts, and deleted the entry. The episode has been archived, though.