About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Christian intolerance, Wal-Mart and the anti-Christ
The controversial news item is that Wal-Mart and several other retailers have been selling a video game called “Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” based on the apparently popular series of novels by the same title authored by nutcases Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The goal of the game is, of course, to not be left behind, but ascend instead to Heaven and be reunited with Jesus (this all happens in an apocalyptic, after-the-Rapture, New York City – where else?).
In order to win, the “good guys” need to either convert or kill (yes, you read correctly, kill) their opponents, many of whom have Muslim-sounding names. When asked about the latter detail, Jeffrey Frichner, the President of “Left Behind Games” said that the game doesn't endorse prejudice, but, you know, “Muslims are not believers in Jesus Christ. That is so obvious.” Indeed. He added that players who battle the anti-Christ (whose character is also, interestingly, the fictional Secretary General of the United Nations) are “freedom fighters” (I wonder were he got that catchy phrase...).
Wal-Mart, meanwhile, defended its decision to stock the video games on its shelves because there is a market for them, and they are in the business of selling. Never mind that this is the same company that refused to sell Jon Stewart's “America (The Book)” (despite a huge market for it) because it may have been “offensive” to some customers. Not to mention that if economic considerations were truly the only guiding principle, Wal-Mart should be selling crack cocaine.
But what makes all of this fascinating, as I mentioned, is some reading from Dawkins' book, in particular the chapter on the so-called moral foundations of the badly mislabeled “good book.” It turns out that, if one reads the Bible carefully, not only are LaHaye and Jenkins right, but in fact they really don't go far enough! The book of Revelation in fact mentions only 144,000 slots for people to go to Heaven, as the Jehovah' Witnesses claim, and – moreover – it's clear that those slots are for Jews only (12,000 for each of the 12 original tribes), not for American Christians (or, a fortiori, Muslims). Not only that, but since Revelation specifically states that the lucky ones will be those who “did not defile themselves with women,” only virgin men (and, obviously, no women) will be let in. I wonder if this sort of information is to be found in the instructions on how to play Left Behind.
A review of the game appeared – not surprisingly – in “Plugged In,” published by that insane group known as “Focus on the Family” (as a bumper sticker popular in Colorado, where the group is headquartered, says: “Focus on your own fucking family”). The reviewer comments that this is “the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior – and use to raise some interesting questions along the way.” Yes, questions like: how will Junior feel when neither Mom (because she is a woman) nor Dad (because he defiled himself with at least one woman, namely, Mom) will join Junior in Heaven? Assuming, of course, that Junior belongs to one of the 12 tribes, and that the corresponding 12,000 slots are not already sold out.