As science rolls on, telling us why the Sun moves across the sky, where the summertime goes and why it comes back, and all manner of celestial mysteries, the serious student of spirituality is pushed farther and farther to the extremes of human experience. The religious seeker must content herself with answering the Really Big Questions, like "Is there life after death?" or "Why do bad things happen to good people?" or "What is the meaning of life?"
But historically, those questions were never the bread and butter of our religious lives. Sure, they were always there, forming the foundations of our religions, promising to comfort us at funerals and give monks something to think about all day while they toiled. But those were not the religious questions that got us through the day. They didn't tell us when to plant the crops or when to harvest them. They didn't tell us how to make sure Summer would return after it vanished every Autumn.
Most of us never really cared about the Big Questions anyway. For most of humanity, religion was a simple, paint-by-numbers affair. You put in a quarter, you get a gumball. That's how it worked. Our ideas of morality were practically cartoons. But that's all gone now, replaced with the indifferent drone of cold, soulless science.
Could it be that millions of people who had been content to live their lives with the shallow and cartoonish ideas about the universe, robbed of the safe spaces of their mindless faith by a scientific age that only undermines the need and moral justification for religion, find themselves completely disconnected and confused, unable to function in a world where they can no longer just get away with painting by numbers? Are these Weird Times the result, at least in part, of a backlash by people who no longer have any identity, whose entire world is being continually invalidated by empirical evidence and real science? Of course, this is a truism. Our technological and social progress have so disrupted the ideological status quo of human civilization that half of us no longer feel tethered to anything. Not to common decency, not to charity, not to compassion, not to equality, not to anything. They have been set adrift, and are doing everything they can do to rebuild the world they feel they have lost.
This, I believe, is why they are immune to logic and impervious to facts. The act of following facts and logic is what got them to where they are to begin with, and they have resolved to undo that damage precisely by abandoning facts and logic. The world is too complex. There are too many variables. There are too many unseen forces outside of their control. There is too much to understand, too much history, too many words, too many different ideas, too many different people. It drives them mad. They can't think with all this progress going on. What happened to Sunday afternoons goddammit, what happened to drive in theaters, what happened to everything? It's all because of the facts and the logic and the respect, they figure. It all started with all those people who weren't satisfied like they were. The troublemakers. And now they've got to fix it, by God. They've got to Make America Great Again.
So it seems to me that trying to convince them out of that mindset can only make the problem worse. What they need is not a better understanding. They've already shown that any such understanding cannot help but to elude them. Whether they're too angry to understand, or too set in their ways, or just too dumb, it doesn't matter. They won't get it. So what will they get? What can they understand? What they need is something simple and straightforward. Something old-fashioned, familiar, and definite. A New Religion.
And what might this religion look like? It's got to be easy to recognize. It's got to draw a crowd. It has to have God in it, somewhere. It has to have a simple story that can repeat itself in the life of every believer. It has to be something they can share at the dinner table. There needs to be a struggle in it, a winner and a loser.
And I think... I think I have just the answer. It's not new -- not really -- it's based on an ancient tradition. It isn't a revolution (that's a good thing, remember). It's quick to pick up. Like all great arts, it's simple to learn but it takes a lifetime to master. It can be expressed in simple pictures and paragraphs much, much shorter than these. It's a revealed wisdom, handed down from ancient and learned generations of old. There is prayer. There is a sacrament. And it will definitely piss off the Devil. And you don't have to pay tithes!
So what is it? It's easy.
I call it the Holy Ancient Order of Punching a Goddamn Nazi in the Face.