On religious zeal


This man urged me to take two of his Get Out Of Hell Free cards, and to share one with someone who needs it.

I attended the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, California. We lived there for many years, and the parade is one of the highlights of the summer season.

The parade is preceded by a run that attracts a large crowd of participants, and by preachers of various stripes hawking their belief systems. Zeal is essentially a synonym for enthusiasm, and these people model that trait.

The signs announced several beliefs held by the preachers. Everyone sins. God is our only source of redemption. We are free to choose heaven or hell as our eternal destination. We must take action. We must accept Jesus in our life. The preachers have the answers we need. There is no wiggle room. All advice must be accepted at face value.

I often wonder how people choose a belief system, or call it a religion, that they accept as a set of instructions concerning their behavior. On those occasions when I have asked people about this the most frequent answer is that they accepted the religion practiced in their family.

Churches have considerable immunity when it comes to breaking their own rules. These preachers broke the rule of being humble, especially the one carrying the loudspeaker.


One of the dominant characteristics of religious fervor is that the premises are not subject to analysis. For example, when I die does my sense of my personality continue, assuming I’m aware to notice? Will I still think I’m Dan?

My current theory is that “god” is the totality of all that is. It permeates me, and I permeate it. I don’t represent god as a separate entity who is tallying my errors and my successes on a cosmic blackboard.

We may not, according to these street preachers, wonder about the foundations of belief systems. These systems are deemed fixed and permanent.

I place a great deal of significance on the art of wondering, and anyone who campaigns against it is, in my view, on a barren path.

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