I may be away, but I don’t forget about my religious horrors. This week, I’ll look at the crazies out there that willingly allow other believers to pound nails through their hands and feet in an annual festival of religious fanaticism. Yes, I’m talking about the fervent Filipino Christians who choose, apparently of their own free will, to endure pain and physical disfigurement in order to be closer to their imaginary savior.
This is very commonplace in the Philippines, where the nation’s Catholic community is mixed with a bizarre series of folk superstitions. Even though the Church has tried to end the practice for years, a dozen or so people across the country are hung on crosses for a few minutes during Good Friday celebrations.
“We do not judge and condemn, but we discourage it,” Archbishop Jose Palma, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said of last year’s event. Why the hell don’t you condemn it? If it’s something you don’t want them to do, how can you not condemn it? That makes no sense.
The faithful refuse to allow outsiders to take part in their celebration after an Australian comic was nailed to a cross under an assumed name a few years ago and a Japanese tourist tried to be crucified nearly 20 years ago as part of a porn film. They have allowed outsiders to film the celebration, but have stepped in to strongly discourage anyone from getting too close.
Now certainly, these displays don’t kill anyone, they don’t even cause any lasting injury, some of the participants have been doing this annually for decades and are often back on their feet within an hour of being taken down off their cross. However, we are still talking about beliefs which encourage people to practice, to paraphrase George Carlin, self-mutilation as an attention-getter. That, in and of itself, is disturbing. It is religion overriding humanity’s natural drive to avoid injury and it does so for no good reason. If fanatical religious belief can drive a person to have spikes impaled through their body, how much farther is it to the Muslim craziness of strapping a bomb to your torso and blowing yourself to kingdom come for Allah?
And you say religion doesn’t harm anyone? Even when the physical harm is minimal, the potential emotional and mental harm is staggering and scary.