Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Popular distortions

Today's post is just a simple reflection on how society distorts perceived truths to make them more palatable, and make life easier for the individual by effectively reducing the psychological impact that it is negligible.

A simple example is the way society looks at hell. We're told that it's a dark place bad people go, but only bad people, not you. The devil is a red man with big horns and takes joy in poking you in the orange flames while twisted little black pixies laugh and giggle as they poke and torture you, and that if you do end up there from your nights of debauchery, you can just find all your damned friends and party in hell, or even take it over from the devil.

This seems to be a rather enjoyable fate when you compare the biblical definition of hell. The biblical definition is a much more frightening place, you're immersed in absolute darkness, there is absolutely no light, there is no sound, you are alone, immersed in black sulfurous heat, with no one, not even the devil to keep you company. Also, that's not even technically hell, hell is actually more of a holding room until your thrown into what is normally considered to be hell, the lake of fire.

The devil is also a much different character then what we consider him (if you'll allow me to, I will continue to refer to the standard gender definition of the devil to be male) to be, we, again, see him to be a red man with big horns who enjoys partying, encourages everything that we enjoy and is basically the guy you want to party with.

The biblical definition, is, again, different then the one we perpetuate. The bible does refer to him as satan, but there is no reference to a pitchfork, red skin or horns. In reality, the only image we have of him is before his fall from grace is really one of something in direct contradiction to the popular image of satan, in it he is considered to be radient, glorious, and the most beautiful of all of god's angels. It's not hard to imagine, if we take the christians point of view, that he has changed much, sin lives in the heart, not the skin, as they believe. And as christians believe, the devil does enjoy your partying, but not because he likes people partying, but because he knows that people who disobey god will be taken from god, and left to suffer in the lake with him, to burn in darkness and crushing solitude for eternity.

It's no wonder that we would distort such a concept. The question is, is this a good thing? Is it alright for us to distort a (perceived) truth in order to live a easier life?

If we apply this only to a religious difficulty, then we would seem to only have to worry about our immortal souls, which many don't believe in anyway, and few would argue that it makes better people. The problem is we keep using it, we used it to mock Nazi Germany both before and during the second world war, it was applied to demonize the Vietcong in the 1960's, we are still using it today, although it's no longer a state spnsored activity unlike it used to be in the 1940's, to insult and diminish Muslim individuals and practices so that we don't have to feel so bad about attacking and killing other human beings.

But the problem isn't that the methods don't work, they work spectacularly, propaganda against the third reich in world war 2 did allow the public to feel good about bombing and killing thousands of soldiers and citizens, but then it also made the German public feel good about murdering the gay, jewish and roma. It's a double sided sword, it enables us, yet it also degrades us.

Distortion, it can be argued, is necessary for a society to live. But what sort of society is absolutely required to distort it's surroundings for it to survive? It seems that after examination, it's not that there is a certain form of society, but that in order for there to be a society, we have to demonize others.

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