Chapter 11 – Religion is Like a Penis…
Following a rather uneventful Toy Story evening during which I took my buzz “to infinity and beyond” then went out looking for a chick to play with my woody, Osh and I rose early the next day and boarded a bus to the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Surrounded by relatively flat land, the Batu Caves are located within a monstrous limestone structure that pops out the ground like a swollen bloody zit on that MILF, Mother Earth’s naturally beautiful face. The exterior of this protruding geological formation is covered by all types of tropical flora, namely a hefty amount of some mossy-looking bullshit that resembled gigantic pieces of broccoli.
The Batu Caves serve as one of the world’s most popular Hindu shrines outside India. Standing before the entrance to this pilgrimage site, armed with a spear and looking coldly into the distance is a golden, 140-foot-tall statue of deity Lord Murugan. Murugan serves as the Hindu patron of Tamil land and takes the form of a shirtless beast with an Arnold build that’d have no problem subduing any punk-bitch evil spirits and bouncing their good-for-nothin’ asses from the realm of the Batu Caves.
Ominously lurking behind Goldmember is a steep flight of 272 stairs that I’m sure even Tony Hawk himself couldn’t grind down the handrail of. Aside from scaling the entire mound and spelunking in from one of the holes at the top or any outrageous scenario involving a jet-pack or an airplane and parachutes, taking it step-by-step is the only way to get inside the caves.
Along the slippery edges of the moss-laden staircase, a few Westerners stepped aside and snapped pictures, capturing the muscular contours of Lord Murugan’s V-shaped back and tight, Sweatin’ to the Oldies style buns. Meanwhile, thieving groups of macaque used the hand railings to sneak up and steal food from these unsuspecting photographers. Not at all interested in filling memory cards with images of a deity they came to worship, crowds of almsgivers weaved around the tourists and the monkeys and continued to move forward. Several groups of old winded Hindu broads decked out in different colored saris and with Bindis intact often ran outta gas and sputtered to a stop every twenty stairs or so to regain their composure, but ultimately never faltered in their determination to make it to the top.
The sensory experience inside the caves had been like the manifestation of a scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Torch light flickered and chants echoed from around corners we couldn’t see as bats fluttered between ten-ton stalactites that hung posing the threat of imminent death. The smoke of incense billowed from numerous altars and dispersed in the damp cavernous air. All the while, the two white boys from Midwestern America stood at a total loss for ritual etiquette. I was struggling to figure out whether or not it was taboo to be taking as many pictures as I had been. I can’t recall the last time that any strangely dressed foreigners came into St. Juliana Church and started snapping action shots of Father Phil dishing out Communion, but then again I haven’t been to Mass in years.
Not long after our arrival to Batu, three dark-skinned dudes wearing different colored sarongs around their waists had caught my attention. Blinged out around the neck with homemade jewelry swag and all carrying metallic jugs over their heads, the almsgivers were shirtless, shoeless and covered in white ash from head to toe. One of the men also donned a fresh-ass fanny pack which I assume is an accessory that has played an integral role in the Hindu religion since the beginning of time. Any move they made, they were followed around by a young man in jeans and a collared tangerine shirt who carried a handheld saucer of fire.
Deep into the cave, about a half-hour later, I once again spotted these same men near a large, elevated, Weber-grill-sized saucer of fire with a small crowd formed around them. As they continued to chant, the two subservient devotees sidled and held up the apparently more important third man in the same manner which trainers help a player with a sprained ankle off the football field. During this time, laypeople reached into a basin beneath the flames, grabbed handfuls of fresh ash then slapped it on the shirtless dudes’ bellies and faces like a group of white teenagers who “antique” each other for kicks.
“Oh my God, how barbaric?” cried my deep-seeded Catholic side upon seeing all this unfold. “How can brown guys smearing ash on each other’s half-naked bodies possibly be considered part of a religion?”
“Can the symbolism behind what they’re doing honestly be any more barbaric than ritualistically eating ‘the body and blood of Jesus Christ’ every Sunday?” retorted my pompous, logical inner-bastard.
“Well, that’s totally different because Jesus is our Savior and…”
“Blah, blah, blah…that’s all I hear when you talk.”
“Hey pal, why don’t you just suck it.”
“No, you suck it…”
“No, you suck it…”
And my internal conflict goes on like this. The way I was raised and the way I naturally think jive together about as well as the words “ice pick” and “dildo” do as synonyms in a thesaurus. Even though I find myself saying an “Apollo Creed” or two to bore me into a coma when I have trouble sleeping, I ain’t big on religion and never have been since the earth-shattering day I found out Santa wasn’t real. After that, it all seemed made up – the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, eternal salvation, God.
Now, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend that I, a dude whose favorite conversational topics range from shit and piss to farts and fucking, have any of the answers regarding the mysteries of the universe. The bottom line is that I don’t know what’s out there and most likely never will. Accordingly, I find that going out of my way to blindly invest faith in something which boasts zero proof of existence to be a total waste of time and energy as well as a dangerous distraction from – not to mention a leading cause of – many of the world’s most terrible problems.
When it comes to the outlook of believers and non-believers, there’s a fine line between being faithfully dutiful and being off your rocker. There is no right or wrong religion. Different strokes for different folks – that’s all there is to it. Just because I ain’t the biggest fan of organized religion, by no means do I have any right to – nor would I ever – impose my way of thinking on anybody else. For example, just because I think it’s weird to consider the slicing of an 8-day-old’s penis to be an essential part of a covenant between God and man doesn’t mean it’s wrong for Jews to do if that’s what they truly believe in. You could spend your time and energy worshipping the great panda in the sky for all I care. I don’t give a shit. What you do shouldn’t and won’t concern me unless you’re molesting altar boys, waging holy war, denying gays and women equal rights, carrying out Jihads or ringing my doorbell telling me what I should believe in. In those cases, you’ve taken your faith and your spirituality and made it everyone’s fucking problem.
The clearest and most concise way I’ve ever seen this concept summed up is as follows: “Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one. It’s fine to be proud of it. But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around and PLEASE don’t try to shove it down our children’s throats.”
Photos from the Batu Caves…