For me, ever since my first stay at Tinos in August 1964 [see my French-language web page], I've always recalled today's Christian feast day through its name in Demotic Greek. They simply refer to this hallowed day as the 15th August (phonetically, to thekapende ahvgusto), as if no fitting words could be found to refer to the marvels that once took place at this date. Indeed, this feast day celebrates a totally crazy alleged happening. The mother of Jesus suddenly drifted up into the clouds, like a hot-air balloon, and disappeared forever. The terms used in English to designate this event are somewhat comical. The Roman church uses the word Assumption, as if believers are expected to assume that things happened as described. The Orthodox church uses the word Dormition, which sounds like an official term for "lights out" in a school dormitory.
Apparently, at Lourdes this morning, 30,000 pilgrims attended a mass celebrated conjointly by 200 priests. Last Saturday, at that same place, the theatrical director Robert Hossein staged a holy play, A Woman Named Mary, for an audience of 25,000.
In another corner of south-west France, the Dalai Lama has arrived in Toulouse for a three-day visit, and thousands of people have booked seats at his seminars on "the stages of meditation" and "the art of happiness".
In the USA, religion has been getting a lot of publicity these days through a disturbing clone of George W Bush: the Republican governor of Texas Rick Perry.
He's the loony who once isued an official proclamation summoning the citizens of his drought-ridden state to pray for rain. More recently, this same nincompoop—who could theoretically become the next US president—organized a prayer day intended to shepherd the American nation out of its financial crisis.
Islam, when it seeks to right wrongs, resorts to harsher methods than prayer. In the charming Provençal town of Miramas (which I visited, a year ago, with Christine), a devout Muslim wasn't happy with a 17-year-old member of his family who was not respecting the fast of Ramadan. So, the young fellow was thrashed and then tied up… until his screaming caused neighbors to call the police and fire brigade.
Now, the funny thing is that, behind these various religious manifestations, it's hard to imagine the presence and guiding force of a single god. On the surface, it would seem that every religious body on the planet must surely believe in the existence of its own unique god. And clearly, this situation is ridiculous.
The truth is considerably simpler: there are no gods whatsoever, not a single fucking god anywhere in the Cosmos! In other words, all the above-mentioned folk (to whom we must add Jews, Mormons, Pastafarians, etc) believe in magic stuff and fairytale things that simply do not exist. Today, every lucidly intelligent individual knows perfectly well that all religions are total bullshit!
Now, if you've got a spare moment, and you want to see what a hundred renowned intellectuals (from all walks of life) think about religions, I invite you to watch these two amazing and inspiring videos from the Richard Dawkins Foundation:
— 50 famous academics and scientists talk about god
— another 50 renowned academics speaking about god
And here's a third collection of reactions:
— similar video, from Canada, with lots of ordinary folk