Welcome to the ULC Minister's Network

Julie-Anne Buslewicz

Very radical food for thought from the words of eccentric musician


              I want to make it clear that Ben if you read on is not particularly agreeing with Metal Band Slayers Lyrics on " God Hates us all". It seems he is speaking from the religious Heirarchy and things the more rigid beleifs at least have taught us to fear, so much so that it turns to hate. So much death in this world comes from Holy War attacks and Terrorism revolved around their beleifs. Personally I am extremely liberal, I have much to learn but still beleive in God and would not denounce Him, however so much Secular religion, Rigid Heirarchy, and fear of losing ones soul, is solely creating more harm than good. Love and respect towarrds mankind seems to weigh heavily on this subject.

            As always Ben Folds radical thought may be hard to read to some or understand his true meaning........but I find it an interesting question he is ultimately asking.

    Some media can react instantly to events. The TV networks yank their premieres, power up their crisis centers, and switch to twenty-four-hour recapitulation of what is never, even this time, twenty-four hours' worth of news. Most other entertainment media have lag-time to deal with. Thus the intense surrealism, after the attacks, that they figured into every page of the newspaper, ads and content alike, except for the comics, where in the midst of the biggest American news story in half a century, Doonesbury was left still complaining about TV networks obsessing over a missing intern. Any movie with terrorist and/or urban-disaster elements will be deferred, with the bizarre result that when they finally do come out they'll probably be competing with dramatizations of the same real events they're trying to avoid resembling. A few imminent albums will be hastily tweaked. A couple may even be recalled and revised. But most of the ones that were already out, are already out, and if coincidence has rendered them poignant or excruciating or irrelevant in ways their authors couldn't have anticipated, so be it. Slayer does not negotiate with terrorists.
    And never mind the disaster movies, any sane list of the ostensibly harmless things scheduled for 11 September 2001 that ought to have been retracted and rethought would begin with God Hates Us All, the new Slayer album. I don't think "ironic" is quite the right word, nor is it entirely accurate to say we didn't believe Slayer were serious before, but there was always a tacit understanding that their songs were portraits of possible attitudes, or examinations of what it might be like to believe horrible things, or somehow removed, at least one level, from their literal texts. This saving conceit always turned out to be more than a little difficult to sustain when I really scrutinized their songs, but I managed.
    This time, it's impossible. God Hates Us All is the sickening, horrifying, unmistakable collective embodiment of every nihilistic, self-righteous, closed-minded hatred on the planet. There's no point in taking this album back and redoing any of it to be "cognizant" of the terrorist attacks the day it came out, it's already about every impulse that could have produced them. If the coming conflict really does turn out to be a radical Islamic jihad against the equally self-convinced retaliatory forces of Western "freedom", then nearly every song on this record could be a crazed diatribe from either perspective, or from three or four even uglier ones yet to emerge. It is an album of blind, unreasoning, intolerant rage. If Slayer have any regrets, listening to it again in what they now know will be its context, I have a feeling they're that terrorism is only explicitly cited once, that they didn't think to piss on a Koran while they were itemizing corrupt holy books, and that any number of momentary instrumental breaks in these songs could have been improved by having "Holy Fucking War!!!" screamed over them. Even according to the criteria by which Slayer albums are usually evaluated, this is probably their new masterpiece. It is far more bracing, musically, than many faster or doomier records, and Tom Araya's howling vocals seem to me to be at least an order of magnitude more menacing than the now-standard death-metal genre growl. The songs skid along the edges of dementia and emotional melt-down, and their succession is gruesomely relentless and remorselessly undifferentiated. This is what it sounds like inside a Bosch nightmare. This is what it feels like to listen to somebody chewing their own arm off because they don't have any other blunt object handy to beat you to a pulp with, except that every time they gnaw through the last sinew and you think the asylum of bludgeoned unconsciousness is near, a track ends, the mangled arm is miraculously reattached, and they start chewing again. Splatter-comic rap-metal is moot, Marilyn Manson effete, the worst punk merely petulant, the nastiest gangsta-rap gravely outclassed. And if the intent of this record is to disentangle the animus of violence from the knot of our motivations, rip it out and hold it up, dripping viscera, so we can see exactly what evil lurks inside of us, then for me it transcends Slayer's corpus and may stand as one of the most successful works of art ever executed in music, as compelling and convincing a rendition of hatred as Runrig's Amazing Things is of awe. I'm sure some significant amount of this reading depends on my existing exposure and openness to grim speed metal, so I'm not claiming this music has pan-cultural resonance (nor does Runrig's, for that matter), or that it wouldn't simply bore you. Would I have come to the same judgment, myself, if I'd heard it earlier in the summer, some calm Thursday evening after a victorious softball game, planet-consuming hatred far from my mind? Who knows, time no longer rewinds that way. It came out the day of the attacks, and I heard it a week later, when I finally got back to a record store, and now to me it constitutes the most elemental possible reaction to the events. You've almost certainly spent more than fifteen dollars and forty-three minutes absorbing alternate perspectives on recent events, already, and this one is more important than most of them. You should hear it.
    Because although never in my most exhaustion-addled dreams would I have expected to cite a Slayer album for revealing socio-critical insight, I've come to the terrifying conclusion that this album represents the single most cogent assessment of the state of the world, the source of its pain, and the nature of the only solution. As of the early morning hours, 27 September, we still don't know who planned and executed these attacks, nor why, but religion has become the medium of discourse for the responses, and it's incalculably difficult to imagine that it wasn't an integral part of the hijackers' willingness to die. They must have thought an afterlife awaited them. Except in isolated moments of disorganized panic, which carefully choreographed plane hijackings are assuredly not, you do not kill people, against every fundamental civil and religious stricture, unless you believe that the ultimate authority to which you are accountable for your actions transcends all mortal rules. You do not consciously commit abominations on this earth unless you believe there is a higher context in which they are justified. "What if there is no God, would you think the fucking same? / Wasting your life in a leap of blind faith?", Kerry King asks in "Disciple". This is a loophole in moral reasoning that we can no longer afford. Religion is not just a primitive phenomenon, and a primitive crutch, it is a primitive luxury. We cannot occupy a planet together unless we agree to be accountable for our actions and decisions here. We cannot live together unless we agree on a set of mortal laws for which there is no higher appeal. This is the unpleasantly credible point of "God hates us all": religion is destroying us. Or, phrased the other way, religion is the last thing with the power to prevent us from saving ourselves.
    So here is what I'm sure will be a wildly unpopular thought experiment. Stipulate that historically every major world religion has been the agent and/or victim of massive human injustice. Stipulate temporarily that the motivation for these recent terrorist attacks was exclusionary militant-fringe Islamic ideology. Stipulate that if this last thing is true, and we're not ready to pack people into colony ships and send them elsewhere, then there will be no lasting solution short of eradicating an entire culture (which in theory could be done through conversion, but in practice will be attempted with bombs). Now ask yourself this question: would you renounce your god if it were necessary for world peace? I don't mean just stop going to church, and I don't mean only if your church espouses exemptions to "thou shalt not kill". And I don't mean would you say you'd relinquished your beliefs, and for the purposes of this experiment I don't care whether this is a practical solution on a global level. This is a personal question for you to pose to yourself: If we were to conclude, collectively and reluctantly, that Slayer and I are right, that God hates us and we can only survive without him, would you and could you utterly cast him out of your heart? For atheists, agnostics and borderline believers of some of the less bureaucratic religions, this may not be a very big deal, but I'm fully aware of the potential enormity of the question for much of the planet. If you believe that there is an infinite afterlife that consists of either bliss or torment, based on an evaluation, after your death, of your adherence to religious laws that are not subject to mortal adjustment, then I am asking you whether you are willing to jeopardize eternity by living the rest of your life, and raising every subsequent generation, in the complete absence of your religion and its guidelines, no matter how beneficent they seem, obeying only a human moral code that centers all responsibility and accountability in what you believe to be a transient physical world. Don't assume you know what this code would consist of; if we accept the burden of ultimate accountability, we may reach different conclusions on some issues than the positions we currently think of as "secular", and we will probably make some rules for our collective benefit that contradict your own personal moral imperatives. And don't even think about caviling for exceptions. "Keeping kosher doesn't lead to killing people", somebody will quickly object. But the social mechanism of keeping kosher amounts to prominent exclusionism, and the rules involved are a glaring example, taught to children at an age when their parameters for moral reasoning are still being established, of arbitrary doctrine that cannot be justified in any rational manner. The same goes for every other incidental religious prohibition, from blasphemy to idolatry to contraception. If this brutal hypothesis is true, then every remnant of these belief systems is socially toxic, a seed of division and distrust. So I ask again: Are you willing, if in fact we can find no other solution, to live strictly by mortal laws and trust that at your final judgment, if there is one after all, your penalty points for arbitrary doctrinal transgressions will be more than canceled out by your having participated in salvaging an imperiled human species? Unless you can say yes, and believe it, believe that your soul can be entrusted to the crazy people around you on the train, or in the buildings you walk past, or in countries you only see on television, then how can you possibly expect a jihad to stop? Unless you can stand up to your god, you whose god probably doesn't even ask you for that much, and whom you probably think doesn't hate you, then how can anybody? And if we cannot take responsibility for our own lives, all of us, then how can we expect to keep them?
                  -Ben Folds