My recent article about South America contained a passage that was critical of religion. Some of my religious readers may have thought: “Well, that’s the atheist exaggerating again.”
But in no way and never do I exaggerate.
To underline my point, all I had to do was to leave the house on Saturday afternoon. I had already endured three hours of singing, drumming, dancing and trumpeting, but the procession passing by just wouldn’t stop.
The Easter march was in full swing. In the few minutes alone which I dared to place myself in the stream of people apparently possessed by the devil, thousands of people clad in white where whizzing past me.
In the three hours before, there must have been tens of thousands. I mention this because after reading the following descriptions of a few of the absurdities I witnessed, some will want to assuage: “But that’s only a small minority.” No, it is not.
The hats said “Cristo viene pronto“, “Jesus will come soon”.
Theologians among my readers sometimes criticize me for using a rather simple image of God and prayer, which is then easy to criticize. Well, what am I supposed to do when millions of devout Christians (and their pastors!) believe in and preach exactly that simple image?
But let the Christians speak for themselves.
This gentleman expresses his gratitude because Jesus paid off his debts of 7000 dollars and gave him a car. He also proclaims publicly that his whole family is looking forward to the “glorious rapture of Jesus”. He did however misspell “rapto“, giving further credence to my argument that education and religiosity don’t go together well.
Whether the other people in the crowd were disappointed that Jesus hadn’t given them a car too, I couldn’t find out, for the ladies, gentlemen and children were just shouting “Jesus lives” and “Jesus is coming soon” all the time.
This lady thanks Jesus for having operated her head and for being fine now.
The next lady remains similarly vague, but in addition to migraine recounts rheumatism, stomach pain and a messed-up family, all of which God put in order.
That claim I found rather fabricated. After all, stomachache is often cured by a night of sleep, coca tea, Coca Cola, a cigar or the evacuation of the bowels. Unfortunately, constipation in the brain cannot be removed that easily.
This gentlemen thanks Jesus because his spine is in order again, which was oddly incongruent with his vehicle of choice. But logic was not widespread that day.
If you don’t know more than I used to know, you also stumbled across the term “rapture” above. As far as I understood, this is an act by which God and/or Jesus rips people from their lives and transports them to heaven. Physically. Apparently, this is connected to the fact that Jesus is coming soon.
I was handed a pamphlet with the headline “WARNING!!!”, according to which Jesus, “the king of kings” will come soon. It also asked me whether I was prepared for that.
For those who are, like me, totally unprepared for this heavenly event, there are further instructions on the back which are “URGENT!!!”.
It further says that “millions of people will soon disappear from the face of the Earth” and that this process has been going on since June 2015. Since then “many paranormal things are happening and the Lord has prophesied to many people that Jesus will come soon”. As a non-local, I also found the information helpful that this would “not only happen in La Paz, not even only in Bolivia, but in the whole world”.
The eerie thing is that there are indeed a lot of people disappearing in Bolivia, but that’s not what the Christians mean. Instead, they point to lame people who can walk, blind who can see, cured terminal illnesses, those liberated from “dirty spirits” as well as “restored homes”. Then they draw our attention to the church-owned TV and radio stations. (Thanks to the donors from overseas who think they are supporting an orphanage.)
But at the end of the pamphlet, even the Bolivian Christians prove that they have the Bolivian sense of humor. “NOTE: We do not know on what day and at what time the rapture will take place.” Not that Bolivians would be punctual, even if they knew the exact rapture hour.
Talking about humor, there was one odd guy in the sea of millions of people in Klan colors.
People praying and screaming themselves into a trance, all of them in white, proclaiming that they are ready for God removing them from this Earth as soon as possible remind me of ISIS and other jihadists. Maybe it’s the lack of jihadism in South America that makes Christians fill this void.
In the evening, all of them got together for an Easter show in front of the cathedral that was so crazy that it gave me the creeps.