Fun with Religion

Posted on July 7, 2009 by


Daniel Everett’s account of living with the Piraha had some funny ass quotes about religion. (The Piraha are popularly known as the people with no numbers.)

Though it’s always brought up in conversation and I consider myself “spiritual” (which seems to be the popular thing these days), I usually don’t care anything about religion other than when G-Carlin was cracking on it.

This time it’s the Piraha people via Everett making the cracks.

The Piraha men then asked, “Hey Dan, what does Jesus look like? Is he dark like us or light like you?”

I said, “Well, I have never actually seen him. He lived a long time ago. But I do have his words.”

“Well Dan, how do you have his words if you have never heard him or seen him?”

They then made it clear that if I had not actually seen this guy (and not in any metaphorical sense, but literally, they weren’t interested in any stories I had to tell about him. Period. (265-266)

Everett characterizes the Piraha people as “living in the moment” and reporting back only what they themselves experience. I’m kinda skeptical about a characterization like that (the same old “wise”, intelligent natives narrative but applied to the Piraha), but let’s just say it’s true. How does that reflect back on the globalized, networked, scientized, Westernly-hegemonized Christian world?

Seems like we remember and internalize more imagined happenings and meanings set over centuries by social groups. The passing of the Christian religion is the passing on of imagined meanings enforced by social groups.

But from a Piraha point of view, not immediately ensconced in that globalized, networked, scientized Christian world, those views look like nothing more than a leap of imagination.

The crosses and statues are symbols. The rituals and prayers recited are simulations. We don’t really see a Jesus except the statues, crosses, dedicated to him. We don’t hear anything he’s said, except what’s read in the scriptures. All that we know about him has been passed via word of mouth.

The author of the book, Daniel Everett, was an Evangelist whose original mission was to translate the bible for the Piraha. By the end of the book we find that his experiences had significantly altered his world view, which ultimately cost him his family.

He mentioned how the Piraha seemed quite happy doing what they were doing, living in the moment, etc. Despite not having twitter, a car, an iPhone, a TV, jobs, they lived a happy existence, which juxtaposed with the beliefs of his former religion.

You’ve gotta get em lost before you can get ’em saved. – Dr. Curtis Mitchell on Missionary work, Biola University via the Author 266

A very chilling insight, which seems kind of cult-like.

Everett makes the point that the Piraha never felt like they were missing anything from their lives, which made them less “susceptible” to believing in the need for other technologies, let alone religion.

Posted in: Notes, Uncategorized