Van Morrison – Tupelo Honey

Soltanto perché Barbelo mi fa venire in mente Tupelo. E non dimentichiamoci Jeff Noon (Tupelo è il luogo di nascita di Elvis Presley).

Qui, invece, è passato qualche anno (siamo nel 1995):

god is not Great

Hitchens, Christopher (2007). god is not Great: how religion poisons everything. New York: Twelve. 2007.

La minuscola nel titolo non è un errore: è un’espressione chiara e programmatica del punto di vista di Hitchens. Forse l’altro locus del libro in cui Hitchens chiarisce al meglio la sua posizione (nel senso tanto di stance quanto di posture) è negli Acknowledgments finali:

My old schoolfriend Michael Prest was the first person to make it plain to me that while the authorities could compel us to attend prayers, they could not force us to pray. I shall always remember his upright position while others hypocritically knelt or inclined themselves, and also the day that I decided to join him. All postures of submission and surrender should be part of our prehistory (p. 285).

Hitchens è un polemista lucido ed espressivo. Scrive in un modo molto efficace, ed è un piacere leggerlo sia nei ragionamenti argomentati e documentati, sia nelle invettive e nelle memorabili battute finali. Molte delle cose che racconta, soprattutto con riferimento alle malefatte del Cattolicesimo e più in generale del Cristianesimo, le conosciamo bene. Ma lo strutturato elenco che Hitchens ci propone lascia abbastanza impressionati comunque. Più interessante per noi è la parte in cui ci chiarisce che le cosiddette religioni orientali non sono poi migliori di quelle “del libro”.

Hitchens, come già Dawkins (per The God Delusion) e Dennett (per Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon), non è recensito favorevolmente. Come tutti questi autori hanno opportunamente sottolineato, non si può polemizzare sulla religione come su qualunque altra cosa. Il tabù opera ancora e alla religione e ai religiosi è dovuto, apparentemente, un rispetto che non è dovuto (che ne so) ai vegetariani o ai comunisti. E a chi non mostra questo rispetto – sta, appunto, in piedi senza genuflessioni – si attribuisce la colpa di essere faziosi e comunque esagerati. Tra l’altro, Hitchens ne ha per tutti, anche per le religioni ideologiche dei totalitarismi del XX secolo, e quindi si non fa troppi amici. Ma il libro merita di essere letto, anche da chi è credente o da quella maggioranza silenziosa (?!) che, pur senza credere, sostiene che le religioni “fanno del bene” o sono buoni “compagni di viaggio” verso la progressiva meta che volta per volta si propone.

Il mio pezzo preferito è il commento al Vangelo di Giuda, pubblicato da National Geographic nella primavera del 2006:

The book is chiefly spiritualistic drivel, as one might expect, but it offers a version of “events” that is fractionally more credible than the official account. For one thing, it maintains as do its partner texts that the supposed god of the “Old” Testament is the one to be avoided, a ghastly emanation from sick minds. (This makes it easy to see why it was so firmly banned and denounced: orthodox Christianity is nothing if it is not a vindication and completion of that evil story.) Judas attends the final Passover meal, as usual, but departs from the customary script. When Jesus appears to pity his other disciples for knowing so little about what is at stake, his rogue follower boldly says that he believes he knows what the difficulty is. “I know who you are and where you have come from,” he tells the leader. “You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo.” This “Barbelo” is not a god but a heavenly destination, a motherland beyond the stars. Jesus comes from this celestial realm, but is not the son of any Mosaic god. Instead, he is an avatar of Seth, the third and little-known son of Adam. He is the one who will show the Sethians the way home. Recognizing that Judas is at least a minor adept of this cult, Jesus takes him to one side and awards him the special mission of helping him shed his fleshly form and thus return heavenward. He also promises to show him the stars that will enable Judas to follow him.
Deranged science fiction though this is, it makes infinitely more sense than the everlasting curse placed on Judas for doing what somebody had to do, in this otherwise pedantically arranged chronicle of a death foretold. It also makes infinitely more sense than blaming the Jews for all eternity. For a long time, there was incandescent debate over which of the “Gospels” should be regarded as divinely inspired. Some argued for these and some for others, and many a life was horribly lost on the proposition. Nobody dared say that they were all man-inscribed long after the supposed drama was over, and the “Revelation” of Saint John seems to have squeezed into the canon because of its author’s (rather ordinary) name. But as Jorge Luis Borges put it, had the Alexandrian Gnostics won the day, some later Dante would have drawn us a hypnotically beautiful word-picture of the wonders of “Barbelo”. This concept I might choose to call “the Borges shale”: the verve and imagination needed to visualize a cross section of evolutionary branches and bushes, with the extraordinary but real possibilitiy that a different stem or line (or tune or poem) had predominated in the labyrinth. Great ceilings and steeples and hymns, he might have added, would have consecrated it, and skilled torturers would have worked for days on those who doubted the truth of Barbelo. beginning with the fingernails and working their way ingeniously toward the testicles, the vagina, the eyes, and the viscera. Nonbelief in Barbelo would, correspondingly, have been an unfalling sign that one had no morals at all (pp. 113-114).

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