A Journey Out of Religion with Stops for Light Refreshment Along the Way

by Tony Philpott

Published by The Liffey Press

“In missile silos from Omaha to Leningrad fingers were poised over launch buttons. American bombers were flying provocatively close to Soviet borders, Russian submarines were running threatening forays into American waters – but inCrumlin, with the threat of nuclear annihilation just hours away … Father Cullen’s only concern was a pre-emptive strike against the sins of the flesh.”

With this threat of Armageddon begins the explosively funny and utterly irreverent journey of "Faithless". From 1950s Dublin to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, it charts both a personal and social history of religion’s conflict with secular thought. With deeply philosophical ponderings on triangular sandwiches, psychotic chickens, comely maidens and a partially cremated cat, Tony Philpott deftly, and hilariously, packs his luggage, heads to the departure area of doubt, and finally emerges in the godless arrivals hall of atheism.

Many will be offended, some may be perplexed, a few could develop stigmata – but all will laugh.


A Journey Out of Religion with Stops for Light Refreshment Along the Way

Tony Philpott was born in 1953. Having spent 13 years writing for film and television in Canada Tony returned to his native Dublin in 2000 for the filming of his screenplay “On The Nose” which starred Dan Aykroyd and Robbie Coltrane. Several other screenplays followed, as did a commission to write for the ITV detective series “Taggart”. Faithless is his first non-fiction work.


Chapter One

Nikita Khrushchev and His Plans To Destroy Crumlin.

From my bedroom I had heard snatches of their whispered conversation; fall-out – radiation – mushroom clouds; words that had suddenly entered their vocabulary. I learned that were the missiles to fly then Crumlin would be reduced to a radioactive wasteland. With over eighty thousand people living without the most rudimentary public amenities, I knew that Crumlin was already a wasteland – only now it would glow in the dark.

Chapter Two

Comely Maidens Block Crossroads! Traffic Backed Up To The M50.

It seemed to me; even as a young child, that (The Virgin Mary’s) quick appearance in Red Square and a stern address to the Soviet Presidium would have achieved the desired result faster than you see the hope die in a pensioners eyes when the lottery-ticket scanner tells them they are not a winner. And why didn’t the Virgin go straight to Khrushchev and his senile cronies? Why not a tour – several Virginal apparitions in Volgo, Petro, Stalin and all the other grads would have had the godless communists swapping their Das Kapitals for Das Rosary Beads faster than an Irish politician takes a bribe from a developer.

Chapter Three

Religion and Science. Or Bless Me, Father, For It Was I Who Killed The Chickens.

But if it was fear that fertilised the embryonic idea of God, it remains the glue that has held an entire dogmatic edifice together for over two thousand years. But fear is only one of the rocks in religion’s foundations; the other is the idea of postponement. The belief that this world is a temporary place and that true reward can only come in the hereafter is one of the most vile concepts ever foisted upon humanity; it robs the fervent of all ambition, it absolves them of responsibility for improving their lot in the here and now, and it provides the promise of eternal pleasures to those who gird themselves in gelignite and detonate themselves among innocents.

Chapter Four

Lot’s Wife Turned Into A Pillar of Salt – Says She Hasn’t Looked Back Since.

Lot’s Wife Turned Into A Pillar of Salt – Says She Hasn’t Looked Back Since. God, you see, wants total perfection. Nothing less will do. The fact that as your creator he has imbued you with a myriad imperfections doesn’t cost him a thought. Lot’s wife was turned into a condiment for merely exhibiting curiosity by looking back at the brimstoned Sodom– and as if having his missus being turned into a pillar of salt wasn’t enough, God allows poor Lot to be incestuously raped by his two daughters as he lay drunk in a cave later that day. And poor Moses! What did he do to be condemned to wandering the desert for 40 years with thousands of Jewish refugees in tow; all of whom might just be wondering whether the bloke at the front of the pack had lost his marbles or his compass?

Chapter Five

Would You Like a Nettle Pillow to Go With That Bed Of Thorns?

Would You Like a Nettle Pillow to Go With That Bed Of Thorns? Religions seem to love the idea of human suffering. As I write, a North American Indian woman, Kateri Tekakwitha, has been elevated to sainthood. Her claim to fame; the first rung on her ladder to beatification, was the fact that she regularly put burning coals between her toes right before wailing herself to sleep on a bed of thorns. You just couldn’t make this stuff up.
Must have been fun trying to get some sleep in the Tekakwitha wigwam at night.
‘Night, mom, ‘night, Dad!
Don’t forget to brush your teeth before going to sleep, Kateri!
Sure, Mum! Right after I pop these red-hot coals between my toes.
Can you skip the agonised wails for one night? Your Dad has an early start fighting General Custer tomorrow!

Chapter Six

The One True Faith. Or My Religion Is More Peaceful Than Your Religion And If You Don’t Believe It I’ll Cut Your Throat.

The revealed religions started as modest little enterprises. A cluster of adherents; a few downtrodden unfortunates, each sharing beliefs that were invariably frowned upon by whatever oppressive overlord happened to be doing the oppressing at the time. In the formative years of monotheism the Babylonians oppressed the Jews, later the Jews oppressed the Samaritans. The Romans oppressed the Christians and then, after a successful merger with Constantine’s legions, the Christians got on with oppressing pretty much everyone else.

Chapter Seven

The Joy of Sex. Or Viagra Falls is Not A River In Rome.

Celibacy is a perversion. Reproduction is the defining act of all human beings. Sending our compliment of chromosomes into the next generation is what every living thing is here for; the very continuity of the human race depends on it. Nature has attached a specific and intense pleasure to the sexual act for a reason –it wants us to pursue it, it wants us to engage in it, it wants us to enjoy it. But, despite nature’s imperative we, as socially evolved creatures, don’t go around mounting each other whenever the urge takes us; society would collapse and spontaneous sexual engagements would make queuing at the ATM an even more protracted affair.

Chapter Eight.

Why Does Religion Exist? Or The More The Merrier.

Our ancestors were only intelligent within the context of their extant environment. They were indeed aware of the effects of the natural world, but they couldn’t possibly comprehend the mechanics. There were enormous gaps in their understanding of the world – and those gaps they filled with the superstition. What was inexplicable to them was rendered explicable with the concept of a cause, or causes, outside their extremely limited understanding of the dynamics of the natural world, ergo, the supernatural. And within the supernatural dwell the gods.

Chapter Nine

Religion and Women. Or On The Eight Day, God Created Shopping.

Unlike her successor, Eve, Lilith was not made from Adam’s rib. She was made from clay in exactly the same way as her husband was. Her job description, as given to her by God, was to submit to Adam and be “under him”. But she had no sooner morphed into existence when she told God “ I will not be below, I will not lie beneath him – I am as him; made too from clay.” God, not used to being spoken to like this, became angry. Lilith, however, didn’t give a toss; she just flew away and joined a hoard of screaming female demons. And that’s how we have Feminists.

Chapter Ten

Protestants. Triangular Sandwiches and Nice Gardens.

“Does God really hate Protestants, Dad?” I asked.
“Ah, no, son. God doesn’t hate Protestants – you’re confusing them with the English.”
English. Protestant. In the Irish mind-set of the 50’s these two words were inextricably linked. Our murderously long collective memory still wraps itself around our oppression by the English like an oyster wraps its flesh around an irritant and turns it into a valuable pearl. And make no mistake, the pearl of English misdeeds is indeed valuable, we have burnished it into a cherished thing that defines us; the oppressed, brave, starved Irish – it gave us a kind of pitiable equity on the world stage; it gave us permission to sing maudlin songs, to drown our sorrows in liquor and to vomit in litter bins on the way home from the pub

Chapter Eleven

Pilgrim Fathers Arrive In America – Hemlines and IQs Drop.

The influence of the fundamentalist vote in getting former President, George Bush Junior, elected cannot be overestimated. Having become a born-again Christian with the help of evangelist Billy Graham, Bush was well placed to exploit his new-found affinities with the folks of Bible Belt America, but it was only when Republican power brokers scouting for new talent spotted him coming second in a shoe-lace tying competition that real power came into his grasp. After that, all the Republicans had to do was shove a ventriloquist’s control pole up his arse and have him mouth God - Country - Jesus, and Family Values often enough, then simply wait for conservative Christians to flock to his side in throngs. And the flockers came.

Chapter Twelve

A Funeral For Squinter.

When children feel guilt it overwhelms their emotional perspectives. Guilt enlarges the consequences of whatever event initiated it, and in a child a tiny misdeed becomes an enlarged offence. For a child the old canard that misbehaviour makes Baby Jesus cry can be a profoundly disturbing thought. At least it was for me. Even though I was no more rambunctious than the average Dublin street-kid I always had the feeling that my particular disobedience made Baby Jesus cry not just for longer but loud enough to keep his mam and dad awake all night.

Chapter Thirteen

The Big Bang – A Cosmic Detonation. Or Someone Left The Gas On.

You’re not allowed to punch students. Much as I searched the university charter, teachers were granted no such dispensation. This woman in my view was gullible, naive and smug in her ignorance. But I listened, nodding in the appropriate places as she waxed from Wiccan power circles to Yogic levitation, from Ayurvedic healing to channeling the wisdom of the recently deceased. In expressing her attachment to this kaleidoscope of New Age beliefs she spoke with nothing but absolutesincerity. Hers was an unalloyed and heartfelt embrace of a belief system that sounded like it was cobbled from the Karma Sutra and an aromatherapy brochure she got in the Body Shop. She was currently paying for regressive-memory therapy to determine who she had been in many of her former lives. I could have saved her some money – it had become obvious to me that she had once been an omelette in the court of Louis XXVI.

Chapter Fourteen

A Shilling, A Priest, And The Crumlin Branch of The Witches of Eastwick.

In the bar men sat on stools and licked creamy white Guinness moustaches from their upper lips as they scrutinized the list of horses in the Racing chronicle. My mother, and her gaggle of acquaintances, usually sat in one of the semi-circular booths in a back lounge reserved for ladies. My father disapproved of course – he once remarked that all that was missing from her gathering of female friends was a cauldron. But mild-mannered man that he was – he never allowed his disapproval to rise above a gentle simmer. He knew better.

Chapter Fifteen

Eateth Not Of The Beans For They Shall Bring Havoc To The Bowels Of Men. From St Paul’s Epistle To The Flatulants.

The ESB form asked the usual questions, education, age etc. It also had a section requiring applicants to list club memberships, referees and hobbies. I knew that within weeks of completing this form I would be on my way to seven years of eight hour days snipping wires for four pounds a week until I could qualify as a sparks. I could not allow this to happen. In the space on the form reserved for listing hobbies: I wrote “Vomiting on the elderly”.

Chapter Sixteen

Library Of Alexandria Burned Down – Unexplained Scorch Marks On Pope’s Hat.

In a series of Christian sponsored arson attacks, the entire (Alexandrian Library) was burned to the ground. Seen as a great Christian victory over the pagans, scientific literature was carbonized, the great treatises on disease and medicine we reduced to ashes. Some said Pope Theopholousordered the burning when a stickler of a librarian wouldn’t let him take out “Illustrated Guide To Lesbians Doing It On Mykonos” because he hadn’t paid overdue fees for “The Wobbly Breasted Women Of Sumatra”. But be that as it may, it was not the only conflagration to befall the library.

Chapter Seventeen

Origin of The Species Explained!
Origin Of the McNultys Still A Mystery.

But why did the same Church, who derived the entirety of its ethos from parables, epistles and epithets that screamed the value of charity, become a crushing force incapable of permitting liberty of thought? Surely the granting of freedom of thought should acknowledge the concept of free will, if so, then the granting of intellectual freedom is an act of charity, and an act that might indeed have come from an earlier Church had it not grown to become a protectionist, paralysed theocracy terrified of even the slightest challenge.

Chapter Eighteen

There’ll Be No Church Bells – But There Will be Decibels.

Like every living thing on Earth, the atoms from which I am formed were first made within the detonations of stars. It’s a nice thought – it connects us to the entirety of the Universe and it connects us all, molecule by molecule, to each other and to every living thing. I share DNA with dung beetles – I share amino acids with meteorites. I am nothing other than molecules. I don’t have a soul.

And that’s why I am going to die screaming.

Don’t be in the hospital bed next to me – you won’t get a wink. When I die, I will go howling into nowhere and nothingness – my consciousness cannot extend itself beyond my corporeal body.