Question How can you distinguish real holy men from charlatans?
KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre of Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, sceptics and freethinkers.
The charlatans are easy to find. They’re usually spotted on television, their names emblazoned on the marquee, or on occasion, they’ll unwittingly headline the nightly news.
Most of them are of the puffed-up hairpiece culture and tend to smile — a lot. Not a normal you or I smile, but one that is fixed in a way that must become painful.
They specialize in knocking people over — to make them feel better, of course — and sometimes they’ll scream in deaf people’s ears — because that will make their hearing improve.
They’re high-def prophets for profit, peddling holy sand from the holy land or miracle water that’ll quench a sucker’s thirst for salvation. It’s a theatre of the absurd, where the audience is pure tragic.
While these charlatans are, unfortunately, very real, holy men, by definition, are not. I have yet to meet another person whom I would describe as having “a wholeness, religious completeness or perfection.” Humans are imperfect, warts and all.
The term “holy men” is archaic, bound into the religious privilege of male power.
The phrase is an insult to the life of Isabella Baumfree, a devout Christian, born into slavery, who became a leading figure in the abolitionist movement and fought for the equality of women.
It is also an affront to the work of William Sloane Coffin, whose dedication to religion was as strong as his passion for women’s rights and who spoke against the brutality of war.
More than their religious conviction guided these two incredibly selfless mere mortals. They were driven by something that we all share regardless of what deity we pray to, if any.
It’s our universal morality based on the commonality of being human.
So if anyone ever calls themselves holy, call them a charlatan and don’t drink their water.
Charlatan Atheist Charlatan Atheist
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