Easter: I’d Rather Be a Lion.

Hi and Happy Easter! I wanted to post something really quick for my friends stuck in church today and sneaking off to look at blogs.

There’s a neat Italian saying: It’s better to live for one day as a lion than for a hundred years as a lamb.

Sheep in Ireland

Sheep on a Hill, Ireland. (Source: ccharmon, Flickr. CC license.)

I was thinking of that not long ago when I ran into yet another of those really tiresome Christian glurge sites chirping merrily about how wonderful it is to be a sheep, oh how happy he is to be a sheep, oh how wonderful it is to be a sheep. The cartoonist points out that in his religion, Christians are often referred to as sheep and their god as a shepherd:

The Bible doesn’t call us brave lions. . . The Bible calls us sheep. Sheep are not the smartest specimens in the animal kingdom. Sheep have been known to follow each other off cliffs by the hundreds, and chase each other around in circles until they keel over. They’re helpless. Defenseless. They have no survival skills. They’re completely dependent on their shepherd for everything from food to protection.

That’s not 100% true, but forget it, he’s rollin’. He goes on to say that yes, it’s quite true that he’d fit all of those descriptions if “left to himself,” but goes on to say that he’s got a shepherd who keeps him from all of those horrible fates. He ends by saying, “I happily acknowledge being totally dependent on the Good Shepherd.”

I’ve got to ask:

Has anybody actually ever told this guy why shepherds tend sheep?

Does he seriously think that shepherds keep sheep as pets or something?

Does he not understand what a sheep’s fate is? Or what its life is like, even if it’s got a shepherd?

Sheep are pushed around every day of their lives and bred to be docile and compliant by generations of selective breeding by shepherds whose main interest and focus is improving their flocks and making money off the sheep.

Lambs are either kept to grow up to eventually be bred to make more lambs, or they are slaughtered for lamb chops and roasts. Adult sheep exist to be fleeced for the benefit of their owners whether they’re kept for breeding or meat, and then slaughtered for mutton when their usefulness is over.

So this cartoonist is happily acknowledging being totally dependent on a master who is looking to fleece him and then kill him for food.

I have no words for how beyond-grisly that is to me, how grotesque. I never did like all that lamb and shepherd bullshit; even as a teenager when I saw all the glurge paintings of Jesus wandering around with a lamb across his shoulders, I wondered if people thought he was rescuing lambs just for the sake of doing it. It wasn’t just out of love, I’ll tell you that.

I just got finished reading a very good book about a shepherd–just in time for Easter!–and came away with a real respect for the work these folks do. The love this guy had for his flocks, and his diligent care in tending them even at risk to his own life at times, shone through in spades! But in the end, it was about fleece and meat and improving the flock. He wasn’t sentimental about it. One scene involved how shepherds re-home orphaned lambs to ewes that had lost their own lambs in birth: shepherds in his area skin the dead lamb, put the little jacket on the orphan, and then put the orphan with the ewe, who smells “her” lamb on the orphan and eventually accepts the little fella. That is absolutely shocking to me–the idea of skinning a newly-deceased baby lamb like that is bad enough, but then to dress another newborn lamb in its skin?!? I almost felt sick reading that. But that’s how they save the lives of orphaned lambs. That’s how they stop another death from occurring.

That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about shepherds. It’s not a glamorous life; it’s not sentimental or misty-eyed. And as time marches on, shepherds are having to get more and more creative about how they market themselves to the next generation and how they market their product. To consumers. Who will consume the sheep.

This cartoonist–and a great many other Christians besides–seriously doesn’t understand that if they view themselves as sheep, they are saying they are meat to be eaten, profit to be fleeced, and alive only to chew grass and grow fat and breed at their owner’s command. They live to benefit their master, and have no other purpose in life.

But in Christians’ opinion, I’m the one who, as a non-believer, has no appreciation of the value of life and no purpose in life, who drifts rudderless through my sad and dreary days, who eats and drinks and makes merry without consideration of the horrific torture awaiting me.

No no, Christians imply, it’s much much better to go through one’s days eating and shitting and sleeping like an animal whenever told, to go where one is told, to do what one is told, to be fleeced whenever one’s master desires profit, to be mated when and to whom the shepherd wants, and to eventually be slaughtered and eaten when one’s usefulness is done. And through it all, through all that control, through all that directed tedium, through all that forced mating, through all that day-in day-out boredom of eating and shitting and sleeping for no purpose whatsoever but to make meat and fleece and babies for the shepherd, Christians not only don’t object to it all but praise their master for making available this life for them.

The more we think about what it means to be a sheep under the care of a shepherd, the more it ought to repel and repulse us to even vaguely consider adopting that lifestyle.

No, thanks. Until someone comes up with a legitimate reason to take anything in this religion seriously, I’ll be my own person. I’ll decide where I go, what I eat, when I have sex and with whom, and what purpose my life will have. If someone wants to harm me or fleece me, they’ll have a fight on their hands. And I will not end my days, however many I have left, proud of having been a herd animal fattened for the slaughter for someone else’s benefit.

It’s better to live one day as a free and independent creature than a hundred years as Christians think best.


“I Just Wanna Be a Sheep.” (Youtube link). She sure doesn’t want to be a Canaanite! And one can imagine why, though it’s strange that the song doesn’t quite mention the full ramifications of that slaughter perpetrated by their god’s chosen people. Also: Are Christians actually teaching little kids about the slaughter of the Canaanites?


Related:
“He’s Not a Zombie. Or a Lich.” — A lot of atheist memes claim that the gospels’ account of Jesus makes him a zombie or a lich or something, but last Easter, after diligent study, I can conclusively tell you that he is actually neither of those.

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About Captain Cassidy

I blog over at Roll to Disbelieve about religion, culture, cats, and tabletop RPGs.
This entry was posted in Religion, The Games We Play and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Easter: I’d Rather Be a Lion.

  1. wayofcats says:

    What a highly apropos Easter message :) But it’s terribly terribly true, isn’t it?

    Everyone should be careful about being so downright eager to abandon all responsibility for their own lives. Especially when what they prescribe is so restrictive and idealized and inflexible that I don’t think there’s one person in a hundred who can genuinely comply with it without torment… and the ones who do I’m not really sure about :)

    Sending you jellybeans of enjoyment in a general Spring-At-Freaking-Last! kind of way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. richardzanesmith says:

    “Has anybody actually ever told this guy why shepherds tend sheep?” that just cracked me up!
    My dad his whole life even as bright philosophical and intelligent as we was, would melt under the writers and their teachings on Christian “obedience” even “blessed obedience.” I never got that. A shepherd cares for his flock so he can eat them, wear wool garments to stay warm. He protects them from wolves because he is competing against the wolves for their flesh. Everyone loves a little lamb and might even hug it, but sooner or later it begins to look more and more like…. lamb chops, and the cuddling stops…

    Like

  3. notleia says:

    There’s a reason romanticizing Nature only got fired up after the Industrial Revolution and fewer people were out there slogging through all that Nature.

    Like

    • Good point. Kinda reminds me of stories about Marie Antoinette dressing up like a “shepherdess” and roaming around her little craft farm looking for (carefully-washed) eggs under bushes and prancing around “tending sheep” and whatnot while the real workers stared at her like she was out of her mind.

      Like

  4. gokukantan says:

    See Don Marquis “aesop revised by archy”

    a wolf met a spring
    lamb drinking
    at a stream
    and said to her
    you are the lamb
    that muddied this stream
    all last year
    so that i could not get
    a clean fresh drink
    i am resolved that
    this outrage
    shall not be enacted again
    this season i am going
    to kill you
    just a minute said the lamb
    i was not born last
    year . . .

    Like

  5. 13thscorpio says:

    It took me forever to make the connection despite being a farm boy growing up. We lacked sheep, but I got it (After a long while). For animal symbolism I take to with this, it’s ravens and crows nowadays. If one is going to get tarred for being an atheist or unbeliever might as well take the smarter birdies. Though rather then being a lion, I’ll take a hyena pack if choosing the predator over sheep.

    Like

    • Those are scary smart birds!

      It’d be one thing if they could even demonstrate that this shepherd exists, but as it is, it’s more like they’re sheep on a hill by themselves like in that photo, and the hyena or wolf edges up to them:

      HoW: So… you just out here by yourselves?
      Sh: Oh no! Absolutely not. Our shepherd is close by.
      HoW: I don’t see any shepherds.
      Sh: They’re always around, everywhere. You just can’t see them.
      HoW: So what’s this shepherd doing right now?
      Sh: Keeping us from running in circles till we die or dashing off cliffs, or getting eaten by predators.
      HoW: Does it work? You never run off cliffs or in circles till you die? Predators never ever eat any of you?
      Sh: Well…. sometimes. But that’s because we don’t listen to the shepherd.
      HoW: –who you can’t see.
      Sh: You’ve got it now!
      (later)
      HoW: How bout that! Delusional sheep taste just like rational sheep.

      Like

  6. pete says:

    Yep, I bought into the ‘I’m a horrible human just for existing’ or ‘ I’m a sinner who’s not worthy of God’s attention’ bullshit for the longest time. The whole lamb thing is kinda like that… One day I realised that we, as humans, are awesome and can do anything we want. I will never accept that self depreciating crap again… Anyway… Im glad to be away from it now. Never felt more free…

    Like

  7. wolvie41 says:

    What’s funny is that Christians will claim that God gave us “Free Will” TM, copyright blah blah to make us feel special but then revert to the gratitude of becoming sheep. That hypocrisy is mental and downright fucking cruel for any deity to compel upon his creation.

    Either way here is Nietzsche’s viewpoint on how one should regard the herd (I read this originally in German) as a counter to being able to respect the sheep as they are so oblivious: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_the_Use_and_Abuse_of_History_for_Life#1.

    Like

  8. SirWill says:

    You know, wolves have been unfairly maligned throughout history.

    It’s understandable, as all of our recorded history has taken place from when we were farming, and wolves have always been a pain to any shepherd or cattle farmer. More for the shepherd than the rancher, as the cows are big and are more dangerous to a hungry wolf, but still an issue.

    But they’re smart, inquisitive, curious, playful, loyal to a fault, and devoted to their pack. Not all wolves, of course, as they’re made up of individuals, but their qualities as a whole made it possible for us to adopt a few and dogs evolved from them. The very traits that make wolves such a problem for the farmers is what makes dogs such a helpful member of that very farmer’s family.

    Usually, a wolf will even go out of its way to avoid a human. Why? Well, because they see us as a rival predator, and one that’s gotten even more dangerous over time. Think about it. Even a bear must put itself at risk in a fight, even if it’s a small amount of risk. A human can craft tools to make that risk practically zero.

    I know in Revelations, humanity’s supposed to be divided into goats and sheep, where the goats get tossed into the lake of fire for…..well, not being obedient little things to get sheared and butchered without complaint. Apparently, they never thought about what would happen about those who would actually stand against the whole notion in the first place. The wolves of humanity. Those who have both the noble, and brutal, qualities which make wolves what they are.

    After all, there’s a reason we were able to adopt some wolves in the first place. We have the same qualities. We cooperate, we compete, we play, we fight, we stick together, we shun those who have harmed us, and we do what we can to get along.

    It’s something of a wonder that a number of Christians have told me that animals have no souls. I’ve had two dogs in my lifetime, and they were both people. If they don’t have souls, neither do we.

    And it -really- boggled my mind when I learned that dogs in Islam are considered unclean. There’s something REALLY wrong with a thought process when you can look at a dog and shun it.

    There’s one last story that stuck with me. Religious story, true, but a good one, and something I wish more people would consider, even not as literal truth, but as a parable.

    http://www.animalliberationfront.com/Saints/Authors/Stories/Heaven-hell.html

    What this tells me? Always ask what you’ll have to give up to get that whatever it is you want. Some things are worth far more than that pretty vision.

    Like

    • SirWill says:

      I just want to note: I don’t support the kinds of activists that go completely nuts over animal rights. There is such a thing as a bit of sanity when it comes to your positions, and to say we should kill people to save animals is….uh, nuts. It’s simply the first hit I got when searching for the story.

      That said, I know it’s been adapted a number of times. Twilight Zone did it, too.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hunt_(The_Twilight_Zone)

      Like

    • Oh that story hit me hard.

      Suddenly I don’t know why I ever thought “heaven” would be heavenly if my loved ones and friends couldn’t be there with me. I’m angry that I wasn’t wiser back then.

      Like

      • SirWill says:

        The apologetics I’ve heard to try and make it acceptable just made it worse.

        Among them are:

        1) We’ll see God’s judgement as just, so we’ll be happy as we watch the unbelievers burn. Even if they are our father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, it won’t matter.

        Well, if that’s the case, I won’t be a good person, now will I? To take pleasure in the pain of another is horrible. It doesn’t matter who it is.

        2) Our memories of our loved ones will be erased, so it won’t bother us!

        ….this is EVEN worse. If that happens, then I won’t be me. I’ll be a drooling imbecile who’s had the spiritual equivalent of a railroad spike driven into my pleasure centers so I’m always in a state of bliss. Sure, I might FEEL happy, but I’ll have nothing else that makes me ME.

        3) It just won’t occur to us, because we’ll be happy singing God’s praises forever and ever.

        Well, no. That’s horrible too. I mean I’m forgetful and all, but if I could -just- forget that someone I loved was burning in Hell while I got all the goodies, I’d feel really, really uneasy. Sure, some people can get used to that. But I doubt anybody here would call them a good person.

        Plus, my singing is TERRIBLE. If I started up, the whole choir’ll stop, look at me, and I’d have to slink out of Heaven for wrecking the song.

        Each of these has something in common, though. It requires the Christian to sacrifice something dear to get the heavenly reward they want so much. Their friends, their lives, their conscience. Their metaphorical dog follows them right up to the gate, wagging her tail, then gets stuck outside as the master walks in, oblivious to the fact that by doing so, they’re sacrificing everything that would make a person worthy of Heaven in the first place.

        That’s one of the reasons that story stuck in my mind. It shows a Heaven and Hell that I could understand and respect, even if I couldn’t condone the existence of such places. A Heaven based on the kind of people they are, and a Hell for the same. That’s a cosmology that actually makes sense, even if there’s no evidence for it. Even without that, though, it shows people what’s really important.

        Instead, what do we get?

        “Hey dad, these rapists and murderers are my friends, so they can come with me to the mountain penthouse, kay? They’re so lucky they don’t have to be burned alive alongside the guys who swore when they stubbed their toe and the mimes.”

        Screw that. I am the wolf. I am going to prowl the mountains. I am going to enjoy the clean air, the long view, and revel in the freedom of choosing where I want to go and to think what I want to think. I am going to protect my family as best I can. I will uphold my principles even in the face of the temptation of an easy life and an easy way to think, because the price for that life is the loss of EVERYTHING important about who I am. I will not be caged and I will not be tamed. And I am not going to let my kindred get turned into sheep without a fight.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Christine D. says:

    “[Christians] seriously [don’t] understand that if they view themselves as sheep, they are saying they are meat to be eaten, profit to be fleeced, and alive only to chew grass and grow fat and breed at their owner’s command. They live to benefit their master, and have no other purpose in life.”

    This post was short but now I’m sitting in my chair, blinking in shock. This is probably the truest truth I’ve read since the post I read about the importance of consent (was it in Love, Joy, Feminism or this blog? Probably both but I couldn’t say so with 100% certainty.)

    I remember the day my old church finished The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. We’d read through it, chapter by chapter, as a congregation. It’s the only thing the church discussed during the service or sunday school for almost a year. On that last day, after hearing the last, rousing sermon on the book, I was gripped with holy terror. I was absolutely consumed with fear that I hadn’t found my ‘purpose’ yet and I had to find it as soon as possible. I racked my memories for clues that things I liked to do were my ‘purpose’. I was agonized with doubt that the things I *was* doing wasn’t ‘glorifying god’ (I just threw up a little, typing that phrase).

    Every sunday we’d sing about ‘the good shepherd’ and praise our status as lambs. We were taught that god would bring us to our ‘one true love’ and we’d learn to love them. We were taught to give our money and our time to the church. We were taught **that we live to benefit our master and have no other purpose in life**. That sentiment was increased a hundred-fold with Warren’s book. In the context of religion’s fantasy world, all of this were good, beneficial things.

    Sitting here at my computer, right now, I feel like Neo in the Matrix. The illusion has been inverted and I can see both the image and the machinery creating it. It is like I was looking at an optical illusion, and with a new context, the picture is completely different. In the words of BBC Sherlock, I saw but I did not observe.

    I guess…there are pieces of theology that I believe to be generally harmless, and the ‘good shepherd’ thing was one of them until 30 minutes ago. I’d just never looked at it in the context of reality. When it gets right down to it, christians celebrate the will of their ‘master’ and claim their direction comes from an invisible man in the sky. But who is **actually** their master? For most, the ‘master’ is the invisible-master’s self-appointed spokesperson (pastors, priests, etc). I know that some self-appointed spokespeople don’t believe that they are malicious (and some use their status to do actual good), but for many others, their ‘flock’ is maintained for profit. It’s an amazing scheme.

    …my shock will wear off in a bit and I’ll be embarrassed that I didn’t see it all sooner (and that I had a overly dramatic reaction), but it hasn’t worn off yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • YES. I had the same reaction when I realized that: people say this stuff and they don’t think about it; the idea is praised in that culture and glorified, but in reality it’s awful and horrible. It’s like that short story about the aliens, the one that ends “No! You don’t get it! It’s a cookbook!” One little detail just changes everything. Thank you so much for seeing that detail and sharing this. It meant a lot to me.

      Like

  10. richardzanesmith says:

    Well said Christine D. …the feeling so many of us are having when we realize we’d been living in a kind of matrix. we all have different reactions to the deception. Some get up and go flat out to war against it, some seem embarrassed and talk about other things, and some quietly suffer PRS (post religious syndrome) and talk to no one. I’m personally finding dialog and discussion with like minded people really helpful. I enjoy Captain Cassidy’s fervor and humor…which really helps

    Like

  11. Mau de Katt says:

    And it -really- boggled my mind when I learned that dogs in Islam are considered unclean. There’s something REALLY wrong with a thought process when you can look at a dog and shun it.

    This is why, I think, Christianity has historically been anti-cat. Dogs, at least, are obedient, follow the pack heirarchy, and view their humans as their Masters and rulers. (So goes the popular view.) But cats have, in Western culture, been viewed as agents of Satan. Yes, because of the glow-in-the-dark, slitted-pupil eyes… but mostly because cats aren’t heirarchical. They’ve not been domesticated to the (viewed) slavish servility of dogs; they associate with humans for their own shared benefit. (Or so goes the popular story.)

    Yet cats are as capable of love, affection, and sacrifice as dogs; they just do it differently because their instincts are differently-wired. Cats will stand up to much larger adversaries to protect their territory, their family, and their humans. (Anyone remember the cat last year who drove off the dog who was attacking the little boy? Or the videos of cats chasing bears up trees or dogs down streets?)

    Even lions aren’t as male-dominant as they’re usually viewed; there’s been newer evidence that they’re much more matriarchal, and that the “Male Lion Rules The Pride While Females Slave To Provide The Meat” narrative was applied to them by the pre-judging of the (male) original biologists. (Same with horses, as well.)

    Frankly, as much as I wouldn’t be happy in a heaven that didn’t allow my former dogs, I also wouldn’t be happy if it didn’t allow my cats.

    Like

    • I wouldn’t be thrilled even if it didn’t let people enjoy cute little hamsters. I’d heard that theory about cats before and think there’s a lot of support for it. People didn’t trust cats. But sometimes you run across someone who obviously loved their pet cat–there’s a book from the 1500s with cat prints across the pages, evidence that a cat got into the ink and then came up to its horrified owner for loving. There are paintings of cats all through the Renaissance–one with a gorgeous collar, though most are just hints of domesticity (look at the “virgin Mary getting told she’s gonna get impregnated” portraits and you’ll almost always see a little cat sleeping in a basket of sewing supplies at her feet). Cats and lions were also part of the iconography of certain very big name saints like I want to say Jerome–you’ll often see a cat resting at his feet while he studies. But overall… the peasants sure didn’t seem to take more than a dim tolerance of their utility.

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