Religion pervades all facets of life in the United States. From influencing who we vote for to how we respond to a sneeze, religion's influence on Americans is undeniable. Because these beliefs are so common place, not many people give much thought to the religiosity involved in everyday life. When a loved one is recovering in the hospital, the most common thing you will hear is how well wishers will pray for their recovery.
What is interesting is the link between childhood cartoons and religion. Well, maybe not in the cartoons themselves or that naive children loved them much as adults love their religions. It's something that was common place in cartoons that stands in stark opposition to today's standards. This came up in work today as we chatted the last hour away in the office about the best thing that came to mind at that moment. We talked about childhood cartoons.
An older co-worker used to watch a Japanese anime show about a crime fighting android named Tobor (Robot spelled backwards). According to my co-worker and verified by Wikipedia, "he smoked 'energy' cigarettes, to rejuvenate his powers, that he carried in a cigarette case on his belt". We laughed about this oddity, but it brought up memories of watching Looney Toons as a child and seeing both protagonists and antagonists smoke various tobacco products throughout. Hell, even the Flintstones were endorsing cigarettes while being lazy chauvinists.
I remarked how, when watching films from the 1950's and 1960's, I would watch a character visit someone's home, enter the home, and then, without even a pause, light a cigarette. My jaw used to drop when I would see this. It would be an incredible social faux pas in today's society. My co-worker, a lifelong non-smoker, spoke of receiving a lovely vase as a gift and it came with a matching ash tray. If you didn't have an ashtray out, your guests would ask you for one, but never if it was alright to smoke in your home.
I grew up in the time after cigarette advertisements were regulated off the airwaves and people at the very least asked permission before lighting up in your home or your car. At present, most smokers go outside without complaint to smoke their tobacco, not even bothering to ask about smoking in a non-smokers home. I asked my co-worker just why a non-smoker would allow someone to smoke in their house. Cigarette smoke stinks and lingers long after the coffin nail is extinguished. He shrugged and replied, "it was just so common that no one gave it any thought". He continued to explain that looking back it seemed ridiculous from the present viewpoint.
I equated it to someone coming into your home and having a bowel movement on your living room floor. At least that can be cleaned up easily and the aroma won't take up a near permanent residence. As always when I think of shit, I thought of religion. Religion is the cigarette smoke in our living room. All the comforting words tainted by religion, all the minds turned off to science in favor of dogmatic obedience, all the self loathing of humanity and perversely conceited humbleness. It is all just the ashes in the ash tray, the yellow stain on the walls, the smoke in your hair and your clothes. It is a foul odor that despite it's ubiquitousness, is incredibly rude and disgusting. The ignorant and the deceitful alike light their paper rolled with lies and wishful thinking and coat their thoughts with a thick tar of superstition.
But, it is common place. Cigarette ads were banned from the airwaves in 1971 thanks to the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act and it has been shown repeatedly that smoking is dangerous. There are many anti-smoking campaigns and the Surgeon General has long warned of its dangers. However, according to the American Heart Association, "In the United States, an estimated 26.2 million men (23.5 percent) and 20.9 million women (18.1 percent) are smokers" despite that "these people are at higher risk of heart attack and stroke". Not to mention the smell and the fact that not many people will let you smoke in their house anymore.
There are powerful reasons why people still smoke today. There are also powerful reasons why they should not smoke. But the progress has been slow moving from a society where smoking so pervaded the landscape to where we are today with smoke free flights and restaurants. It has been a long campaign that has spanned multiple generations.
With religion, there are powerful reasons why people subscribe to supernatural beliefs. There are also powerful reasons why they should not, even though they can be less obvious than lung cancer or emphysema to many. If recent polls are to be believed, the "Rise of the Nones" may just be an indicator of where we are headed as a society in regards to religion. We will endure an aggressive push back from purveyors of God, just as angry and aggressive as any smoker that has gone too long without his nicotine fix and told he can have no more. But if we persevere, we might just expect, metaphorically at least, that believers in God will politely go outside to light up their prayers.