Allan: "You're not an atheist, are you, H.?"
Me : "Catholic....same difference, really."
That shuts him up -- and he bursts into laughter at my little joke. "D'you know, that is so true", he chokes; and then we both get back to work.
A couple of years ago, everyone around me was reading The Celestine Prophecy. You couldn't go anywhere without people asking you your opinion, and whether you'd gotten the workbook to go with it as well. I never got the workbook, but in the end I did get a copy of the book, and read it. It wasn't too bad, in fact, it was quite amusing; and then someone asked if they could borrow it and never gave it back, which is why I cannot remember or remind myself of what exactly the deep and meaningful message to mankind of that particular book was (other than that trees have auras, too).
'Deep and meaningful messages to mankind'...The other day, I think it was on Horizon, there was this documentary about the professor of theoretical mathematics who discovered The Bible Code, and the NY journalist who published it. Apparently, the Bible, and the Book of Genesis in particular, is full of so-called skip codes. And if you transliterate these, you will see messages like "Rabin - assassin will assassinate" and "Kennedy - die". The journalist, whose name escapes me, has been trying to avert these awful dangers to world peace and stability since a year before Rabin actually did fall victim to assassination (the murder of Kennedy obviously already having happened, he couldn't do anything about that; or about the Maccabees). Totally convinced by the Bible codes, he was by now desperate to get to speak to President Bush, but so far, has not succeeded in getting him to agree to a meeting. And time is running out, he warned. If he doesn't get Bush to stop certain things from happening, the world is on the brink of a total disaster.
Now supposing there really are such prophecies contained in the Bible: forgive me if I'm wrong, but isn't it in the nature of a prophecy that what it says will happen, happens? If it doesn't, the foretelling is shown to have been a false prophecy. So what use is this poor man's wasting his time phoning the White House every day -- if it's meant to be, it'll be. (Not that I'm convinced that it will...the messages in the Bible that he said were there were centred on Israel -OK, Jews, Chosen People- and America -God's own country? truly?- and ignored the rest of the world and world history completely. How can that be a deep and meaningful mesage for mankind?)
'Deep and meaningful messages' and crackpot theories seem to go hand in hand, and there's a wealth of books like that out there. Every once in a while, one becomes a bestseller and ends up in my bookcase. They're immensely entertaining, but I wouldn't take any of them seriously or else how will you find the strength to get up in the morning? Since the world is going to end soon, you might as well just stay in bed and pull the blankets up over your head.
Speaking of entertaining books, there are also those that tell us that we're not alone. That Egyptian pyramids hold the key to the secret of life, death and everything; that the gods were ancient UFO travellers, and that man is the end result of their genetic manipulation\cloning programme, a cross between an ape and an extra-terrestrial. Nice!
As the universe is infinitely bigger than I could ever imagine or comprehend, I will not dismiss the notion that perhaps we really aren't alone -why couldn't there be intelligent life on the other side of the Andromeda nebula?-; but I have read Bauval and Von Daeniken and found their arguments fatally flawed. Maybe that's just because I know more about egyptology and archaeology than these two (they are my field of expertise, after all), or maybe it's simply because I can't leave off asking why (and never could). Whatever the reason, I'm too much of a sceptic to take their theories with anything but a shitload of salt. Though I can't deny that I thoroughly enjoy reading this sort of thing, and then picking it apart in my mind.