Books For Blasphemers: Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard

on Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Dear Tom Cruise,

Could you please explain how a cheesy, overwritten self-help book could make a claim for religious legitimacy? Dianetics is scientific quackery at its worst, chock full of post-War paranoias and hilariously made-up verbiage. Scientology? Hello? What the fuck does that even mean? I suppose this crap probably makes sense if your life is totally worthless (sure, you were married to Nicole, but do you actually think you were the aggrieved party there?). And I know Gods and Buddhas are kind of silly, but aliens? Really?

Now, I realise you want to be taller. And you want to erase that couch jumping episode from the collective consciousness. And I get that Dianetic therapy seems to provide a means of doing both those things. But self help books are for idiots. They give the illusion of working when you're too lazy to get off your fat arse and take responsibility for your own failures. Or maybe I've just been invaded by Thetans and my engrams are in overdrive. Whatever. I wrote you a poem. Feel free to read it to John Travolta when you're next cuddled up together.

PS I recommend you read The Secret. It's totally up your alleys.

I've often believed science fiction
Would be a great source for religion
But it wasn't the Jedi
Who caught on, Instead I'm
Afraid it's L. Ron's composition

The human is geared for survival*
But most times before his arrival
Bad engrams imbued**
When the mum went and poohed***
Or they tried to abort the poor child

Behold it's all psychosomatic****
The aberee's cleared of the static*****
Check out their conversion
From sexual perversion******
To cash giving foolish fanatic

For those who still swear by the outcome
You're not just misguided you're real dumb
With utter reliance
On cheap junk faux science*******
Here's snake oil, you might wanna buy some!

(* This is rule number one in Scientology. The dynamic principle of existence is to survive. Fair enough, can't argue with that)
(** Quick Dianetics lesson. You have two minds, the analytic and the reactive. The analytic is good, allowing reflection etc, and must always stay switched on. The reactive mind stores baddies called engrams which, when triggered, make you sick or otherwise fuck up your life. These are imbued when the person is 'unconscious' which means not engaging their analytic mind.)
(*** The classic stage of unconsciousness is pre-birth. Hubbard postulates many situations that inflict unconsciousness on the unborn child. Vomiting from morning sickness, mother needing to poop, parents having sex, attempting to abort the child which apparently happens very often, father beating the crap out of mother, etc. I think Hubbard's favourite thing was writing these little dramatic interludes. To be fair, they were pretty funny.)
(**** Pretty much most ills are caused by engrams kicking in. So basically your mind causes you to fake things. Classic examples are arthritis, headaches and any endocrinological disorder. Take that, diabetics!)
(***** Another quick Dianetics lesson. A 'Clear' is someone free of their engrams. An 'Aberee' is someone afflicted with residual engrams.)
(****** Sexual perversion is one of the great manifestations of engrams. Examples Hubbard provides are homosexuality, lesbianism, sexual sadism, taking it in the poop chute, etc etc)
(******* The bit that infuriated me most was Hubbard's continual reliance on 'scientific tests' that 'proved' his theories. Can't argue with science, right? However, he never provides data to substantiate these 'tests' and, even worse, claims many scientific studies that have been substantiated, Pavlov for example, are rubbish because Hubbard's so-called tests disproved them.)

Books For Blasphemers: The Book of Mormon

on Monday, August 30, 2010
When I lived in Templestowe, I often had early morning visitors trying to spread the good word. I knew very little about them other than that they had American accents and wore bad suits. My neighbour once engaged them in conversation and, when they would not leave, he ran to the other room, stripped down to his underpants, grabbed a cap gun and returned to the door. He was never visited again. Now, many years later, I figure it's time to find out for myself why so many of my weekend sleep-ins were ruined. This limerick is long because I only have two days left in the month to read and review Dianetics so I can't break it down into its usual two or three parts. Two things I should point out though; I couldn't find doctrinal support for polygamy (quite the opposite), and its approach to sin was better than The New Testament's (babies are born sin-free here). For the most part The Book of Mormon is harmless. And funny. Unless you just got stabbed in the kidney and need a blood transfusion. Then you're pretty much fucked.

If nine hundred odd pages of Jesus
Was still insufficient to please us
Joe Smith has a story
Revealed him in glory*
Get ready for this garbled thesis

The once was a preacher called Nephi
Son of a pariah called Lehi
Quite shameful he found
To be laughed out of town**
So he set sail to find those who agree

A new holy land he discovered***
Then three hundred pages are covered
With Nephites off warring
Lammanites off whoring****
And clear explanations being smothered*****

Then Jesus decides a vacation
Is just what he needs to be takin'
Those nails really hurt
So I figure I ought
Check out this American nation******

Again he reels off the same talk*******
Why fix it if first time it worked?
Right here Jews will gather
Yea they misheard his blabber
'Cos they gathered instead in New York

I mean here not to make a mockery
Of Joe Smith's providential stockery*******
But all he relates
Was set down upon plates*********
Which makes sense cos its laughable crockery

(* Joseph Smith claims to have been given the book by the angel Moroni when he was just a wee lad. Talk about revelations!)
(** Like his father, Nephi also got laughed out of Jerusalem. Their preaching reminded me of that scene in Life of Brian where all the random 'prophets' are lined up near the temple flogging their spiritual wares)
(*** It goes without saying that the new holy land was America. Duh!)
(**** For those not in the know, the Nephites are the good guys and the Lammanites are the bad guys. Basically the entire book is about their to-ing and fro-ing. Whenever the Nephites follow the laws all is good, and when they are seduced into sin the world turns to shit)
(***** Jospeh Smith cops out far too often. There are many instances of "And he said much more but I'm not going to tell you" in The Book of Mormon).
(****** Which is the entire crux of this religion. Jesus reappears in America and chats with Joseph Smith's forefathers. Get it?)
(******* The Sermon on the Mount, choosing new Disciples etc etc... It all gets rehashed. The theory goes: God chose the Jews, Jesus chose the Nephites. Aweome, huh?)
(******** And herein lies the crux. The book is there to justify Joseph Smith's status as a prophet who can pass it on to his future generations.)
(********* The book, as passed on to Joseph Smith, was given as a series of engraved copper plates.)

Books For Blasphemers: The Mahabharata (Part 2)

on Thursday, August 26, 2010
Unlike Return of The Jedi, Porky's Revenge or the straight-to-video Legally Blonde 3: Legally Blondes, the third instalment of the Mahabharata is a corker. Sure, it gets light on the fighting but this is where all the best philosophical waxing happens. So grab a soy-dog and home-made tomato relish and settle in for another fine night's reading:

Books 11 – 18 (After The War)

With arrows the sky has been blackened
And mourners left wondering what happened
The body count's stacking
Raksasas sent packing
And the baddies appear to've been flattened

What's left? Only deep introspection
Dead Bhisma gives lively reflection*
When all else is silence
The path of non-violence
Is dharma for prime resurrection

So we end up in heaven eternal
Though to get there we passed the infernal
The fam's reunited
And all love's requited
The way home was always internal**

(* It is interesting that the Bhagavadghita gets all the praise - probably thanks to Ghandi - when Bhisma's speech just before he leaves his human form is far longer and much more philosophically fascinating. Thanks a lot, Mahatma!)
(** At least whoever penned this didn't do a David Foster Wallace and leave a massive brick of a book unresolved mid-sentence.)

Books For Blasphemers: The Mahabharata (Part 1)

on Wednesday, August 25, 2010
This Hindu canonical text is the epic to end all epics; a trilogy that makes Lord of The Rings look like the work of a clumsy amateur. In narrative terms the best of the bunch so far, it is a ripping tale of family, war and losing at dice. If you can't be stuffed trawling through the 800 or so pages, here's my digested limerick review.

Books 1-5 (Before The War)

Meet Krsna, that's best pronounced Krishna
And his trusty fun buddy called Bhisma
Great lords and aescetics
For most of this epic
They'll guide you so sit back and lishna (sic)*

Five books of unbridled kin shagging**
And a gambling match used for some padding
Til storm clouds do grumble
“You ready to rumble?”
I'm hooked and for what's next I'm gagging***

(* Yeah, I went there. Thanks to Adrian for helping me find the rhyme)
(** It is interesting to note the parallels between the Mahabharata and other religious naratives. This particular part reminded me of the “begat begat begat” section of the Torah, although obviously far more expansive)
(*** Whoever wrote this book was a master storyteller. I can't get across how great it is to read.)

Books 6 – 10 (The Great War)

After spending nigh three hundred pages
Introducing gods, demons and sages
Along comes a war
That kills almost them all
What the fuck, learning names took me ages!

But before all the killing and burning
Great Krsna delivers his sermon
The Bhagavadgita*
To the gathered Ksatriyas**
Cos slaughter's best done after learning

There's an air of Tolstoy*** mixed with Tolkien
And a sure hint of Dungeons and Dragons
Those magical powerups****
Felt like playing X-Box
It's more fun than I had imagined!

(* Many consider this single speech the crux of Hindu belief, probably because it was Ghandi's favourite. It is more like the Sermon on The Mount – crucial, but short. Some refer to it as a book within a book but it is really only five or so pages)
(** This is the caste below the Brahmin. Ksatriyas are warriors, responsible for most of the fighting during the Kurukshetra war.)
(*** There's even a large chapter called War and Peace, though there's no riffing on potato farming)
(**** A few of my favourites: the weapon of Brahma's head, the weapon of disappearance, the weapon of light, the weapon of bewilderment, the weapon of human understanding and, the shiniest of them all, the weapon of lust)

Books For Blasphemers: The Dhammapada

on Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I realise there is no definitive Buddhist text, but I went for The Dhammapada because it is a collection of aphorisms from the original Buddha and is therefore accepted as important by most strains of Buddhism. Also, it is only 60-odd pages. Which makes me wonder why the others can't just get to the darn point. Anyway, here goes:

At last here's a book that is shorter
With no angry gods, hate or slaughter
A collection of sorts
Of the Buddha's best thoughts
On living your life as you oughta

Of temptation it's best to be wary
Turn your back on those folk most contrary
Meditate and revere it
Smell like serene spirit*
Cos the the path you walk's just temporary

Some texts I have met with aversion**
Cast first the net then the aspersions
Buddha's pathway to peace
Does this atheist please
So where do I line up for conversion?***

(* Ok, surely you weren't expecting me to resist the temptation to make a Nirvana joke?!?)
(** By some texts, I mean pretty much all the religious texts I have read thus far this month.)
(*** Don't worry mum, I don't really intend on converting to Buddhism.)

Books For Blasphemers: The Qur'an (Part 2)

on Saturday, August 21, 2010
Well, I've reached the midpoint in my challenge for the far-too-long month of August. If you haven't already done so, scroll down to check out my limerick reviews of the Torah (Old Testament) and New Testament. Stay tuned for the Dhammapada (Buddhism), Mahabharata (Hinduism), The Book Of Mormon (You Can't Be Seriousism) and Dianetics (You've Gotta be Fucking Jokingism). But for now, here's the second half of The Qur'an:

With a nod to you Superman buffs
There's an army of spiritual tuffs*
Confederates damned**
The Jinn take a stand
And poor Iblis is doing it rough***

For those who persist with their reading
The second half gives room for breathing
Much warmer and purer
The mystical Suras
Are by then just what you'll be needing

I found this on whole quite confounding
Mixed messages rather astounding
So for all those who claim
That the book's not to blame
Have a read, be not ignorant sounding

(* I talk here of the Jinn, the spirits that walk on earth. They are the coolest religious characters since Jesus's zombies.)
(** The Confederates is the collective term used for all the enemies of God.)
(*** Iblis is, for those that haven't read the book, the archetypal unbeliever.)

Books For Blasphemers: The Qur'an (Part 1)

on Friday, August 20, 2010
Seeing as the Qur'an has no narrative structure as such, and is divided into one hundred and fourteen Suras, it was much harder to split the limerick review into workable parts. Therefore, I'm doing the Solomon-like thang (in keeping with the Biblical theme of the month) and just dividing it down the middle. So here goes:

It backfired for ol' Salman Rushdie
And South Park's creators and Dutchies*
So with one caveat
That I've tried to respect
Here's hoping no-one tries to crush me

It thunders right from the beginning
Commands holy wars to be winning
Believers protected
From wrath they're excepted
The rest get one hell of a skinning**

A thief gets a sanction most crude***
With Jews there is free trade of food****
You will be scared to sleep*****
Pascal proves rather chic******
And a woman should not be seen nude*******

(* This is not a reference to marijuana, but rather the Dutch newspapers that ran the infamous cartoon competition. That said, it's probably best not to smoke marijuana while trying to read this.)
(** The Quran doesn't have a lot of good things to say about Jews or Christians, who it often refers to as unbelievers deserving of extreme punishment.)
(*** Chopping off the hand. It's in Sura 5 people.)
(**** Muslims who keep a Halal diet can partake freely of Kosher food. Also Sura 5.)
(***** Apparently God takes your soul when you go to sleep and is liable not to return it if you haven't been a good boy or girl. Sura 39, Line 41.)
(****** As Pascal said, the safer bet is to believe. Doctrinal support can be found in Sura 40, Line 28.)
(******* This is pretty much infused throughout. Questions of modesty and women's rights abound, generally not resolved in favour of women. It should be noted that I could find no textual support for the need to fully cover one's face, which suggests it is clerical exegesis, not the book itself that one must take issue with in this regard. That said, there is the line quite early on that "Women are your fields and you may plow them at will.")

Books For Blasphemers: The New Testament (Part Three)

on Thursday, August 5, 2010
Great, just when I thought I had a handle on it all they had to go and scare the beJesus out of me:


Though reading it all is a burden
Bit players here do get a word in
While it goes on for ages
Most have less than four pages
Still they're strictly for dogmatic nerdin'

(* Yes, I get that this is a massive cop out but seriously, who cares about the schmoes pickin' up the pieces after the main guy got done in? Brevity is a virtue folks. It's like when an author hits the big time and their editors are too scared to tell them they need to cut back. Yeah, I'm looking at you Rowling... )


So we close with what John has foretold
Of the seals that break ending the world
Six six six is the number
For pillage and plunder*
What a horrible sight to behold

Not content with the old hocus pocus
It's got dragons, and horsemen and locusts
And the macabre dance**
Had me filling my pants
Smarten up, He has put you on notice!

(* It is also the inspiration for a darn fine Iron maiden album upon which I had hoped to heap props in the body of the poem. Alas Number of The Beast, you have been relegated to the footnotes.)
(** A message to those stuffy types who might choose to pronounce this word "daaaaahhhnce". Get with program. It's pronounced "dants" and rhymes with "pants". Which, is very handy in this particular instance.)

And that, dear friends brings an end to The New Testament. Next up, The Qur'an... Hmmm... How to approach this tactfully?

Books For Blasphemers: The New Testament (Part Two)

Well, I managed to round out the Gospels last night. Hope nobody takes too much offences, I'm just calling it as I see it:


I'm sorry it's getting absurd
Of the story this version's the third
Though it starts off with John
While his head is still on*
It moves swiftly to Jesus's word

With some loaves and fish thousands are fed
And a young girl is raised from the dead
Oh, and this is the one
With the Samaritan
And there's still one more version ahead

(* It took me forever to put this tastefully...)


The first thing I learnt back at law school
No witness can have total recall
So I'm getting suspicious
That some parts near fictitious
Or are at least amplified to enthral

And yet this is the one most internal
Of his chats with his friends it's a journal
Starting off esoteric
It is far less generic
And the message most warm and paternal

From water the wine freely did spout
And Mary proved herself most devout
Next up cue the surprises
When Lazaruses rises
But then end with an Almighty cop out*

(* I'm sorry if this comes across as heretical, but for me John 21:25 simply does not cut it. "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them was written, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written". That translates to me as "I have evidence. Trust me, I'm a lawyer.")

Books For Blasphemers: The New Testament (Part One)

on Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Apart from The Empire Strikes back, no sequel has ever surpassed the original. Turns out this precedent was set early on, giving it the designation of holy edict. Witness:


Jesus went wheelin' and dealin'
With parables, magic and healin'
From up on the mount
Kumbaya he did shout
Spinning crap hippies like to be hearin'

But his talk pissed off priests and Pharisees*
And Herod and Pilate were not pleased
But to show who was boss
When he died on the cross
He unleashed a whole legion of zombies**

(* Again I ask for you to indulge me and, for the sake of the rhyme, pronounce the word "Pha-ra-sees" in equal measures.)
(** For those who question my interpretation, I refer you to Matthew 27:52 and 53.)


So now let's hear the story again
From another of Jesus's friends
Not that much has changed
He is hailed then betrayed
And they still nail him up at the end

Books For Blasphemers: The Torah (Part 2)

on Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Ok, so I finished it in two days. The second half wasn't much better. Turns out the good stories all happen in the first book and a half. So that's three and a half books of heavy repetition. Anyway, to continue with our religious education:


Some spies go to scope Canaan land
No surprise it's got giants and sand
Balaam slaps his ass
Moses strikes the rock hard
And's forbidden to enter as planned

Then there's plenty more rules by the dozen
Shihon, Og and Midian get a drubbin'
We commit genocide
But give women some rights
Though we then sell them off to their cousins


Gathered round him one last time
Moses says to his people goodbye
Spends the whole book recapping
For those who were napping
Then goes up to the mountain to die

Well folks, that's The Torah for you in eight easy-to-digest limericks. Theoretically I should do the rest of the Tanach (Prophets and Writings/Books of Truth) for the sake of completion, but I'm itchin' to read the sequel. Next up, The New Testament... "There once was a young Galilean..." (Or something like that). See you in a couple of days.

Books For Blasphemers: The Torah (Part 1)

on Monday, August 2, 2010
Call it the Torah, the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, whatever. You've probably never read it. Here's my rhyming guide to what you're missing:


Once there was absolute nothing
Which God thought would be cool to put stuff in
Let there be light
So's I see what I smite
Hmmm that Adam could sure use some muffin

Soon after Ol' Abe's foreskin fell
He yanked Isaac from dry Sarah's shell
Cheer the Ark's one pot screamer*
And Joseph the dreamer**
Plus, there's plenty of shagging as well***

(* That's Noah, folks, who got drunk, fell asleep naked and then got totally hazed by his kids)
(** I have resisted the temptation to search for words or phrases that rhyme with Andrew Lloyd Webber)
(*** I would have liked to use the word "beget" a number of times here but just didn't have the syllables)


Here's Moses, the champ of our Bible
The dude what don't need no disciples
He just talked to a bush
Gave his ego a push
And fronted the king of the Nile

Killer plagues freed the slaves from their capture
And the split seas had Pharoah in rapture
Then a whole lot a lawin'
Made my barmitzvah* boring
Thank God it's the end of the chapter

(*Jews with any knowledge of their religion may substitute the word "Parasha" here)


Forty-odd pages of riffing
On rules and punishment for sinning
Even those folk most anal
Would find it too banal*
And probably rather worth skipping

(* To be read in rhyme with 'anal', apologies to the pronunciation pedants out there...)

The August Challenge: Books For Blasphemers

on Sunday, August 1, 2010
There once was a wannabe writer
Who blogged on the side of books lighter
One day it occurred
To attempt the absurd
And don kippot and turbans and mitres

And so this young bookworm from Melbourne
Bought canonical texts not to shelve them
Starting from Genesis*
Up to Dianetics
He will read them on his fast track Hell-bourne

(*Please humour me and pronounce this Je-na-sis, in equally measured syllables, for the purpose of the rhythmic flow)

Yes folks, this month it's my chance to commit heresy in rhyming verse. In 31 days I shall attempt to get through, and discuss in limerick form:

The Torah (Judaism)
The New Testament (Christianity)
The Qur'an (Islam)
The Mahabharata (Hinduism)
Dhammapada (Buddhism)
The Book of Mormon (Door Knockingism)
Dianetics (Tom Cruisism)

An epic task, I know. But if this doesn't make me a believer, nothing will...