Junípero Serra: “Say my name!”

Junípero Serra was a Spanish Friar (you can tell by the haircut) who established the first California missions. The missions are nice places to visit if you like California history and looking at “historical” things that were almost completely rebuilt in the 20th century from the remnants of crumbling piles of adobe and rotten wood.

Personally I do like those kinds of things, so I’ve been to a lot of the missions. If you think your life is tough, go to one of the missions that’s out in the middle of nowhere and imagine living there, with those resources and meager comforts. The people who settled the West were some badasses.


Well, the white people anyway. The natives who’d lived here for thousands of years – it was no big deal to them. It was home. You don’t have to be much of a badass to live at home.

But talking about the natives brings us to the main problem with the missions and the people who built them: they were religious fanatics who dedicated their lives to spreading Christianity, in its wonderful rainbow of different forms and flavors, across the world. That spreading, the mission they were on, primarily involved converting the heathens, which is apparently done by enslaving them, working them to death and – just to cover all the bases – infecting them with diseases that they have no natural immunity to.

Now, to be fair, the missionaries didn’t purposely infect the natives. They only purposely enslaved them. So they weren’t all bad.

This is what Junípero Serra looked like:

Junipero Serra

Quite fetching and regal, wasn’t he.

Why am I writing about a long dead zealot you might ask? Well, the Pope, His Royal Papentine, His Shroudliness, or whatever he’s called, just announced that the good Father Serra is going to be crowned a saint. That means Catholics all over the world can now officially pray to him, or come out of the closet if they were praying to him in an unauthorized manner prior to his sainting.

How are saints selected? Well, they actually self-select. By performing miracles. Oddly enough, Serra only performed one lousy miracle, but the Pope seems to like him, so it’s okay that he becomes a saint without paying the usual two miracle cover charge.

This is all very funny, but at the same time, utterly unbelievable and ultimately completely depressing. That you and I have to live in a world with people who have serious discussions over how many miracles some fruity Franciscan with a case of wanderlust allegedly performed. This important matter must be decided once and for all so that people can pray to him. We live in a world where the people who are concerned with these kinds of things are not considered mentally ill! Their votes count the same as ours.

Okay, that’s fine for them, but why am I expected to take that cartoon voodoo seriously? Why do I turn on NPR in the morning and hear people talking about the (frankly unimpressive if I’m being honest) “miracle” that Serra allegedly performed? And seriously discussing why the Pope made an exception for Serra, and on and on, and I can’t believe I’m listening to it and no one is breaking in and saying, “What are you talking about? Stop fucking around and go report on something that has at least a tenuous, fleeting toehold on reality!”

All of the death and oppression and horror that religions – all of them – have unleashed onto the world, and continue to relentlessly unleash onto the world, yet we still bow and scrape and genuflect and tiptoe around them. We excuse them because so many people claim to adhere to them – even people in our own families – that we can’t possibly point out how deeply and completely fucked they all are without running the risk of alienating most everyone we know.

I’m not sure how someone can be alive and conscious and not see evidence of that every day of their lives, but they don’t, so I don’t hold out a lot of hope that we’ll be rid of this destructive nonsense any time soon.

Hey, look, that last sentence could also be the end of a post about how useless all politicians are! I’ll have to hold on to it for recycling. This blog is green, after all. And gluten-free.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America!

Join the Conversation


  1. i’m not religious, and totally agree that religion has caused (and will continue to cause) untold amounts of misery and destruction and death. but i also think it’s basically a biological mechanism of the human brain, the down-side of being self-aware; animals run on instinct, they don’t require a greater purpose to keep on living, but humans do, particularly the least educated, poorest ones.

  2. I don’t know. I’ve often wondered what would happen if you brought up a child today, in the modern world, and somehow never exposed them to any religion. I don’t think they would invent a God.

    It’s a moot point anyway, since it would be impossible to raise a human that way without keeping them locked in a dark closet for the first 20 years of their life.

  3. oh, i’m sure it would be possible – i wasn’t raised with any kind of religion in my house (in fact, to this day, i have no idea what my parents’ religious or spiritual beliefs are), but i got RE in primary school, and went to those dodgy youth xtian concerts where they played cool rock covers and then hit you over the head with sermons. but i figured out at about 14 that christianity (which is all i knew at the time) literally made no sense, and how could pretty much everything else in the world be so logical but god was just lies and contradiction and WTFery?

    BUT i think about people who live in third world countries, or the poorest parts of first world countries, people who work minimum wage jobs their whole lives, who have very limited “life experiences” (they leave school at 16, get married/pregnant, go to work, eat, watch tv, sleep, repeat for 70 years), and don’t have oppurtunites – cultural, intellectual, or otherwise – to sort of broaden their horizons, and i think it must be one of the small comforts in life to believe in a god and a hereafter.

    sometimes i wish i could believe. i think life would be easier in a lot of ways. there’d be some safety net, so to speak. but i just don’t, and can’t.

  4. Yes, it’s all about education, but maybe more about the education of all of us. All of the major religions were created when we had no science, no astronomy, no theory of evolution, and I’m sure those people looked around and wondered, “What the hell?,” but they had no system to explain anything. So naturally they made shit up. But really, no one born in the last few hundred years has that excuse. And certainly no one born in the 20th century, regardless of their circumstances.

    But yes, the comforts. That has to be the main thing that keeps people believing. The idea of things being unknowable, or all of everything being nothing more than random chaos probably freaks a lot of people out. If believing that there is some being somewhere who is looking out for you was a harmless self-delusion I’d say, knock yourself out. Unfortunately it’s so much worse than that.

  5. yes, we have all this knowledge now, but there is still tons of stuff way beyond our understanding – the concept of humans as the tiniest speck on some miniscule planet in the universe… like, those are big and scary ideas to think about for a lot of people, and it’s just easier to bring a deity into it.

    but like i said, it’s a trade-off; millions of people, who believe in something supernatural governing the time and space, just go quietly about their day. but there will always be fanatics and power-grabbers.

    1. What’s funny is people will gratefully accept the promise of an afterlife, which is completely unproven and unknowable, but fear the unknowable where space or time or being nothing relative to our universe are concerned.

      I suppose because science offers no promise that maybe you aren’t just an insignificant speck of dust.

      1. i think that’s WHY they can and will gratefully accept it – there’s no burden of proof! the whole point of faith is believing without evidence! isn’t that clever??

        personally, i find a great deal of relief in knowing that i’m less than a speck of dust in the grand scale of the universe – when things are bad, it helps to put things in perspective.

  6. I’m more spiritual than religious. I do believe in God and believe that God is not a religion. Religion was created by man and is a way to control the masses by setting fear in people. If you follow Jesus story, you will know that he didn’t create Christianity. His moral code was based on love, charity, and humility – not violence or power or greed. He didn’t say to build a building and call it a church and he certainly didn’t say to pray to someone who may have seemed to been the cause of a miracle.

    The beauty of life is that we all can, and obviously do, have our own opinion about EVERYTHING. The day we die is the day the truth will reveal itself. So until then, live and let live.

    1. Miss Nicole, I love you, but the world would be an infinitely better place if people stopped believing in an afterlife. Maybe then they would stop settling for the short end of the stick, believing they will get their “reward” after they die.

      What better way to justify lives of oppression and destitution (and suicide bombing). “Listen, I know you’ve got it bad and I’ve got it great, but rather than trying to get what I have, you should just imagine the rewards that await you in paradise!” How evil and cynical were the people who dreamed up that fable?

      If you knew what life was worth
      You would look for yours on earth
      Now you see the light
      Stand up for your rights

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