Friday, September 5, 2008


People in my office are always bringing in food of one sort or another. Cookies, fruit, doughnuts, even a box of homegrown avocadoes.

The other day, someone brought in a 9 x 12 loaf of some kind. It was covered with white stuff (possibly frosting, maybe cream cheese, but it could have been mashed potatoes or turnips), sprinkled with what appeared to be grated cheddar cheese, and festooned with unidentifiable gelatinous green blobs. For hours, nobody would touch it, because it was so mysterious.

Finally, the person who donated the cake placed a sign on it that said, “Carrot Cake – Orange stuff is Coconut.”


That solved the mystery, and people helped themselves. However, I wasn’t satisfied. I tracked down the owner of the cake to ask what the green blobs were. She told me that they were maraschino cherries, which for some reason are available in green.

So of course, I had to ask why dye the coconut orange? Her reply was, “My mother always dyed the coconut.”

And why use green maraschino cherries? “Because they look better with orange coconut.”

This is one of my major gripes with organized religion. Some things that start out as harmless or primitive traditions over time build one ridiculous element on top of another. Eventually, they take on characteristics that deviate so far from the original message of the faith, they cannot be associated with religion by dispassionate outside observers. Examples? Kosher and Halal. Celibacy of clergy. Easter eggs. Burquas.

My personal favorite is tithing. In the good old days, people used to burn offerings to appease or curry favors directly from their gods. At some point, religious leaders convinced everyone to burn their offerings at specific places, and they built temples for that purpose. Over the years, they managed to “phase out” the burning, convincing their flocks to just leave the offerings at the door, and they’d be disposed of in a proper ritual (eating) by the religious leaders. Then, a few centuries later, they convinced their followers that money works just as well as a fatted calf. So here we are in the 21st century, where the faithful give 10% of their earnings to the ultimate middleman, who takes a 100% commission.

Common sense tells us not to eat things we can’t identify. If only we could apply the same common sense to our religious practices, and stop doing things we can’t explain.

1 comment:

burton said...

hmm - she may not have remembered to state that carrots are orange and usually sport green tops - but that ruins your point. sorry. :-D