Holy Smokes: Turning Cigarettes Into a Religion
We thank thee for this fine tobacco, Father. We thank thee for Philip Morris and *cough*our Patron Saint the Marlboro Man. We pray you bring us protection from sanctimonious former smokers, full ashtrays and ever increasing sin taxes. Accept this offering of smooth, mellow flavor, oh Lord, that You may*cough* know our pleasure in Your bounty of the wonderful leaf that brings us bold, soothing satisfaction.
Or so might go the prayer of the new One and Universal Smokers Church of God in the Netherlands. A smoking ban that went into effect in bars on July 1st has prompted one man, Michiel Eijsbouts to start a new religion dedicated to “the trinity of smoke, fire and ash.” Stating that they “honour their god by smoking,” the new church claims protections under the Dutch Constitution and European Union Charter. Several bars have already joined.
Eijsbouts, although well intentioned, is something of a loon. Either that or he is mixing wacky weed with his Winston's:
Church founder Michiel Eijsbouts says café owners who are trying to get round the ban on smoking will not be allowed to join. The church, he says, takes smoking very seriously.
‘It has ritual aspects, it is something you experience and we follow our faith very strictly,’ he told the Telegraaf.
Every religion has its ascetics, I suppose.
Worshipers of the Almighty Smoke receive a card that entitles them to light up inside cafes. While there is no word yet of other Holy Practices of the One and Universal Smokers Church of God I think it is safe to assume that they will bring a whole new meaning to “Ash Wednesday.”
This leads me to other questions. Is it a sin to ash on the floor? Is one kind of cigarette holier than another? Can Dutch citizens write cigarettes off on their taxes now as donations to the church? What about other paraphernalia such as ashtrays and lighters? If you burn to death in bed after falling asleep while holding a lit cigarette is that Divine retribution or the Devil going after a devout follower of The Smoking God?
If I were to start an affiliate church here in America, I would double down on the Muslims and make it a rule that you have to pray 10 times a day, going Allah 5 better. Of course, Muslims don't need an ashtray to pray and the call to prayer isn't interrupted by the muezzin going into uncontrollable fits of coughing.
This new religion also opens up a whole new business for iconographers -- you know those folks that make those pictures of Jesus to hang on your wall? Imagine a new Jesus icon with a Marlboro dangling and maybe even a cowboy hat. Maybe God wasn’t smiting Sodom and Gomorrah as much as He was just trying to get His followers to light up and worship Him in the way He demands. Maybe the Hawaiian’s have the right idea with Pele, Goddess of the Volcano.