[Photo of Daniel Everett from the Chicago Tribune]
This is from an article by Andrew Herrmann in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Moody Bible Institute in the Windy City has long been a source of missionaries sent around the world to save people from everlasting hellfire by converting them to Jesus. Moody Bible is an infamous fundamentalist outfit that teaches anyone who has not accepted Jesus as his/her personal savior will end up in a very unsavory and very hot place for all of eternity.
Now, that's damn scary!
And the young missionaries they send trekking out to convert the heathen really worry about those poor lost souls. They have been taught and thus they are certain that the God "who so loved the world" will have no problem charring pagans forever if they've never accepted his son, Jesus, who is, of course himself.
Daniel Everett, in 1977, a 26-year old emissary of this god, headed for the Amazon rain forest in central Brazil where the Piraha people lived. His mission was to bring them the good news of Jesus and translate the New Testament into their language. The latter turned out to be impossible.
In his book, Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes, Everett tells how the Piraha turned everything he had believed topsy-turvy. He had thought people needed Jesus to be happy, but soon concluded that "these people, were, if anything, more secure, happier."
He stuck it out until 2006. Everett, now a self-proclaimed atheist, teaches linguistics at Illinois State University. And he worries about the Piraha, specifically that river traders and other missionaries are going to screw up their lives by introducing western culture and western goods.
"The Piraha don't feel poor," he said, "they feel satisfied and that's the basis of their happiness. If they start to feel a lack in their own culture, a need for western goods, that will be a very destructive force in their lives."
Yup. Most missionaries are a destructive force. And it's nice to hear when one of them sees the light. Is it possible that the christianist god will consider the Piraha his children even if they've never accepted Jesus?
Read Herrmann's entire article here. Everett's story is covered more in-depth here.