Wikipedia tells us that “Mistletoe is the common name for most obligate hemiparasitic plants in the order Santalales. These plants attach to and penetrate the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant.”
In short, mistletoe is a parasite, living off the lives of other plants.
Last Christmas, Amanda Schupak did a piece on CBS News which offered 7 surprising facts about mistletoe, “Think mistletoe is all about holiday romance? Think again. The festive plant — which also goes by the name devil’s fuge — holds some sinister secrets”.
Well, all I can remember is that if you catch a loved one under the mistletoe, you get kissed. Not bad, eh?
However, when you hear the other facts about mistletoe which Schupak offers, you might change your benign view.
In fact, it conjured up for me the striking similarities between organized religions and mistletoe.
Here they are. Think about it. If Richard Dawkins’ open eyed view of how atheism better serves your life doesn’t do it for you, then sink back into that fuzzy poisonous trap, but please don’t hate gays, or the right to choose or tell me why your tribe is better than my tribe.
1. Mistletoe is a parasite
Mistletoe is an evergreen pest that attaches itself to trees, plants and shrubs, stealing their nutrients and water. This can weaken or disfigure the host plant, and eventually even kill it.
“When you get a heavy infestation, it keeps sucking strength away from the plant,” according to Rick Gibson, a plant expert at the University of Arizona. “It’s almost like a cancerous type of growth.”
2. Mistletoe is really hard to get rid of
Once it infects a tree, mistletoe is difficult to remove. When its seeds sprout, they grow through the bark of trees and into their tissues, extending up and down within the branches. Even if you cut off the visible portion of the invader, new plants often grow from inside the host. The most effective way to fight it is to remove an infected branch or limb entirely.
3. Mistletoe is poisonous
Eating any part of the plant can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness and seizures. The symptoms are caused by a poisonous ingredient called phoratoxin, which is found in all parts of the plant, including the berries, and is especially concentrated in the leaves. Eating the plant raw or drinking it in tea can cause poisoning.
Schupak then reports that:
4. But it also has medicinal properties
Despite its dangers, mistletoe has a history of medicinal use. The European varieties have been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat seizures, headaches, infertility, hypertension and arthritis.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, mistletoe injections are available only in clinical trials in the U.S., but are available by prescription in Europe, where the plant is used as a treatment for cancer.
Hey, let’s be fair, when they burned Joan of Arc at the stake, this might have eased her pain!
We learn finally that mistletoe (Fact #5) can also grow anywhere including deserts all over the world. That includes the Middle East where religion, like mistletoe, certainly has sprouted in poisonous forms.
Like religions, mistletoe (Fact #6) comes in many different forms, as Schupak tells us, “Not all mistletoe has the festive holiday look most of us are used to. Some broadleaf mistletoes have green stems with oval-shaped leaves and small, sticky, whitish berries. Dwarf mistletoes are smaller, with scaly yellow or orange leaves. Some have no leaves at all and some look like a dense bundle of twigs stuck in the branches of another tree.”
Yes, snake charming is one form which can, as it recently did, provide one of its preachers with a trip to eternity.
And finally, it goes by many different names (Fact #7), including “birdlime, all-heal, golden bough, drudenfuss, iscador and devil’s fuge”, which certainly fits the religious analogy.
Now let’s ask a very basic question. What do you think religions have brought us? For example, was Copernicus able to prove the Earth rotated around the Sun because of encouragement from a religion?
Well, we certainly know what happened to Galileo for his astral views. Then when Arthur Fleming figured out about penicillin did he call the Archbishop of Canterbury for tips? And did Gregory Pinkus and his colleague, M.C. Chang, in cooperation with Dr. John Rock, a devout Catholic, but greatly chastised by his Church, get the birth control pill through the FDA with any assistance from Rome?
How about that onerous Original Sin bit so prized as a way to hook devotees? The claim is made that without God, with a capital G, you and I are basically licentious sinners. Buy in and you basically get a mistletoe mantle, one that sucks its existence from people who believe without giving back anything except my short list, to which with little imagination much more can be added.
What does god give you?
— Feelings of inadequacy
— Tribal feelings of superiority
— Ceding control of your life to other humans who will use you mercilessly
— Sorrow at the inevitability of death, but offering an unproven optimism about life after death
I solicit additional entries!!
Oh, but you say, what about Catholic Charities and the great work of their hospitals, etc. Again, they rely totally on the tax trunk of us living taxpayers, who could readily provide all those services and more without having to observe the strictures of that religion or any other.
For example, Catholic hospitals don’t provide family planning services including abortion, which could readily be offered by non sectarian, secularly run hospitals.
By the way, we secular types keep finding ways to get around guilt trip brokers with science. Be sure to read a recent example of how secular ingenuity can insure that early abortion services can be safely delivered by medical means. Heads up Alabama!!!
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.
Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers (2015)
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