Private Broadcasts.

It was a number of years ago that the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) considerably relaxed the rules of radio station ownership. These changes resulted in large corporations buying up a ton of the Mom and Pop stations in our area. They held onto them for several years, using the stations to simulcast broadcasts from larger cities and then after discovering that the audience felt alienated by this approach which in turn caused them to lose money, the stations were then sold off to the highest bidder.

The highest bidders on these stations turned out to be religious-based companies in many circumstances. Driving from Albany to Utica today I scanned the dial and hit three religious stations between 99.1 and 102.1. There were others, many of which were duplicates/simulcasts of the three different stations I heard in that span. I think in all I stumbled upon seven stations broadcasting religious programming within a 75 mile radius of any given point along my journey.

That’s a whole lot of preachin’.

I find the concept of a religious radio station to be odd (and it certainly helps boost iPod sales). Growing up in rural Upstate New York being a God fearing Christian was assumed. You went to church on a regular basis (even if that regular basis was twice a year), you put money in the offering plate and you learned the Lord’s Prayer (even if it involved singing the Top 40 version in your head to recite it properly). In my family, religion wasn’t something that we talked about. At all. Ever. Once in a while I’d pose a question to my mother and she’d answer it in her best “mom-ism” (i.e. “God can hear all telephone calls at the same time”) but other than that religious discussions were kept at a minimum.

I guess there was an unspoken code in my upbringing that stated that to be preachy of your religious beliefs was tacky. Your religious beliefs were a personal connection between you and your chosen deity. They should be quietly and privately celebrated. The loudest you should get is with a hearty “Amen” at the end of the supper prayer. To inflict those beliefs on another was rude. I don’t think this approach was a bad thing.

I recognise that everyone has their own (or lack thereof) religious beliefs. I don’t care what people believe. If you feel your just reward is earned by worshipping a bottle of ketchup then get crazy with the ketchup, I’m certainly not going to stop you. However, don’t infringe on my territory by telling me that I have to worship a bottle of ketchup. You’ve got your way, I’ve got mine. It’s a bit of a leap for me to admit this but while I have my own spiritual beliefs (which would be considered to be part of “the fringe”), I don’t subscribe to the whole organised religion thing. I believe to pigeon-hole “God” into a “He” that gets cranky from time to time and sends his children to eternal damnation is utter rubbish. To me the idea of throwing more money into the collection plate during one hour out of 168 (and then be mean as hell the other 167 hours in a week) just so you get in the express lane to “heaven” is crazy. Organised religion makes it too complicated; I believe the message is simply “live a good life, do good things, show respect, share your love”.

But that doesn’t really make people money, does it? Fear is what makes those in power money. “You can’t eat meat on Friday. You can’t masturbate. You can’t love someone of the same sex. If you do any of these things, you’re going to hell.” I remember asking my mother what hell was. She looked around nervously (because we didn’t talk about these things) and then cautioned out this answer. “I believe this is hell. If we survive this, we get into heaven.”

In many ways, I think Mom had it right.

Anyway, so when I stumble upon the evergrowing number of religious stations on the radio, my first thought is “how rude!”. That thought is quickly followed up with a “they must not believe what they’re saying if they have to say it so much.” Then I hear “Blah blah blah Hallelujah!” It doesn’t even sound as friendly as Charlie Brown’s teacher voice.

A number of years ago I hired a man that was quite religious. I knew it going into the employment contract; he mentioned his church a LOT on his resume. However, his qualifications were unparalleled and his religious beliefs were none of my business. Until he told me, on his second day of work, that I would be burning in hell because of my relationship with Earl. That’s when I smiled and sweetly said, “You can read your Bible all you want. You can believe your Bible with every ounce of being. You can go to church every waking moment and you can give your entire salary as an offering for the fast track to your heaven.

“Just don’t beat me over the head with your Bible.” He never said another word on the subject.