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By Carl S ~

Sometimes my wife and I watch true crime stories on TV. Justice triumphs in the end . . . usually. At other times, as on the show "Disappeared," the person is not found and the case becomes a "shaggy dog story" (a long story with no end), still unsolved. Doesn't everyone feel cheated, conned into watching, led on when this happens? Why did we waste our time getting involved? One expects our justice system to bring a satisfying end to a case, but even with hundreds of years of practice, this is not always possible.

Lately, the term "closure" has become popular and we encounter it time after time in these crime stories. The kin and friends of the victims must, in their own words, have closure. A tactic of law enforcement officers is to offer a plea bargain, a lesser charge of, say, second degree murder to a criminal, in exchange for the information as to where the murderer buried the victim or victims. One reason for this is closure, meaning that the living can take the body of the victim, bury it, and visit the grave site. (In the ultimate denial of closure, Bin Laden's body was buried at sea.)

Sometimes family members will appear before the TV cameras, while others read their prepared statements in court, expressing their yearning for an explanation from the perpetrator of why their loved one was killed. Many are profoundly disturbed and angry when the jury finds the accused innocent, because a guilty verdict was the only way they thought closure would be satisfied.

Does an absence of closure suggest that there will be no ending to mourning, especially in cases of unexpected sudden deaths from foul play, illness, or accident? Although, it isn't just for such extreme events, but ordinary aggravations, too, that humans seek closure. Humans hate frayed or loose ends. Let a civilization collapse due to war or natural disaster, and at least the war's over, disasters abate, one goes about picking up the pieces. It's a persistent lack of resolution that becomes maddening. More than anything else, an ending needs to come and order re-established. Why do soldiers fight? According to one old saying, it’s "To get it over with.”

Oftentimes, humans go to fantastic ends for the sake of tying up loose ends and gaining closure. They demand resolution, no matter how fantastical or irrational, where all the varieties of grief come together in satisfaction. But life does not always play out like old movie plots, where everything turns out all right in the end. For example, Stalin and Mao really did succeed in getting away with their crimes against humanity. Sometimes kidnappers, con artists, child molesters, rapists, etc., are never caught. Maybe you can see where I'm going with this . . .

In real life, when there aren't any satisfying answers, religion jumps in and fabricates them. Extremes like Heaven, Hell, Nirvana, Paradise, etc., become acceptable ends. These extreme beliefs supply "answers" for grief, frustration, the desire for revenge, and the demand for punishment (which often goes beyond the boundaries of mere justice and fairness). "Any port in a storm" is an old adage for this, to which one sage responded, "ANY port in a storm? What if the port belongs to your enemy?"

Are there any people more vulnerable or gullible than those facing the crises mentioned above? Religions exploit their vulnerability. Because believers demand closure, the theological explanations they are inundated with since youth become their safety nets. Because those extreme explanations bring a kind of closure in times of grief, the exploiters and pushers of those beliefs, even though they themselves may not believe, are caught in the web of expediency, resistant to reality.

Another reward religions offer is a way out for the perpetrators. If they confess, repent, and ask God's forgiveness, they will still go on to eternal bliss. But isn't this "getting away with it?"

In short, religions provide easy answers for closure in an unpredictable and disorderly universe, although their adherents must twist their minds into weird shapes to accommodate them. These easy answers are built on fantasy and survive through group-think and cliché. The believers’ method of picking and choosing what is acceptable as truth often produces the antithesis of truth; but no matter, it's their drug of choice.

Ultimately, religions don’t really explain anything, they just make stuff up, which any witch doctor, psychic, fortune-teller, séance holder, imam, or even you, can do. But, in the real world, sometimes there just isn’t any closure, no ends neatly tied up, because sometimes shit just happens with no rhyme or reason, and no answers or explanations or justice will ever be forthcoming.