What the world needs now is suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy. That, at least, is the Church of Euthanasia's modest proposal. A tax-exempt "educational foundation" dedicated to the proposition that all men (and women) are created superfluous, the Church has staked its claim on the far fringes of the negative population growth movement. According to a Church spokesperson, "The Church is devoted to restoring balance between humans and the remaining species, through voluntary population reduction."
The Church, which claims "hundreds" of card-carrying members as well as one thousand "e-members" scattered across the Net, is based in the Somerville, Massachusetts, apartment of its cross-dressing cleric, the Reverend Chris Korda. It was there, on a hot summer night in 1992, that she (though male, Korda prefers the female pronoun) had the fateful dream that set her on a mission from God -- or, more precisely, from the alien entity she calls the Being, a cheery mix of Klaatu and Kevorkian -- who noted the dire state of the global ecosystem and advised, "Save the planet: Kill yourself!"
Or, less messily, evangelize others to kill themselves. Thus was born the Church of Euthanasia, whose theological cornerstone is the single commandment "Thou shalt not procreate" and whose four pillars of wisdom are its radical solutions to the population explosion: suicide, abortion, cannibalism, and sodomy. This doesn't mean, by the way, that pederasty is a "Euthanist" sacrament; the Church uses the term in the biblical sense, meaning any sex act not intended for procreation, such as anal or oral sex. Nor does the zealously vegetarian Church condone Hannibal Lecter's idea of frugal gourmet; its endorsement of cannibalism is merely a special dispensation for those "godless flesh-eaters" who can't kick the habit. As the credo on the Church's Web site states, anthropophagy, Euthanist-style, is "strictly limited to consumption of the already dead."
Even so, Korda, a strict vegan, can't resist suggesting that cannibalism is environmentally friendly. "We have 60,000 auto-accident fatalities a year," she says. "That meat is getting buried in the ground. It should go straight to McDonald's, where the food is already so processed I don't think anybody would notice the difference."
As neo-Situationist street theater and gonzo media-wrenching, the Church is a howl: God's revenge on Operation Rescue in a universe ruled by Abbie Hoffman. Tastefully turned out in a chic little cocktail dress and silver bangles, the Reverend has led her troops into battle against pro-lifers, Buchananites, and Jerry Springer. Rallying around a banner emblazoned with the admonition, "Eat a queer fetus for Jesus," the Church has serenaded horrified Operation Rescue protestors with its marching song, "All We Are Saying/Is Fetus Paté."
Under the guise of Pedophile Priests for Life, it has waged guerrilla media war against the Catholic activists Our Lady's Crusaders for Life, brandishing an inflatable sex doll nailed to a life-sized crucifix and squirting the Crusaders with a water pistol shaped like a humongous penis. Anti-abortion protestors "try to intimidate everyone with shock tactics and disgusting props," says Korda, "but we can out-shock and out-disgust them any day. We're seizing the moral low ground right out from under them."
And when they're doing it, Korda and his Euthanists are unquestionably on the side of the angels, not to mention social satirists like Abbie Hoffman (an acknowledged influence). But the laughter curdles when Korda extols the virtues of the Unabomber, rationalizing the murder of a timber industry lobbyist and father of two who wasn't even the bomber's intended victim as a "worthy target, when the goal is correctly understood."
Moreover, the misanthropy that lies just beneath the surface of the Church's baby-loathing and breeder-bashing aligns it with unhappy bedfellows like Randall Phillip and Jim and Debbie Goad, all of whom are listed as "contacts" in the Church's house organ, Snuff It. Phillip's zine Fuck is an echo chamber for his white-supremacist ravings about the joys of thinning the herd through infanticide and mass murder. ("I smile wide all day in the sunshine that glistens off your mutilated bodies.") The Goad's self-described "bible of hatred," Answer Me!, is a bullhorn for spleen-soaked rants such as "You Turn Me Off," in which Jim Goad declares, "Sex is merely the continuance of the species, so I'm dead-set against it. The only bodies I want to see are yours burning."
Asked about the connection between the Church and a toxic misanthrope like Phillip, Korda replies, "Randall's descriptions of humanity as a 'Martian invasion' have much in common with my view...I tend to view humans the way a being from outer space would: As a species, housed among many other species…Humans are behaving like bacteria in a petri dish, and if nothing is done their fate will be similar." She clarifies her position: "I can certainly be described as a misanthrope -- or, more correctly, an anti-humanist."
Misanthropy, it turns out, goes hand in glove with the Malthusian gospel that the Church preaches. In Thomas Malthus's "Essay on the Principle of Population" (1798), the Ur-text of population apocalypticism, the good reverend recoils in Gothic horror at the engulfing poor. Similarly, Paul Ehrlich can barely suppress a shudder of revulsion, in The Population Bomb, at the locust-like masses swarming around his taxi during a ride through Delhi: "My wife and daughter and I were returning to our hotel in an ancient taxi...The seats were hopping with fleas...The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people."
Here, then, is Dorian Gray's true face: The racism, classism, and virulent misanthropy that too often hide behind the dream of a pre-industrial, nay, pre-human Paradise Regained, a world emptied at last of the eating, washing, sleeping, visiting, arguing, screaming, begging, defecating, urinating masses. And the masses, naturally, are always the teeming, undifferentiated others -- everyone, that is, but me.
Mark Dery has written about new media, fringe thought, and unpopular culture for The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice Literary Supplement, Suck, and Feed. His collection of essays, The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, was published by Grove Press in February, 1999.