What's that have to do with this blog, I hear you asking. Well, you know how many a Christian pounced on Christopher Hitchens' cancer as an opportunity for him to convert? Nergal is a pantheistic pagan who is vociferously anti-Christian. Behemoth has heartwarming song titles that include "Christians to the Lions", "Satanica", and my personal favorite, "Christgrinding Avenue". As part of the show for introducing the latter song, he's been known to tear up a Bible on stage, calling it a "pile of shit" and encouraging the audience to "burn it" and "piss on it". (If you're unfamiliar with the reasons why black metal bands loathe Christianity so much, I recommend the documentary Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.) He was famously threatened with prison time under some obscure Polish blasphemy law, a threat which was extended to his mega-hot pop-singer girlfriend Doda after she made similarly derisive comments about Christianity.
A few months back, Nergal commented on remarks that he might renounce his ideologies in the face of death, saying, "the idea that I will change my opinions, priorities, and values as a consequence of my illness sounds as if someone regards my head, and not my body, ill." Nergal was recently discharged from the hospital after six months of treatment, which included a bone marrow transplant. He faces a lengthy recovery in relative isolation as he cannot risk viral infections, but he had this to say about his trials:
After almost half of year of treatment in various hospitals, several cycles of chemotherapy, irradiation and bone marrow transplant I have been finally released home in a pretty fuckin’ good condition. I’m feeling ok, taking the intensity of treatment under consideration. That was not an easy period of my life, but, as I envisaged, I left the hospital victorious.There are a few things that are relevant here. Nergal got through it without God, without prayer, without religious dogma. Like all of us, he relied on his family, his friends, his girlfriend, and his iron-clad will. He didn't cower in the face of death and let fear shape his beliefs.
But that's not the really cool part. Behemoth fans across the globe rallied for him, organizing bone marrow drives. The drives had virtually no odds of directly helping Nergal, and the fans knew it; they rallied to promote awareness of leukemia and encourage people to donate bone marrow for others in need of transplants. It's a beautiful example of the fact that the things that bind us have nothing to do with religion or faith. They have to do with our shared humanity, our shared needs and responsibilities. We don't need faith in mystical beings and religious dogmas to overcome great trials – we need strength of will and, above all, we need each other.