Thursday, January 8, 2015

We're Already Past "It CAN Happen Here"

It's here. Our "Christian" "conservative" "brethren" in the US aren't (yet) at the point of murdering (mostly) people who disagree with them. But, flying the flag of faux persecution (i.e., the anxiety that not everyone in the US agrees with them in all things at all times in all ways), their aims aren't much different from those Mohammed-muddled murderers in Paris. In the minds of each, there's no room for non-believers.

As he always was (non-god non-rest his non-soul) Hitch is exactly right. They may recoil (largely) from the violence (to a degree), but there are those in all religions who enable the sentiment, the distorted view of humanity that allows such violence and stems from a universal trait among religions: the hijacking of normal human tendencies, and turning them upside down. Suppressing them deliberately.

I think of my infant grandson, of his curiosity, of how easy it is to evoke laughter; of his need for comfort and love and trust, and his nascent ability to return them. I think of his dad, when he was young, in a multiracial daycare with not a thought in his head that the colors made any difference. No, as the song goes, you have to be carefully taught to hate like those horrible monsters in Paris. And there's no system on earth with the commitment and effectiveness to do the teaching, other than religion.

Looking at that adorable grandson, thinking of how it's possible that those men in Paris could do what they did, considering it avenging their god, it seems to me that teaching a child religion of nearly any sort, closing his or her mind off to so much of what's out there to be learned, hijacking his instinct for knowledge and using it to instill prejudice and hatred while calling it truth; stifling curiosity, suppressing the natural sense of empathy evolved over so many eons for so many reasons of benefit to humankind -- doing all that is no less abusive than putting out his eyes or deafening his ears.

Were we to know of parents who did such a thing, we'd jail them; we'd accept without a moment's arguing that they'd deliberately ruined their kids. Isn't it only a matter of degree? In fact, if all they did was damage their eyes and ears but left their minds intact, might it even be less horrible than many forms of religious indoctrination?

This comes at a time when the implications of the US's steady move toward theocracy, facilitated by silence and suppression and false claims of persecution and deliberate distractions from the sub-rosa agenda, is much on my mind. So I suppose I overreact. I don't claim that there's no differences among or within religions; it's clear that radical Islam is far worse (at the moment and hopefully forever) than the Christian radicals in the US. No offense intended, not me!

But there are those who wish to keep their minds open, who value learning with no end-point, who don't fear but rather welcome the unknown, who see commonality among all human beings; and there's everyone else. The latter group is much larger, and is characterized by deep commitment to one religion or another. The former group does contain religious people, of course, but not fanatics. Not people who'd impose their beliefs on others or who see the differing beliefs or non-belief of those others as a threat to the shaky wall they've erected between themselves and reality.

So whereas the sickness and horror I feel at the events in Paris is greater than my concern over my country's drift into religion-based denialism and bible-based theocracy, I'm only a little less concerned about it. I'm not very worried about people bursting into my home and murdering me for the glory of their god, but I am very concerned about their ability to legislate away my rights and those of my fellow men and women, and to threaten the life of my grandson by ignoring the reality of the world around them.

Religion, by its very nature and with few exceptions, takes the human mind from its natural state of curiosity and empathy and openness to others and deliberately, cynically, relentlessly, and extremely successfully, moves it along a line that ends with closed-minded rejection of knowledge, hatred of otherness, and fear of the unknown. Today, radical Islam has found the end of that line and wallows in it. The radical American religious right is back a ways on that line, but only so far. And they do cling to their guns, don't they?


  1. They also choose to pick which scriptures they are going to follow and ignore others. Such as they ignore Jesus saying that his Kingdom is no part of this world.
    If they followed this simple truth the world would be better off for so many.

  2. See the straw man, watch me blow him down. But thanks for provoking actual thinking on my part.

  3. I don't think it's a straw man argument, Chuck, at least as I understand the term. And I did take some (small) pains to note that there are people in all religions that don't fit my description.

    But if religion can be a positive force for many individuals, and if it doesn't preclude in them remaining attuned to man's and woman's better natures, I think in the large view the history of the worlds "great" religions has been one of suppression of those parts of human nature; and often for overtly cynical and self-enriching reasons.

    So it might be said (and by golly, it just was) that those churches with which we're both familiar that do nothing but good for their assemblages and neighbors are basing their behaviors on the innate goodness of humans, the traits evolved for the purpose of gathering in groups to survive. And that they do so, to some degree, in spite of the teachings -- and certainly the behaviors -- of their fellow religionists.

    There's nothing, in other words, that such good people do that wouldn't be done by an empathetic open minded person with no religion at all. So for those people religion borders on unnecessary: they'd be that way with or without it. And for those such as the murderers in Paris or the religion-based haters in this country, religion serves as justification for the worst things imaginable.

  4. "But there are those who wish to keep their minds open, who value learning with no end-point, who don't fear but rather welcome the unknown, who see commonality among all human beings; and there's everyone else." Sid, I'm not annoyed or upset, and certainly not offended. Mostly curious, but that's a longer conversation. And forgetting that the above characterization describes pretty much every "religious" person (I'm not one) I know, since my experience is so tiny it's hardly worth mentioning and is a product of my own comfort...wait. I'll just wait for that longer conversation.

  5. I guess our disagreement, to the extent that there is one, comes down to perception of the numbers in each group. My assessment of those numbers is, no doubt, skewed by the loudest voices in our political scene, which probably makes it seem bigger than it is.

    So I'll acknowledge that I'm probably wrong about the numbers. But if there are more religious people in this country who remain openminded and who fear theocracy of any sort, they're clearly and effectively out-shouted and out-voted by those on the other side. It's the latter who seem to be in control of our political process; and it's fanatics around the world who seem to be in control of the dialog.

  6. I should add: it's doubly frustrating, assuming it's true that there are many more of the "good" (shorthand!) religious people in the US, and recognizing that the most effective means of expressing that "goodness" in the political world is by voting, that so few seem to do so.
    About a third of eligible voters did so this time around. So those good people don't seem to be very alarmed by what's happening. Was it Pogo who said "first they came for the Jews..." (In-joke.)


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