Religion Hijacked for Political Purposes

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I
have long thought of doing a book on religion. Since there are already
several billion books about religion I can't imagine this news will
cause a big rush of enthusiasm in many readers, most of whom are
already saturated with the "religion," "inspiration,"
and "spirituality" displays at the big bookstores, not
to mention being tired of dull sermons.

But
I don't think my basic idea is a bad one, and it has not been worked
to death, not that I'm aware of. It is that one should (a) sincerely
practice the religion one believes in, that is, both walk the walk
and talk the talk, and (b) encourage everybody else do the same.
Live and let live.

Telling
the other guy his notion of God is bananas and deriding his rituals
is strictly forbidden to a civilized citizen. If someone tries to
tell me that my God is bananas and my rituals are to be banished,
and he does so amiably, I'll ignore him except to suggest he learn
manners. If he is coming at me with threatened violence then I'll
(attempt to) kick him to the back of breakfast and go on about my
business.

Actually
this is kind of the way we do it in America, except that the anti-religion
gang has presently got the upper hand and is working to shove their
version of things down our throats. The anti-God, anti-religion
people want THEIR views on the first and last things of life to
prevail in the land, and they have managed to get control of a lot
of the governing institutions, especially the courts, and the "entertainment
industry" as well, so it's a problem for us peace-loving religionists,
at least those of us who are not entirely enamored of totalitarian
ways and of totalitarianism's handmaiden, salacious "entertainment."

But
that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that some of the
religion people themselves have taken it as their duty to shove
their version of things down the throats of foreigners. Now, to
move this ball requires something I call hijacking. You have to
hijack religion and make it serve sheer aggressiveness and greed.
Religion becomes the shield of all our evil instincts, including
the most destructive ones and certainly including what is very likely
the most universal human drive of all: the drive to dominate, what
St. Augustine called libido dominandi.

If,
in the pursuit of my "Christian vision" of a good world,
I can convince myself that Pomerania is ruled by a crowd of wretches
who torture their own people and are stockpiling stinkbombs to throw
at me, and I think the Lord I worship has ordered me to carry the
good news to all the benighted, but especially to tortured Pomeranians,
then I have hijacked my religion to serve my desire to dominate
Pomeranians, which is especially handy because it happens that the
Pomeranians, dear misguided souls, are sitting on a gold mine, and
need to be relieved of it.

It's
not that we want the gold, you see; perish the thought; but if the
gold happens to come to us while we are engaged in the thoroughly
worthy work of saving the souls of this most unfortunate people
(unfortunate because we may have to kill quite a few of them), why,
you can see, can't you, that we should have the good of the gold.
That is only what justly comes to those who obey the Lord's calling
to go forth and turn the wicked from their ways and enlist them,
newly enlightened by our attentions, in our cause of righteousness.

If,
in addition to being torturers of their own people, the Pomeranians
are also terrible heretics who have distorted the very religion
we subscribe to, then all the more are we determined to wipe them
out. The fact that we, too, have distorted our religion to embrace
invading and destroying Pomerania, and thus we also are heretics,
is just one of those little ironies that pop up in life. It is,
then, heretic contra heretic, with each side claiming the true,
Pierian spring of faith.

The
ancient gods must find this amusing, because they know that the
supreme God, the All-High Endlessness, is never party to these internecine
bickerings, however much they may resemble the carryings-on of the
gods of old Greece. Those ancient gods indeed knew all about one-upping
and revenge. You do me, you s.o.b., and I'll do both you and your
mother-in-law back so that you'll never forget it! (I believe this
is now called "blowback.")

The
late Arthur Koestler wrote years ago that the 17h century religious
wars of Europe settled nothing. What happened is that Europeans
grew weary of their fierce hatreds and their awful bloodlettings
in the name of God and turned their attention elsewhere. Where they
turned it was, of course, to politics and money, and attention has
stayed fixed on politics and money to this day. When Christian Austria
and Germany fought Christian England and France, it was a little
hard to say Jesus Christ was on either side, although the effort
was made.

Now
we are up against a different sort of item. The bloodthirsty religionists
are back in the saddle on both sides of what is clearly a pseudo-religious
face-off. It's almost enough to make one wish for a Voltaire or
at least a Rabelais to shame and mock the participants out of their
intransigence, but I don't think we are going to be that lucky.
This one is going to have to work its way down to embers and ashes,
and I wish to all Heaven that was not so. But we seem to have set
ourselves up to deserve this payout: I recently read somewhere a
line that I thought a fitting epitaph for the present episode. I
think it was credited to Arnold Toynbee and was to this effect:
"No great nation every died save by suicide."

March
11, 2003

Tom
White [send him mail] writes
from Odessa, Texas.

Tom
White Archives


     

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