I wrote down the following on September 11, 2003.
IN THE NAME OF RELIGION
Three years ago today a group of men flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.
This year the Chief Justice of the State supreme Court in Alabama installed a monument with quotations from Genesis in the seat of the states highest court.
A few years ago the Talibon destroyed thousand year old art in Afghanistan.
In the recent past in Waco hundreds of men, women, and children died in a fiery furnace; in a South American jungle hundreds killed themselves by drinking poison.
In the sixteenth century Spanish priest destroyed thousands of books in Central America, erasing forever the history and culture of the Maya.
In the middle ages in europe the Catholic church tortured, expelled, and burned to death thousands of non Catholics.
In the former Yugoslavia a three-way war tore the nation apart.
In Northern Ireland, Kashmir and the Holy land, wars which have gone on for 50 years continue.
The Romans fed Christians, Jews, Mithraist, and others to the lions.
Socrates was forced to drink poison.
Galilao was forced to repudiate his own scientific work.
The examples of man’s inhumanity to man, (torture, killing, maiming, expulsion), the destruction of cultures, art, history, science, are endless.
What’s it all about? Religion is about a very specific kind of knowledge, Divine Knowledge. This ultimate form of knowledge can include any and every area of knowledge. It is about divine beings (gods, angels demons, saints, spirits, etc..) It is about laws (for human conduct, social organization, rituals, birth, death, marriage, health, nature, education, sex, and on and on.) It is about history (past, present, and future.) It is about reality, time, weather, you name it and divine knowledge covers it. True, the specifics of divine knowledge vary from one version to another and not all versions include all of these areas but there is no subject that is not covered by some version of Divine Knowledge.
Divine Knowledge differs from mere human knowledge in two ways:
1. Human knowledge is fallible and uncertain. It is subject to opinion. It changes with time. It can be ignored with no eternal consequence.
Divine Knowledge is certain, infallible, unchanging, not subject to opinion, and if ignored there are dire consequences.
2. Human knowledge is human in origin which means it is corrupt, unreliable and the product of the human mind.
Divine Knowledge by definition is Divine in origin. It is pure, reliable, and does not come from the mind of man.
Since Divine Knowledge is not human in origin humans must get this knowledge either directly from the Divine source or by either the spoken or written word which someone else receives directly from it’s divine source. Most who adhere to a version of Divine Knowledge, what ever that version may be, do not claim to have received it directly. They simply accept on faith the claim by someone else that THEY received it directly from the Divine source.
Why do most people in the world “believe”? Because it is easier than questioning; because their parents or the community or the culture they are part of believe; or because they really don’t care and have no interest in thinking about it. Some “Believe” because of some event which they have experienced. This “Revelation”, “Epiphany”, “Enlightenment”,”Conversion”, “Redemption”, “Salvation”, “Rebirth”, or what ever name may be given to it, is usually an emotional experience that occurred one or more times in their lives in a setting with religious connotations that convinced them of the truth of a particular version of Divine Knowledge.
The really important thing about Divine Knowledge is that the content is totally irrelevant to the effect belief has on the conduct and thought processes of the believer. Belief in a version of Divine Knowledge, because the knowledge is divine (and thus infallible) makes all knowledge that conflicts with it human in origin and thus wrong; even if it is another version of Divine Knowledge, and it makes those who reject what the believer KNOWS to be the truth (because it is Divine), enemies of the truth, enemies of the Divine, and thus evil, sinful, doomed, and fair game for what ever the believer does to them.
All fundamentalist believers, no mater what religion, are a threat to the freedoms we as Americans hold most dear. They are all convinced that they and they alone know the truth. They all feel Divinely justified, even obligated to do what ever it takes to make their version of Divine Knowledge the law that all must observe; the curriculum for educating the young; the foundation of the social order. They will all deny this, but history and their own actions speak louder than their denials. Given the chance they would force all of us to constantly and incessantly be exposed to their views. There is really no difference between the placing of that monument in the Alabama supreme court, and the constant loud speaker broadcast of the North Korean Communist that everyone there must listen to day in and day out. Both are intended to make clear to all who disagree with them that they are outsiders; both are attempts to intimidate those who do not believe into believing, or at least pretending to believe and keeping their true feelings to themselves.
The fundamentalist in this country (who are mostly Protestant Christians) should think twice about their actions. They need to take note of the fact that more than 50% of the population of this country are not Protestant but Roman Catholic. They need to take note of the fact that the fastest growing religion in this country is not one of the branches of Christianity but Islam. They need to consider exactly how they feel about the prospect of their grandchildren or great grandchildren living in a world where THEY are the ones being forced to observe beliefs and practices they do not agree with, being constantly reminded that THEY are the outsiders, that THEY are the ones who must pretend, that THEY are the ones who must hide their true beliefs.
Terrorism takes many forms. The events of 9-11 are the most grotesque, but the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, entering that court house in Alabama, seeing that monument to the ten Commandments, knowing those who are about to judge him hold him to be an infidel, a sinner, a believer in an evil doctrine, also experiences a form of terror. The Atheist child forced to stand silent in his class room at a public school while a pray is said experiences a form of terror. The taxpayer forced to write out a check to a government knowing that his money will go to a religious organization who’s teachings he does not believe experiences a form of terror.
Until religion, all religions, are forced out of the public arena and back into the hearts of believers, back into the homes, Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Chapels, and Temples, of the world (which is where religion belongs and should stay) the world will never be free of terrorist.
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