It was part of our foundational intent two years ago when plinyblog.com had its birth, to write on diverse subjects deemed interesting enough to warrant comment. A cursory review of the previous 205 blogs published since such inception, will reveal very few instances where subjects have been seen to require repetition [ all of which have been designated as a “redux”]. But certain disturbing news reports of late, have unfortunately provided a worthy rationale for another rare relaxation of our original intent. These distressing news reports dealt with the latest instances of religious conflict and shameful atrocity.
We have found it necessary on several past occasions to express the obvious and too often overlooked truism, that man acquires his respective culture and belief system by the random accident of birth (as opposed to philosophical choice). An individual born into a Coptic Christian setting will live his life as a Coptic Christian, a baby born to Irish Catholic parents will grow up an Irish Catholic.
Yet a reference to any historical period in mankind’s history (to the present) will reveal unlimited examples of groups of people of one religious belief, who have prosecuted and vilified other groups ascribing to a different belief system, and have dedicatedly committed genocide on the alleged self justifying grounds that they were carrying out God’s will. There are far too many historic examples to comprehensively cite; these include, for example, the celebrated Spanish Inquisition, in which the bloodthirsty religious zealots, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, put an untold number of innocent people to death by burning them alive, for heresy, in the name of the Prince of Peace, the thirty year’s war in Central Europe between Catholics and Protestants, which earned the title of the most destructive war in all history, in which 8 million people died in the name of some Deity, and a continuous war, since the 7th Century between Sunni and Shiite Moslems, over religious differences, discussed below.
There remains, rationally and empirically, the unavoidable question: Is organized religion helpful or harmful to mankind? In theoretical principle, organized religion would seem culturally and morally salutary; in actual, historical experience, it has been demonstrably and uniquely responsible for contention, misery, warfare and homicide, on an unimaginable scale, throughout recorded history. Any reader of this declaration of fact, who finds the same, in any way shocking or objectionable, is cordially invited to consult an authoritative history text of choice, which we feel will mitigate such reflexive reaction, in favor of objective, empirical reason.
In past writings we have often referred to the etiology of this deadly human malady and its origin. Young and highly impressionable children, born, randomly, into an ethnicity and culture, are taught, by well meaning parents and the community, lessons of “we” and, as referring to other cultures, “they.” The purpose, conceivably, may be well intended and geared to giving the young child a sense of familial identity and belonging, but lessons of “we” and “they” are toxic seeds of future enmity and discord. Next comes the creation of myths concerning the other, possibly evangelical activity and later, conflict and tragedy. It tragically appears that once these seeds of discord are sown, the results are impossible to effectively eradicate.
An illustrative, (fictional but real- life) example of the principle, which we have previously posited in one of our past writings, went as follows: A white 30- year old, well -educated woman, and a supporter of civil rights, donating money to the NAACP and the Urban League, is walking her 11- year old daughter to school. She sees another young woman, who is also well educated, and happens to be black, similarly, walking her young child to school. Friendly personal greetings, and sincerely friendly broad smiles are exchanged; but the young white 11 -year- old thinks she notices a subtle (probably not consciously intended) cautionary squeeze of her hand, responsive to the meeting. The unconscious reaction of the mother, is included in the harvest of bitter fruit of the seeds of discord (the “we” and “they”) planted in her in early life, and thereafter impossible to effectively eradicate.
The Sunni and the Shia, both traditional Moslem, have been engaged in continuous war since the 7th Century. The dispute was whether Prophet Mohammed’s successor should legally devolve by familial inheritance, like the English Crown, or selected by democratic vote. No rational, persuasive argument can be urged, that this is the issue which has continued to cause such bloody warfare and loss of life, persisting into the 21st Century, with little hope of cessation. The only understandable motivation is the pernicious continuance of the “we” and “they” dynamic, which results in the depersonalization and objectification of the “they,” making atrocity and murder possible. It is a momentous tragedy that neither side is able is to realize that the Deity has not directed the extermination of the “they.” One of the current news reports which motivated this writing advised a systematic killing of Sufi Moslems, by ISIS, during their prayer service at the Sufi Mosque.
The other shocking news report which motivated the present writing, related the report that there is a genocidal “cleansing” of the population of Moslems, domiciled in Myanmaar. A film clip featured a leading Buddhist cleric in that country, clearly and unashamedly, stating that people who do not follow Buddha are not human and should be eliminated. We cannot adequately describe our shocked and disappointed reaction to his words and to the reported events. For some naïve, wishful, reason, we had previously believed that Buddhism, with its emphasis on inner growth, rather than obeisance to a stereotypic Deity, its cultural emphasis on peaceful meditation and mindfulness, made it an exception to the common aberration affecting organized religion; apparently (and sadly), we were wrong, and are truly shattered.
However disappointing and discouraging they may be, the facts speak clearly and unequivocally for themselves. We are therefore obliged to maintain that the honest and considerate practice of secular morality is the only rationally appropriate and acceptable belief system.