To be honest. I don’t have much time for Religion.
If you need to believe in a flying, invisible, all seeing magical wizard friend for your day to day ethical decisions, well good luck to you but expect me to mock that reasoning while questioning 10% of what you say and paying no attention whatsoever to the other 90%.
That three of the major Religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism all worship the same God and yet manage to butcher each other whenever they get the opportunity would be Exhibit A of the evidence that there is no God. How could God have gotten the same idea so badly misinterpreted by all his congregation? If the Christian God is real, what the hell was his messenger tripping on to get the eight armed, elephant headed blue Hindu faith so badly out of synch with the rest of the God story?
It’s not God that I have a problem with, it’s his crazy fundy followers who furrow my what-the-fuck-brow most.
Don’t get me wrong, there is much to thank Religion for. The passions that drove culture, architecture, and the development of the self through Renaissance art in the Christian faith. The literature and history of Judaism, the scientific achievements of Islam in Mathematics (Al-Khwarmi (d. 850) worked on developing logarithms and algebra), Astronomy (Abdul Afa (d. 997/8) worked on developing trigonometry and spherical geometry, Engineering (in 1121, Al-Khazini published a book called Book of the Balance of Wisdom which featured detailed building techniques, construction of balances and laws of mechanics) and Medicine (Al-Zahra wrote famous surgery manuals in 939).
For all the achievements however, there’s all that evil massacre, war and murder done in the name of Religion. There’s that whole holding humanity back to the dark ages of suspicion and fear. The endless bloody child molestation (I mean how evil can you get?) the homophobia, the hatred of women, the genocides and robbery of all that money from the poor and desperate so Church elites can sit in Gold thrones.
That’s an awful amount of blood soaked hatred, bigotry and evil to have to chew through before you get anywhere close to the positives.
I also don’t mind the idea that there is a benign God looking after us all, interconnected in some incredible tapestry of space and time. Who doesn’t want to walk around a brutal, violent, painful world with the God almighty sitting on your shoulder looking after you and promising eternal heaven if you die?
Religion is the ultimate can of RedBull, it really does give you wings.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tended to view religious people with far less suspicion. I decided in the end that they are just nice folk who like walking around cuddling and consulting with a giant teddy bear at all times. Who is to judge if that’s what you need to get you through the day huh?
Religions however are made by humans and humans are deeply flawed. I think when the Roman Emperor Constantine decided to make Christianity the State Religion, suddenly power became the defining goal.
Goodbye meek inheriting the earth, hello the first 1%.
In 325AD, Constantine held the First Council of Nicaea where all the male Bishops got together to decide what was going to go in the official version of the bible (so everyone understood what the rules were) and the whole ‘is Jesus the Son of God, and if he is, doesn’t that mean he is infact a God himself” stuff.
See if Jesus was just a man who had a really special relationship with God, then you could just disagree with what he had to say, but if Jesus was actually a God himself, then that made his words holy and undeniable. You can see which version gives the church the most power right?
So unsurprisingly Jesus gets voted in as superman and the Bishops cut and paste most of the Tora into their Bible (first Copy Right Infringement of all time) and throws in a bunch of self righteous chapters written by people who may or may not have actually had anything to do with Jesus as holy writ.
Hey presto, a new brand is launched.
276 years after the Council of Nicaea, Muhammad walks out of a prayer cave in Hira, a few miles from Makkah after being shaken and hugged by Allah and gets promoted to Messenger of God.
Great perks and car parks come with it.
If you look at the original faith of the Muslims, it isn’t some blood thirsty killing machine. It’s incredibly educated, compassionate and pious. After his death at 63 however comes the whole ‘who should lead the Muslim faith’, direct descendants of Muhammad or elected representatives. If it is direct descendants then that leaves his tribal connections as the dominant force locking everyone else out. This debate gets sorted once and for all when a group decide to kill all of Muhammad’s relatives in 680 at the battle of Karbala and this becomes the great split between the Sunni and Shia’s.
(I’d get into the crusades but we don’t have the time in this blog.)
I also get our evolutionary needs to believe in a God…
Even if the world’s troubles were miraculously solved and we all led peaceful lives in equity, religion would probably still be around. This is because a god-shaped hole seems to exist in our species’ neuropsychology, thanks to a quirk of our evolution.
Understanding this requires a delve into “dual process theory”. This psychological staple states that we have two very basic forms of thought: System 1 and System 2. System 2 evolved relatively recently. It’s the voice in our head – the narrator who never seems to shut up – that enables us to plan and think logically.
System 1, on the other hand, is intuitive, instinctual and automatic. These capabilities regularly develop in humans, regardless of where they are born. They are survival mechanisms. System 1 bestows us with an innate revulsion of rotting meat, allows us to speak our native language without thinking about it and gives babies the ability to recognise parents and distinguish between living and nonliving objects. It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters or the death of loved ones.
..I’ve always found Richard Dawkins hatred of religion amusing when you consider it’s evolutionary origins.
Which brings me in a round about way to Rupert Murdoch and his text messages.
It seems to me that there is some over arching narrative in the West that the Muslim faith is somehow intrinsically evil and can not in any way assimilate into the values of the West, and Rupert’s wee text here feeds into that false narrative.
Forget the fact that far more Muslims have been killed by other Muslim extremists than have ever killed Westerners, Rupert here is expressing the belief that Islam = murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army are a warped fundamentalist Christian terror group who kidnap children, feed them drugs and then force them to kill, rape and mutilate one another. No one is seriously suggesting they represent Christianity. The Protestant/Catholic maiming and killings during the Northern Irish conflict are never presented as representative of all Christianity and the KKK aren’t ever held up as the be all and end all of Christians, yet Muslim extremists are.
It’s a false narrative that has been promoted in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings. For suggesting that there were more complexities in this than shouting ‘free speech’, suburban intellectual heavyweight Damien Christie accused this blog of being a rape apologist blog…
…while some on the Left have claimed that any thing less than condemnation is siding with the terrorists. John Moore wrote the “grotesque response from the left comes from identity politics advocates wanting to be seen as siding with oppressed Muslims” and Steven Cowan crowed “The ugly beast of identity politics comes into full view”. (Personally if they want to see identity politics in full force they should have watched Twitter a fortnight ago when prominent members of the ‘On The Left’ Blog bullied a woman online with such viciousness that she threatened to commit suicide all over a comment she had made about not liking make up on men.)
I find it hilarious that my blog suggesting there is more to consider in a landscape of freedom of speech double standards would be hailed as a great betrayal of free speech. In a country where the Prime Minister has raided newspapers, defamed investigative Journalists and have had their homes searched, I think my blog is the least of our worries.
The French reaction has been that us stupid English pig dogs with our Arthur-king and silly English kaniggets don’t understand the nuance of French satire and that Charlie Hebdo was actually a friend to the downtrodden. The screamingly obvious problem with this self assessment is that if us stupid English pig dogs don’t get the satire, how on earth are the impoverished Muslim refugees flooding France reading it?
…portraying forced brides for Boko Haram as welfare queens may all be terribly amusing to the French, but how is that being interpreted by those who are being portrayed in such a manner?
On 9-11-2001 I watched with horror how the actions of a few were suddenly conflated into a war against an entire region of the planet. It would be tragic in the extreme if we allowed the murders at Charlie Hebdo to be manipulated into the same justifications.
I see radical Muslim extremists as a response to Oppression, not as an indictment on the entire faith. How did the Theocracy of Iran come about again? Because the bloody Americans staged a coup in Iran when the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown by the UK and the US in 1953 for daring to suggest that their oil interests in Iran should be nationalised. The creation of the dictator Shar ruthlessly eliminated all moderate opposition in Iran leaving only the most radical Muslims who finally succeeded in taking power back and creating the Theocracy we see now.
The CIA backed Muslim extremists like Osama Bin laden in Afghanistan in an attempt to draw the Soviets into their own Vietnam, ISIS gained power from the vacuum created from invading Iraq and Saudi Arabia and a host of other Middle Eastern fiefdoms use radical Islam to control and oppress their people with the total agreement of the West who buy their oil.
Let’s not forget the ongoing injustices meted out daily and hourly against Palestinians by Israel.
That so many Western Muslims want to rush off and fight isn’t because Islam is somehow especially evil, it is a failure of the secular culture to include them and make them feel an identity to the values of that country. Providing righteous grievance by committing atrocities against Muslims doesn’t help.
Screaming ‘Free Speech’ doesn’t answer any of these issues, if the West wants to stop Muslim terrorism, perhaps we should look at how we continue to create it?