Sunday, 11 September 2011

A couple of thoughts about religion and war

Caution: This post contains atheist views and mocks organised religion.

If we try and pin down factors that cause most of the wars and conflicts around the world today, I think you’d find that they come down to three, and actually pretty predictable, points.

The first is the Great Satan (no, not that Great Satan) – the Profit Motive. It’s what drives capitalism and the constant hunger for resources, the need to brainwash people into consuming ever more, and to indoctrinate them into believing that they can’t survive on what they’ve got or on what they had survived on perfectly adequately yesterday. Capitalism can’t allow stagnation, because stagnation is the enemy of profit. Now, if you’ve to keep driving up consumption, you’ve got to keep producing enough to feed that consumption, and the ancillaries, like transport and distribution networks. And to power those networks, you need some things.

One of these is cheap labour. The cheaper the better; slaves would be fine for capitalists, but you have to feed, clothe and house them. A starvation wage is usually a better option, and if you can, you ought to outsource to wherever you can pay that starvation wage.

Then you need raw materials and energy. This is where the real problems start, because neither of these two things is infinite and easily available. Energy sources for those transport and distribution networks, in particular, often lie under some other peoples’ lands, and buying them at a fair price might drag the profit margin too low.

There’s another factor there as well – the captive market. The old imperialist nations understood the concept very well. Take over a country, strip it of everything it has, destroy any native industry, and sell your products, at gunpoint if necessary, to the colonised people. It can’t be done so blatantly today – one needs a fictional national government, which rules by fictional democracy – but it can be done.

The second is racism. Like imperialism, it’s the factor that dare not speak its name, unless it’s operating at the tribal level. Even then, it’s usually competition over resources these days, llike grazing lands and water. Still, its existence even in more allegedly civilised climes is undeniable, as when you listen to someone writing something like “How dare those ragheads attack us? Them diaper-heads need smacking down!” The racism is there, but buried below the surface, and showing itself in flashes.

Now, it’s no longer politically correct to openly admit that one wants to go to war for the sake of resources or because one doesn’t like the shape of someone else’s nose. Fear, of course, can be used as a key. Threats of acute danger can be manufactured, but they’re usually not very credible unless the population is already primed to believe and hate the “other”. And an excellent way of making them fear and hate the “other” – historically speaking – well, think for a moment and you’ll get it. Yes.

Organised religion.

Think for a moment about the Crusades, about the Holy Wars through history, down to today’s jihads. What’s one sure way of making one people hate another? Call their religion a monstrous death-cult that is an existential threat to one’s own religion, that’s what. People tend to have intense herd mentalities, and, even in many so-called advanced societies, have to be overtly religious for political, social and business reasons. (Organised religion is, of course, a business, but that’s a matter for another day.)

The thing about organised religion – why I’m stressing the word “organised” – is that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the stated purpose of the religion. It can quite easily lend itself to political and military purposes, just as Pope Urban II ordered the First Crusade, and staffed it with people who were promised absolution for their sins if they died in the Holy War against the “wicked race” (the Muslims, and incidentally the Eastern Church as well). All over Western Europe, people threw away their livelihoods and flocked the roads to go ‘liberate the Holy Land’, though most of them were too illiterate to have the faintest idea where it even might be located. Yes - they were given the licence to loot and murder in the name of Christ (no point wondering what he might have thought of that, poor man), and given a ticket to heaven at the end of it too, and they jumped at the chance. Wouldn't you?

Religion does things to peoples' brains.

And, today, the same goes to suicide bombers who can be brainwashed into blowing themselves up for religion; the same goes to Zionists who talk about the need to exterminate the Palestinians and take over the “land God promised them”, just as their ancestors allegedly slaughtered entire peoples at “god’s” behest, sparing not even the animals. The same goes to indoctrinated Christian soldiers who bomb and rocket people on the other side of the globe in the name of "freedom". The same goes, in India, to the Hindunazis who organise riots in which Muslim businesses are targeted for destruction – riots so preplanned and organised that Muslims who have camouflaged their businesses with Hindu names aren’t spared. It’s all for the money, honey.

The tragedy of this, of course, is its irrationality. The whole thing is people doing things in the name of some power which they can’t even prove exists – whose existence has to be taken entirely on faith and the desire to believe. If that faith and the desire to believe is on a personal level, of course, it’s fine; it’s harmless and can even be personally beneficial for some people. But personal faith is as unacceptable to Organised Religion as atheism or agnosticism is. Individually religious or spiritualist people can’t be brainwashed into religious frenzies, can they? You tell some Progressive Christian or Sufi to go on a neo-Crusade or to sacrifice himself for the Holy Jihad, and once he’s stopped laughing, he’ll tell you to go boil your head.

You know what I’d like? I’d like people for a change to think about the wonders we already know about and can prove – let’s say, black holes, from which light can’t escape; or red giant stars; or the way life seems to exist in places (like underwater volcanic vents) one couldn’t ever imagine it existing. I’d love it if someone looks at a flower as an evolutionary marvel designed to further plant reproduction, instead of something to snip off and lay at the plaster feet of some god.

Now, I’d like to propose a different kind of Holy War. Just look, now, at a Force that is everywhere, which acts on us at every moment, and has extreme, almost incalculable effects on us; literally, a Force without which we could not exist. There absolutely is such a force, and not only can we see its effects in our own lives, we can prove its existence.

It’s called gravity.

Does it exist? Is it strong? You bet. If you have doubts, step off your balcony and see. Scream out your God's name and ask him/her/it to stop you from falling - you'll go splat every time. Inference: gravity is stronger than your god.

So, now we've got that established, can you imagine putting on Kevlar body armour, strapping on an M-16, and going out to do battle in the name of gravity? Can you perhaps pull on a suicide vest and make a martyr’s video before going out to destroy yourself and a bunch of people in its holy name? Are you interested? No?

The idea’s ridiculous, huh? After all, why should Gravity need a holy war or a holy warrior? It’s only...uh, Science, isn’t it?

Ah, you get it now.


  1. I'm with you completely.

    I think the profit margin - as envisioned by corporate capitalism - is BY FAR the worst of the bunch, though.
    It's so horrific because it believes it can be defended by logic and reason - and it has NO HUMAN VALUES behind its fascade.

    Religion is pretty damn awful. But at least logic and reason can make it go up in smoke.
    We're not nearly so lucky in the case of capitalism.

    (Now, try and prove your blog hasn't offended the pink elephant in my closet that keeps me sane...)

  2. Religion is pretty damn awful.

    Recently, the American Presidential candidate Rick Santorum said that the 'Crusades were a good idea'....

    He is, of course, a Fundie moron....

  3. Yes sir. "organized" religion is the worst thing we humans have ever created. It is what "allows" us to engage in the most pornographic thing we humans have created, namely war.
    I know what I write of having served honorably as a US Marine and did a tour in the imperial war in Vietnam 1970-71.
    We need to be rid of "organized" religion and all the vile mess that accompanies it and then we will be able, hopefully, to be done with wars.
    Just my 2 cents worth.


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