Religious Moderates and the rise of the SITH LordsA long time ago I visited Indonesia. It was during the dictatorship of President Suharto. This nation of scattered islands and many religions proclaimed itself to be a model of tolerance, as a matter of law. On the surface of things it seemed to be so, that's the advantage of being a dictator, you can tell the squabbling children that they must behave.
Whatever other religions there were, I only met muslims during my short stay. The young ladies were very shy, nary a peep from them. Not so my male hosts, they were well pleased to show me the sights and educate me in matters of local custom. I was even taken to see a local wedding, bride and groom resplendent in tropical colours. It was explained to me that an Arabic inscription over the door was a message of peace, copied from the Koran.
While my host drove within a slow-moving stream of vehicles and human crowding, I asked if everyone on this island was Muslim. "No", he replied. Motioning to the side of the road, he continued, "See all those people, most of them are too poor to be Muslims. To be a Muslim you must do the Hajj." Perplexed and concerned, I asked "If they aren't Muslim, what are they?" I should not have been so confused. After all, there are many Christian tribes who similarly dismiss the faith of the other as "not quite the real deal".
That evening, my host took me home for a most agreeable dinner. After the meal, I was completely taken aback when he pulled out a bottle of Scotch and offered to pour me a drink. Concerned that he was compromising himself by way of this gesture of hospitality, I protested "But I didn't think Muslims were allowed to drink alcohol?". "Oh no!", my host assured, "It's losing control that's the problem, and I never drink to the point of losing control..." I was comforted, this seemed like a tolerant, sane religious outlook.
I first bumped into religion when I was about 8 or 9 years old. For some unfathomable reason, my parents decided at that time that us children should be dragged off to the local Methodist Church on Sundays. Sunday School lessons made no sense to me, the stories were just too farfetched, that wasn't how nature worked. (I liked the story about Daniel in the Lions Den, empathy between man and lion seemed plausible, but Jonah in the belly of the whale was just too wrong.) Things got truly strange when I sat in on the sermons preached to the adults. After church I got an ice cream which sort of made things OK, for about a year. After that, religion and I harmlessly went our separate ways.
Perhaps it was my Indonesian experience or perhaps it was just from living too long in the bible-thumping heartland of Canada, whatever, I started to wonder what the heck it was that turned the crank of all these people. On a deadend night, stuck in a hotel at some truly uninteresting city in North America, I picked up the Gideon's copy of the Old Testament and began to read. The stories ranged from ludicrous (Genesis), to boring begatting, to devinely-inspired genocide by gods chosen people, to the petty jealosies and over-the-top retributions of this psychotic god-person. I was horrified!
My heart truly pounded when I contemplated that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all subscribe to the notion that the Old Testament is the instructive word of God. Deuteronomy 13.6-9 demands:If anyone secretly entices you --- even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend --- saying, `Let us go and worship other gods', whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people.Little wonder that they were all at each others throats like rabbid dogs. Little wonder that Protestants and Catholics were busy butchering each other in Northern Ireland or wherever else they could find half an excuse. Little wonder an apostate and his head would be so swiftly separated in Saudi Arabia, hostland to the Hajj. But I stilled my heart, these places were far away, I'd steer clear of them and they'd leave be athiest me.
More than a decade whistled by without anything more annoying than zombies pushing Intelligent Design. Then on September 11, 2001, 19 Islamic warriors attacked the USA. Most of these militants were Saudi citizens and the al-Qaeda outfit to which they belonged was headed by a holier-than-thou Muslim from Saudi Arabia who was called Osama bin Laden.
Leaders of every stripe were quick to dissociate religion from al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia was swiftly exhonerated and granted ally status, Saudi Princes being long-time friends of the Bush dynasty. What to do? President George Dubbya Bush declared a war on terror and invaded Afghanistan. For some of us, there seemed to be a mismatch between cause and effect. But never mind, Afghanistan quickly fell. It was a big hit for George Dubbya.
If one invasion is good, two must be better. In February 2003 George Dubbya told Australian Prime Minister John Howard that liberating the people of Iraq would not be a gift provided by the United States but, rather, "God's gift to every human being in the world." George Dubbya sent in God's army on March, 2003 and declared victory on May 1, 2003. Dubbya was handsomely returned to power in 2004. Thank God, again.
Sadam Hussain was hanged and God was right pleased, the vindictive old bastard. God's gift to the world turned out to be one of those gifts that just kept giving. The Shia had one view of God, Sunni another, and the Kurds begged to differ again. Paradise was primed for a shitfight.
Enter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Aping Saudi Royals, ISIS started chopping off the heads of people who held a different view. They especially liked the idea of cutting off Christian heads, although these were in short supply. Mostly they had to content themselves with the slaughter and rape of Shia and Kurds.
President Obama and David Cameron both agreed, this wasn't a religious problem, it was terrorism. So off we went, again, to make war on terror. No boots on the ground, this time, just air-power. Canada tossed in a fleet of fighter jets. The Iraqi army would do the foot soldering. But where were they? Sunni had thrown their lot in with ISIS. Shia and Kurd share no love. Islamic factions abound but the Iraq Army was always a Western delusion, ISIS understood that.The Western Powers were not playing fair,
They'd only bomb ISIS from the air.
No problem for ISIS, I think,
Their retort was by video link.
Exploiting bronze-age religious tools,
They found a couple of disaffected fools
Residing behind the enemy line.
Striking our soldiers so fine,
By gun and by car. How dastardly! Not fair!
It gave our polly wally's a terrible scare...
Oh, foul! Oh, the indignity of it,
Our Prime Minister hid in his closet!
Perhaps God knows what our Dear Prime Minister was thinking while he was hiding, I don't. But I do know what our Dear Media were spouting. Between dramatic flourishes of half-hatched newsbreaks, they were fearmongering a pathway for more legislation, "freedoms would have to be sacrificed for security..."
"Enough!" I say! "Those who sacrifice freedom for security shall have neither!"
This war on terror is cowardly politics, it avoids the issue. The issue is religion. Moderates and extremists read from the same religious books, they just select their readings differently.
If I were to write that some group of people should be killed because they would not behave as I wished then you would know one of three things about me:
Why on Earth do religious moderates include Godly hate-speech within their religious texts? Sick In The Head people use that Godly hate-speech to validate their extremism.
- I am a sovereign state declaring war or executing disagreeable citizens.
- I am a god instructing my religious followers.
- I am a psychopathic person who is inciting a hate crime.
The S.I.T.H. Lords of Saudi Arabia justify their reign of terror with religious decree. Devine inspiration lead S.I.T.H. Lord Dubbya to invade Iraq (S.I.T.H. Lord Howard did not disagree). S.I.T.H. Lord Osama bin Laden justified himself as a servant to religion. S.I.T.H. Lord al-Baghdadi has multiple degrees in the dark side of Islamic studies. All those S.I.T.H. Lords exploited words that a peace-loving God should not have spoken.
Religious moderates (Christian, Muslim and Jew) must excise the hate from their religious texts (or clearly annotate it as mistaken and evil and not the word of God). Then the extremists will be isolated, vulnerable and impotent.