Provocative Thoughts While Touring a Park:
From book subtitled: The Authoritarian Nature of the Three Abrahamic Religions: as When God Became the Terrorist: The major thesis of this book is that authoritarianism, as a "human" personality trait, throughout history, has influenced both the "creation" and the "interpretation", of religious and political dogma, and that this was even more so before there was a constituted division between Church and State. In Judeo-Christianity and Islamic authority, to some extent, is the egotistic imprint of monotheism in which God basically is perceived to have a "psychological" ego consciousness able to understand and communicate with the human ego consciousness of mankind. Particularly, we will want to focus on the ideas of justice—both the ideas of divine metaphysical justice and human social justice. According to Daniel Defoe, in no trivial sense, "Justice is the end of government".
Chapter One: Provocative Thoughts While Touring a Park:
By Sam Staples from book subtitled: The Authoritarian Nature of the Three Abrahamic Religions: as When God Became the Terrorist:
The major thesis of this book is that authoritarianism, as a "human" personality trait, throughout history, has influenced both the "creation" and the "interpretation", of religious and political dogma, and that this was even more so before there was a constituted division between Church and State.
To help readers understand "ideological" terrorism present in the 21st century, it seems useful to examine how the threat of terror has historically been justified by the combination of religious dogma, authoritarian personality, and institutional or political behavior.
In Judeo-Christianity and Islamic authority, to some extent, is the egotistic imprint of monotheism in which God basically is perceived to have a "psychological" ego consciousness able to understand and communicate with the human ego consciousness of mankind.
This "authority" imprint of a singular "high" God can be found in all three Abrahamic religions as monotheistic. It is recognized in their respective scriptures, as well as in the social interpretation of such doctrines as they evolved over the centuries.
[Note: "Dogma" has two meanings. Dogma can mean, as used above, the official doctrine of a particular religion or belief structure. But dogma can also mean, in the more derogatory sense of the adjective "dogmatic" that asserts statements as true without any real proof. This second meaning arrogates to the will of person or doctrine the presumptiveness to assert more than one has reason to realistically assume as fact. It equally forms the authoritarian personality to want to make up the rules.]
The major corollary premise to this work, although not explored in this writing, but still noted as recognized and important, is that "other" personality traits and human sentiment "equally", or even more substantially, have influenced the way religious doctrines have evolved and the interpretations given to those ideologies. This is laid witness to the many, many millions of people who find meaning and solace in the messages of these religions.
So this book's particular focus on the authoritarian influence within these scripture may, minority as they may seem, still this focus will seem unbalanced, unfair, or overwhelming; but the authoritarian personality trait too, as in most cultures and organizations, is a highly critical part of the overall gestalt of Middle and Near Eastern religions and culture. Therefore we defer to find a complementary balance in relation to the overwhelmingly "vast" literature already in existence that has already focused on those more "positive" aspects of religious piety. Herein we have good reason to suspect a "dark" side to religious psychology that we now intrepidly follow because we suspect it relates to how governments and current day politics behave on earth.
Particularly, we will want to focus on the ideas of justice—both the ideas of divine metaphysical justice and human social justice. According to Daniel Defoe, in no trivial sense, "Justice is the end of government". Whereas Cicero was quoted to have said: "Nothing that lacks justice can be morally right." We then deduce these two statements to mean that "even" explanations about God's divine justice must "seem" just to humans, or there is no reason why they should be perceived to be particularly moral or worthy of veneration—irrespective of purported origin and irrespective of propaganda and assumed sacredness.
Recall, however, that Thomas Hobbes, in his famous 1651 book The Leviathan, argued the opposite. He argued that whoever, or whatever, form of governance was operational in a given place and time, was, by fact of it being in operation, legitimate. Hobbes, even if a pompous genius, or somewhat ingrate Oxford graduate, was ultimately a coward, fore he was ideologically willing to submit to "any" ruling status quo, irrespective of questions of justice or virtue. In fact his masterpiece, The Leviathan, is, in reference to political philosophy, one of the leading arguments for an authoritarian's right to rule. This is to say he recognized little, if anything, regarding citizen rights or civil liberties. And despite his sarcastic slights toward religion, and especially the Catholic Church, as systems of believed reality, he nevertheless used all manner of likewise Ten Commandments dogma to substantiate his willingness to support authoritarianism.
Nevertheless, we will attempt to explore the idea of justice, as a "human" construct, to see if there is some correlation, or theoretical relationship, between our mortal human notions of divine justice and mere human justice (as obviously humans differ on what constitutes political justice), such as what constitutes criminal justice. We are interested in any relationship between our human theories and those handed down from posterity about God's, Yahweh's or Allah's justice.
Meanwhile we note that according to Chapter One of the Gospel of Saint John, it states: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". This seemingly simple assertion of "word" as language and as authority, from a humanist point of view, is intuitively wrong—because it implies that there was, and still is, an "absolute" God-like or angelic language and vocabulary, and that it existed from the beginning of time. Whereas historical linguists know that languages are not pure. Rather they do change and transmute even if slowly. Furthermore there were and still are many languages—not "one" absolute, puritanical, and all-powerful tongue.
Languages, via the small "w" for 'word' are a human phenomenon—that is they evolve and change within the context of social interaction and over long periods of time. Languages are thus relative—not absolute—even if it is also true that concrete descriptions can be used to explain definitive ideas and patterns.
This idea that language is a human agency is a very important point for our inquiry. Fore it is the psychology of the human species to utilize words and the various aspects of language to understand meaning. No society that we are historically aware adopted some presumption of an angelic pre-language.
So, as rationalists, we can presume enough "faith" in our human capacity to utilize and understand language that we will attempt to analyze even what some claim impossible for us to judge—namely divine justice. This is to say that if some people make claims by way of human words and grammar then there usually can be found adequate answers by way of similar mortal explanation. After all, it is worth considering how often mortals spend time and energy explaining religious "thought" with human language.
Again to re-emphasize, human intelligence as legitimate tool of analysis is no small point, because another very important point of this book is how "religiosity" is used as a potential element of fascism or dictatorship. Religiosity still affects modern politics—and we note that propaganda is created by way of human verbiage—no matter how irrational and drowning.
It is therefore imperative for free thinkers (the minority to be sure) to take a "long" and "hard" and "deep" look into various kinds of propaganda that attempt to reinforce totalitarian tendencies and heavy-handed consequences—including in what might be "modeled" as religious doctrines.
[Note: The word "propaganda" used above is in the "neutral" sense of its verb form meaning to plant, spread, transmit, or reproduce, like seeds spread for potential growth. But this context also implies the more slanted version of the word to mean to persuade or indoctrinate people in a biased and often deceptive manner. Still almost all forms of human persuasion utilize one or both meanings of propaganda.]
A Walk in the Park:
A few years ago one merely have needed to visit Balboa Park's Museum of Man in San Diego California. There was then presented the infamous exhibit called: "The Inquisition: Torture and Intolerance." This traveling collection of one hundred Tools of Torture was perfectly placed within the park's Spanish colonial buildings that were initially built for the Panama California Exposition of 1915-16. Spanish Conquistadors, as Catholic byproducts, brought their tortured mindsets with them to a New World Order (just as various Europeans later did "manifest" their "destiny" over the millions of dead Native Americans in what is now the United States of Vespucci Amerigo).
Witnessing first-hand this exhibit of calculated torture is not what most people would call delight or fun. In fact, such a reality show is oppressive in its blatant horror. Most people would probably prefer not to think about such stuff (let alone contemplate the ghastly scenes—even in the cool calmness of a serene museum where the torture tools stayed silent in mode of idle solitude and defanged of any animation or willfulness). Nevertheless this promenade of exhibits was something every voting American should have seen for political reasons. The cruelty, as displayed in its aftermath chill of centuries past, was still incomprehensible. There were and are no adequate words to describe the religious "terror-ism" that one would have confronted—even given the serenity of a summer afternoon stroll in a sunny-side park San Diego.
Tools of Torture, as exhibition, originally intended (the promoters hoped) to be invited to other museums around the United States. But apparently no other museum curator showed enough interest to invite display? It therefore hightailed back to Italy. The local daily mainstream newspaper did not even do a story on it the entire two years it was at San Diego. One has to wonder why—because it certainly was not because there was nothing interesting to see and note.
Yet how ironic an outcome—just "prior" to the realities later exposed at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and other secret renditions to far away gulags, as rumored "hundreds" of flights abroad to Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Romania, etc., that Americans showed so little interest in torture as a human reality. More mundane subjects are in exhibition the country over.
Yet one wonders if more psychiatrists, lawyers, news editors, political philosophers, writers (and curators) had more courage, and political insight, that just maybe more citizens would have desired to be a little more informed from the heart these past months and years—rather than hiding souls in sand holes of silence and ignorance? And were not the Germans too accused of not wanting to know the truth of what was happening in their country at the time? (And how many people today are going to read recent releases like Noami Klein's The Shock Doctrine or Noami Wolf's A Letter to a Patriotic Soldier?) Did not the Germans say: "We didn't think it could happen here".
More importantly is not a true patriot's duty to learn the truth about human nature? Is not the first duty of patriotism—to learn what the hell (meaning "WHAT THE HELL") is really going on—and not what corporate media machines are deliberately churning out as spin and sarcastic spit?
Readers might ask: Why was an exhibit on religious terrorism critical for Americans to have seen? For starters it might have stirred them to think about what was psychologically going on centuries past—when people were so cruelly dealt—and how it could relate to events today or any psychology is which fear is used to manipulate people. In fact the very idea of Abraham supposedly being asked to sacrifice his son with a supposed request to kill is itself questionable of a just and magnanimous God. Even the killing of animals as sacrifice today is now viewed as demonic.
One opinion piece appeared on USA Today website entitled: The American Inquisition by James Reston Jr. (posted 4/17/06) that compared Spanish Catholic King Ferdinand and the United States since 9/11; but, such comparative analyses are rare in the mainstream media as well as academic journals (where some supposed intellectuals are thought to hangout).
Nevertheless torture and murder of selected groups (purported as witches, homosexuals, beggarly women, Jews, heretics, etc.) committed by way of the State and Church bureaucracies is a grave example of how religious "phobias" (as communal form of "psychoses"), in this case the fear of eternal torture in hell (via God's judgment), was enough to motivate humans to literally "torch" real human life's here on this terrestrial realm. Obviously religious fears carry over into real world events.
Yet how could not the fear of demonic possession (that was believed to promise lasting damnation) have not instigated high levels of anxiety, and consequentially insane behavior, for the less resourceful? What could have been more frightening to a socially conditioned people than a rejection from their God—if such rejection meant brutish and nasty consequence in hell—terrorism par excellence?
Would not their presumption of demon-possessed souls to be tortured (perceived as transitory experience), even if suffering horrendously, have been viewed as necessary evil (that is the lesser evil) than such demonic possession spreading to other souls for potential widespread and permanent suffering later on in eternal hell of terrific torture? Did not it make sense, at some human level, to save the self and one's religious community from lasting damnation—if damnation meant eternal terrorism?
Exasperated fear (as mania) of demonic spirits (rumored by God's word presumably), in which it was explicitly stated in scripture that such demon powers were highly capable of outwitting one's mere and mortal mind (as naive and vulnerability) clearly was enough to give any poor soul pause and morbid fright.
Or what chance did a human mind have, when orientated toward such a fear-based religious drama as the coming "prophesies" of the Book of Revelations that highlighted the so-called "Anti-Christ" and the plethora of beastly things that were prophesized to transpire with such vengeance? What kind of god would conjure up such morbid consequence? Does this seem the stuff of a fair and just creature?
Who would not have compromised against such a fear-based psychology, as presumed reality (even if found delusional in historical aftermath)? Certainly such a collective mindset, rabid to have produced the persecution of witches and deviants, and their show trials for convenient scapegoats, was so to save his or her own hide and soul? How many demagogues speak political hate and manipulation of prejudice today on talk radio talking heads of righteousness?
But is this biblical psychology that different from the fears of terrorists today and their "purported" intentions, for example the fear of being bombed to smithereens when government's insiders announce 'red' alerts? Is there not some demand for compromise, on the part of the fearful, such as our culture's willingness to sell off civil liberties, with a blind and infinite trust, to executive or monarchic powers of control? Is there any truth to the purported theories of rubric "False Flag Operations?"
What chances existed for pre-enlightenment peoples, back then were there to maintain a semblance of sanity, that is, when people were not particularly practiced in the art of rational enquiry, or habituated to simple laws of deductive logic? And if it were true that on occasion the chemical manifestation of ergot (fungus found in diseased grasses such as rye containing psycho-active alkaloids related to LSD) did get consumed in various amounts during those European nightmares of witch crazies, so as to produce surrealistic paranoia as intensifier of natural or inspired fears—it would not have helped the situation much.
But what "paradigm" would be more feared (within the human imagination) than fire out of control and the sickly smell of sulphuric brimstone against one's skin and tissue invested into precocious neurons? What types of pain images so readily create fear (not counting modern warfare of thermonuclear mushrooms, 3,000 pound bombs, or huge buildings falling down with explosive intensity), as does the equivalent of the sun's red-orange heat in the darkness of desolate despair?
Hence some Christians (or believers in similar "incarceration" eschatology—that is the study of last events that include eternal prison), being "so" terrified of landing in a warden's eternal damnation of arbitrary torture centuries ago (but not that many centuries ago), were willing to have human bodies and souls tortured, burnt at the stake, or hung (under the "authority" of Church and State).
Hell, then, as "imagined" and quoted from scripture ascended upward from dark and secret dungeons below. These psychic beliefs were part and parcel of mankind's political, social and religious reality—as "ungodly" fear was the primary driving force.
But even if experts "now" recognize that the rather long list of witch trials that then took place then (including within the U.S. most notably at Salem), and any related paranoiac events, were "psychotic" episodes. Yet for the most part psychiatrists and psychologists, as modern day professionals, within this time of rational recovery, surprisingly still have little to say, by way of "clinical" diagnosis, as carried into contemporary descriptions? It strikes odd how little wisdom has officially trickled down about religion's contribution to mental illness—especially that we now find many who consider themselves sane; yet, are nevertheless zealously eager to delve into wars in the Middle East for religiously fervent reasons.
An Authentic Soul:
Perhaps there ought be requirement of integrated "heart" before being allowed to enter into important social science professions? Heart, as symbol of 'cour'-age, recognizes a soul (the old meaning of 'psyche') that is necessary to reconcile contradictory messages received from various institutions of propaganda—in relation to one's own feelings, values, beliefs, and attitudes of "personal" authority (or personal ego strength).
Why then were so few afraid to ask: "At what point, if ever, is one's religious leaders wrong—morally?" And why are so equally afraid to ask today at what point is one's political leaders wrong—even if they "claim" to base their authority on their relation to God's mission? On what grounds does an individual realize a contradiction between one's own moral intuitions and those exerted by others? This was the question Antigone had to answer when she decided to defy King Creon's order to throw her dead brother to the dogs rather than give him a proper burial as portrayed in Sophocle's play.
Who should speak to the dilemma of moral authority? Should you or I adhere to Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan which "dictates" that the will of the individual is always subordinate to the will of those with political power? Or do you and I recognize the right of the individual person, as conscious conscience, to decide what is appropriate and moral? Man clearly under-estimates the cunning ability of political man to devise a science of deceit that manipulates the religious mind as herd animal to slaughter for the wolves of cynical tradition.
For example, should a young and relatively gullible U.S. Marine, who has been trained and drilled to follow orders (worked out with sophisticated research to co-opt conformity), while operating under enormous stress, disobey what he or she believes is morally or legally wrong, or should he or she salute with a "Yes Sir!" as so diligently trained? Or does the mercenary have free reign to act in whatever whim fits his mood as he and The Company rake in the dough?
One can understand the hesitancy and desire to stay silenced—because of the strong negative feelings aroused by criticality. It is not always easy to confront power and colleague—whether legitimate or not. Further, there is always the threat of harm to the self that keeps many people silent on subjects they wish to speak out—which is itself a form of fear-based psychology otherwise known prior to today's cant as repression. And how many leaders today are afraid to speak out because they feel some elements have some moral high card called religiosity—be it actual religion or political ideology?
Yet to live and function in society one needs to be accepted by that society—and so there often is tremendous social pressure to conform to group think—no matter how mediocre or insidious its reasons. The dynamics of the group can work hard pressuring people to conform to its political correctness. Few individuals likes being labeled derogatory names because they have dared to challenge one of the dominant mindsets of the political status quo—as it should be noticed that most religious status quos are ultimately political status quos as well.
Jealous guardians of orthodoxy (as they presume in their own authoritarian ways) are forever scrutinizing the political landscape to shoot down the messengers and messages of alternative ideas. Therefore, strong emotional responses, mostly stemming from fear, such as the fear of authority, or the fear of rejection, work to keep most people inside the box.
Even today, it seems, few professionals want to address the tyranny of religious hysteria. Scientists, per se, have let these delusional bases of irrational fear, as forms of terrorism, fester for so long (centuries), without offering much in the way of counter reaction—even though we are historically well beyond the enlightened age of reason. So "perceived" realities like the "apocalypse" still looms with us today, and has its infectious support from groups that harasses Congress in the workings of political machines. There in Washington D.C. the place has become a fortress of religious zeal.
So we now ask this historically important question (as the presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich now dares impeach Vice President Chenney): "Do we, as individuals and political participants, not have the right and responsibility to question our "own" doubts and ambivalent feelings about ethical issues in relation to important issues of our day?" Was Martin Luther correct, when he thought there was something wicked and wrong about the Catholic Church's hierarchy selling indulgences?
Nevertheless, we need realize that what happened during those times of torture, as episodes of terrorist persecution throughout Europe, were the result of "human" interpretations of events and beliefs. More specifically it was the result of fear—as terror of what people believed was ultimately religious, or eschatological, reality.
Yet no Creator God, nor devil, was responsible for what happened back then in those days of witch hangings and burnings. Rather these were human undertakings in this hell of a place on earth. And it is especially relevant that the last chapter of the New Testament in Revelation, in which religious literature has equally inspired these kinds of levels of phobic epidemics—purportedly to be the result of God's judgmental temper, according to an angel to John for the seven churches in Asia. Nevertheless it is the gullibility of readers of such literature who are unable to realize that "humans" played a major role in "creating" and transcribing this same religious literature that is described and thus created with human words and incorporate human like judgments—that evolved when religion and state were "not" separate—that is when millennium of political dogma became religious worship.
Human nature, in particular to other animal forms of nature, is not immune to panic attacks. But no other mammal, as far as we can much conceive, is left to phobic wonderings, in which ideologies or religions can potential prey on imagineered flights of hysteria.
Nor was there much in the way of counter philosophy or psychology, back then of pagan sisters and sabbaticals, to quell such morbid fire. Yet we can well presume that persecutors too were victims to this conflagration and spirited contamination—falling under the "spell" of what was presumed as God's spell (elided to Gospel).
But Are All Religions Equal?
However, given the variety of religious experiences, not all religions incorporate significant cameos of fear-based psychology and terrorist episode as dreadful drama. Not all religions have scriptures that depict a God as judgmental, vengeful, jealous, or punishing (characteristics notably found in the authoritarian personality and its aftermath of vengeance policies of political self-righteousness).
In the very fact that there exist a variety of religions and sectarian orders in the West alone (as differentiated interpretations) ought give one pause as to which ideas or values, that constitute religion and sacristy, are legitimate.
Therefore we ask you, as reader, and as individual conscience, if there are times when religions themselves deserve critical evaluation as moral agencies—especially if and when they hold much moral sway in societies and civilizations? And especially when they purport to hold terrorist type tactics of blackmail against the soul? This is obviously a reversal of what has historically been expected—man judging religion rather than vice versa—but we think it relevant question. Even Thomas Jefferson was quoted to have written: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."
Is mankind not justified in evaluating some of religion's claims, and to do so within the framework of a political analysis—in which we focus on evaluating religious ideas as a psychology of power, such as power relationship between competing claims of master and subject? Because it seems, that for too many centuries, dominant religions and politico-religious institutions have escaped moral evaluation in this sense—except by a few, more or less, obscure philosophers.
Man is a Spiritual Animal:
Nevertheless, this line of reasoning and inquiry, cynical and yet noble that it may be, that we pursue herein, is not to argue that religions, per se, are negative institutions. Nor do we presume to ultimately judge if there is a God, per se, in this analysis. Rather what we presume to evaluate is some of mankind's interpretation of a God as found in dominant religious literature or ideation (that was ultimately written down or preached by human actors on this stage of corporeal life).
A God can well exist apart from any and all religious literature and human belief and ego (singular or collective). Thus there is no presumption herein that Near or Middle Eastern religions have the last and ultimate say on what is God and the supernatural. We do not presume to buy wholesale the notion that Jerusalem, or Mecca, or Rome, or Salt Lake City, etc., is the center of religious inspiration or order or the ultimate beacon on the hill. No man, community, people, religion, nation, or ethnicity, necessarily has the final say on what God is all about—although several religious personages and religions have claimed to speak directly for God as thee singular authority. No place, nor people, on earth is any more or less sacred than any other—irrespective of any presumption of ethnocentricity.
Therefore just because exponential masses of people have been conditioned to believe that certain ideas, or prophets, or words, are of God's ultimate reality, it does not mean ultimately that they are—rather it represents what some, or many, are "willing" to believe. Skeptically we, as rational individuals, have both the right and the responsibility to think and feel for ourselves—and to establish our own attitudes about man, society and religious authority.
God, as a human concept, is an abstract word that has personalized meaning to most people. And although we might like to presume the word "God" means the same thing to just about everyone—it does not—even for those who claim to believe in the same religion.
However most people of the christianized West presume that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (at all places) and omnipotent (all powerful). Others of the Abrahamic traditions go further to believe that God has many human-like tendencies such as "he" judges others and interdicts in the state of human affairs, etc. The Abrahramic religions go on to purport a kind of judgmental personality and psyche to God that is not afraid to use any form of threat against vulnerable people.
So if we choose to deconstruct some of the ideas assumed about religion that many of us have been taught to believe as unquestionably true—in a certain ethnocentric sense—it is not necessarily the same thing as claiming an overall anti-religionist, or atheist, point of view.
Whereas, if it is claimed as retort to presumption of independent thought and criticality, as the sin of pride to judge independently, and to some extent to judge for self—then this aspect of pride, or more rightly due diligence, we admit without necessarily giving a Satan figure credit for our own responsibility. Because one thing we can be assured about life on earth—and that is also human nature to belittle the gift of human intelligence, as it is equally the cunning of human nature to deceive one's fellow man in man's willingness to conform to political pressure—and we therefore believe in a posture of street smart skepticism as both a right and duty to achieve our human responsibility of competent evaluation—irrespective of subject matter—including and especially on "all" claims made about the supernatural and ultimate meaning—and all claims made on behalf of authoritarian judgment—irrespective of historical parchment or archeological dig.
If people want to understand terrorism—they must be willing to review "all" institutions that influence or affect such ideology and methodology. And if it so happens that religions harbor terrorizing thoughts then we need to find the wherewithal to become aware of such a psychology and how or if it works to potentially condition and manipulate people. For most of history religion and political institutions was the same mindset and tool of employ. Now this Janus coin is attempting to reassert itself.
Mere belief in the word "daemon" (the old Greek daimon meant guardian spirit) as necessarily or absolutely evil is itself a form of fear mongering if people are led to believe that such an entity is especially and absolutely dangerous. Terrorism, as forms of manipulative coercion, should not be justified in what we presume as moral institutions if they are not exactly moral—should they—and that is what we, if intrepid intend to explore—that is intellectually.
Fear obviously has its place in the real of living. There are times when feelings of indignity, judgmental prerequisite, and even punishment are in order—that is in a social system—but precisely what precepts and wisdom should guide humanity on judgment?
Should judgments be made by the most superstitious, authoritarian, resentful, or vicious of a people? Or how long should the witch trials and tools of torture have lasted (if some people did not eventually intervene with personal sense of doubt and ethics against the fear-mongering insanity)?
Who has the right or responsibility to decide within a free society—what is sacred and valuable—and by what authority? Or will religions, and political ideologies, as well as economic ideologies, be "imposed" on the political body from a fear-based psychology? These are questions we American (and the rest of the world) need to think about in these times. We have been led to believe our thinking minds had capacity to judge value and merit—now let us see if we can so act like it.
Still there is little in the way of taboo that goes as deep against the grain, as that of analyzing and criticizing of religious and political belief (especially scriptures that are ultimately built on a foundation of fear that also uses fear to stave off such analyses or curiosity. Few want to look into the caverns of evil threat—yet many will feast to such presumptions of psychological freedom as being "saved" but does not being saved mean being "safe"?
Intellectual threat to one's worldview (or how one has "invested" in forms of psychological security—be it religious or political) is likely to cause some turmoil. But equally the status quo causes turmoil and currently threatens major disaster in the area of war. If religious believes were strictly personal things would not matter as much. However religious belief is asserting enormous pressure on political attitudes. This is therefore an important enough subject to warrant such an investigation even if fraught with iconoclastic uncertainty.
Even if religious beliefs can be shown to be therapeutic and adaptive—they can also be shown to be the opposite—depending on an individual's circumstances, interpretations, or which scriptures are focused or obsessed. Too often people have been marched into blood baths for religious cause.
Not all religious beliefs or dogmas warrant a relativist tolerance as sacred cattle. Even if it is fashionable to think "it's-all-good", in relativistic egalitarianism spirit to liberally tolerate all religious ideas as equally healthy that will to God or spiritual enlightenment—it is not necessarily true.
Yes, there may be "many" trails up the mountain and gates to the sacred—let us not forget—but that does not mean they are all worthy in their psychological underpinning. Perhaps some need extra doses of scrutiny. How much longer are Muslim and Christian peoples going to propagate political wars and prejudice—and for what? Now Israel's alienation against Muslim and Arab countries is being married to the same psychology of the people of the West. Is this wise to freedom?
Religious vary as much as they are similar. They are not all worthy of blind faith and Bambi eyed optimism—even if such authors as Jon Meacham in his American Gospel might suggest otherwise.
Rather each human being, as agent of moral and ethical reasoning, can and should research religion as a form of human conditioning—and especially if it is partially based on fear-based scenarios or judgments of dire consequence. It is not enough to assert that non-believers have a right to not be believers. What is critical now is the potential of masses of people who do believe to affect or condone our unholy alliance of deception and corruption. The majority is still a tyranny. And the potential pretense of Jewish tolerance for all things Christian or vice versa is highly questionable.
This is your American democratic" prerogative—to believe that you, as an individual, have an evaluative right and responsibility to be thinking and judging as an independent being—imperfect and naïve as you may be. Because is it not the foundation of democracy (even if idealist theory) a willingness to believe that the common man has the "potential" for quality thought, judgment, and rule—and if not who power structure does—the lobbyist money as money talks in Washington D.C.?
A Skeptical Renaissance:
Skeptical inquiry goes back to at least the pre-Socratic philosophers who claimed reason and rationality had authority over superstition. Heraclitus of the 6th century BCE (before Common Era) was a critic that held a disdain for popular ancient pantheon of Greek religious figures such as Zeus. He was supposedly an obscure and aristocratic writer; but he had a few ideas worth mention—such as "all" is in a state of flux. Is this not equally true today—that all is in a state of flux—or that we do not step into the same river twice? For example, even our modern perceptions of the scientific mythos of planet Pluto has very recently been relegated to a mini-planet—granted not Copernican in a revolutionary sense—but things as notions are in flux.
Even Socrates questioned the sanctity of the Greek pantheon and paid a price for angering the order of things and thought—because some things about human nature do not change as fundamentally. Furthermore his pupil Plato questioned the political order and legitimacy of democracy—as a form of government of mediocrity.
It is in this context of questioning authority and authoritarian institutions, that we likely find it disillusioning that our Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, was supposedly engaged in promoting a "war" on the Internet's "blogosphere," so as to be able, supposedly, to counteract enemy influence. But electronic war can equally be aimed to censor the likes of pictures taken of torture victims at secret detention centers, or to stop the spread of other images and stories of war's aftermath. Who are those in the Pentagon working for—corruption or freedom?
So pictures likely are not the only things that some who work the current administration, intelligence services, and right-wing usurped media, and Pentagon want censored. They are just as upset by the free flow of ideas being shared on the Internet or blogosphere (that they may admittedly has some legitimate concern).
In conclusion terrorism (both the spiritually imagined and in the real events of politics) still comprises the very stuff of man's psychological life (as does any kind of hell—such as war, torture, captivity, disease and aging, discontentment and pain, loss and loneliness, incarceration, etc., as found here on earth). Terrorism goes back to our animal ancestry and our primate ability to conspire, compete and kill.
Will man soon run out of a use for superstition and the manipulation of minds thereby? Not likely. Terrorism is both subtle and extreme tool, and is not flying solo out of a witch's door any time soon. It is part of the human and animal condition. But that does not mean that you and I cannot learn more of its mysteries—even if considered taboo. Are not nuclear warheads and the threat of bombing massacres a kind of taboo that some fools are yet compelled to inject into the scheme of things?
Therefore you do not need read conspiracy theories like the Da Vinci Code. Some conspiracies—even if unintentional—are nevertheless of more significance than are others. What is more momentous than understanding how masses of people are manipulated to act if certain realities were perceived as true or inevitable? You do not need some secret code, clearance, membership or password to learn about these things. Rather you start with your own sense of fairness within and your own understanding of human psychology. You then explore the world, including its religions from multitude of points of view, and from within your intuition and your life of research, that is your gift from Providence, then you can begin to comprehend some of the ways of men.
And yet it is ironic that Alexander Pope's famous line: "Know then thyself; presume not God to scan, The proper study of mankind is man. Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, A being darkly wise and rudely great; ... " was ultimately based on his presumption of "not" questioning God's plans because reason is: "but to err. Alike in ignorance, his reason such, Whether he thinks too little or too much." And to this extreme skepticism we add: "Who" is to define error—by what authority and criteria—certain a human enterprise?
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