When God Became the Terrorist: Traces Of The Authoritarian Nature of the Three Abrahamic R
We will examine whether terror is institutionalized in the psychology of some religions—particularly focusing on a sense of justice. There are many interesting and provocative ideas discussed. Arguably, this work is as controversial as it is timely. Such an intelligence estimate, if you will, would not have been written had it not related to many important and critical political issues and crises of our day (particularly as related to dominant "cultural clashes" as so framed by various think-tanks). But this work also significantly relates to political theory, history, criminal justice, jurisprudence, as well as social and political psychology etc.
Free ebook on political philosophy for today's world—worthy to read and share.
Note: There are several reasons why a new understanding of the psychological politics of the Judeo-Christian Bible is necessary for today's politics. Here is one such book.
But also read Jonathan Kirsch's "Moses: A Life." (This work will demonstrate that the Old Testament was made up of war propaganda justifying the killing off the people who then lived in Canaan.) But there are many recent books that shed light on how religion is debilitating to America's civil liberties. Read "The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love" by John Shelby Spong. Read "The Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell. Read "American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" by Kevin Phillips.
It is time to face the reality of the authoritarian nature of the Old Testament and New Testament—that is the psychology of fear and terrorism.
Hence as now presented:
When God Became the Terrorist: Traces Of The Authoritarian Nature of the Three Abrahamic Religions
by William Wraithewrite Feel free to share with others.
Note: The following e-book was written in 2007 to help stop the war, and propaganda war, against Iran. But it seems the same "pattern" of misinformation is being used, as was used in 2002 to get the United States to attack Iraq. The Neocons have not let up. They are still manipulating circles of influence in a big way, and the Obama administration has been largely a disappointment. Yet to deal with the state of affairs in the Middle East requires the courage to look a bigger picture that has evolved for millennia. Many people want to hide these issues under the rug—but the question is can people do so and still maintain any kind of freedom—it doesn't seem so. Not only did even Machiavellian neglect this subject but so did our founding fathers. No longer can mankind afford this luxury. To change various mindsets of the Middle East has to include changing the mindset of our awareness of three religions that originated in the Middle East. There is simply no other way around it. April 10, 2011
We will examine whether terror is institutionalized in the psychology of some religions—particularly focusing on a sense of justice. There are many interesting and provocative ideas discussed. Arguably, this work is as controversial as it is timely. Such an intelligence estimate, if you will, would not have been written had it not related to many important and critical political issues and crises of our day (particularly as related to dominant "cultural clashes" as so framed by various think-tanks). But this work also significantly relates to political theory, history, criminal justice, jurisprudence, as well as social and political psychology etc.
Written by an Anonymous American Author using the pen name of William Wraithewrite.
"Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for."
Note on pseudonymity: The "theoretical" arguments put forth stand on their own "intuitive" logic and "cohesive" merit. Therefore it does not matter who wrote this work. More importantly this author is not interested in being pursued, persecuted or murdered by those offended (presumed no small few). During the American revolution and the Federalist debates it was common for pamphleteers and contributors to newspapers to use pseudonyms. These essays too are like a series of pamphlets meant to be read as a group.
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: Provocative Thoughts
Chapter 2: Abrahamic Models of Governance
Chapter 3: Religious Conditioning
Chapter 4: Religion As Politics
Chapter 5: Man's Influence on Religion
Chapter 6: The Legality of Justice Versus Blind Faith
Despite the vast potential of reading material available to you, and your crammed schedule, this work, at least in one person's opinion, ought rank high in importance to today's politics. Readers who venture forth will look unblinkingly at one of man's foundations of morality—namely religion—to see if there are any messages that can be viewed as authoritarian in nature. Such a direct quest of examination has been much avoided in the past centuries—yet the consequences, you might agree, are potentially overwhelming.
Note too that this work is meant for public domain—that is to say that it can be re-printed and published by "any" sincere publisher that decides to print it or revise it (if daring enough to do so—because one should not underestimate religious fears or political fears in humanity and peoples' loyalties and illusions (remember Plato's cave of chained illusion?). No permission is needed to share this work with others—sharing is encouraged as this was motive for this writing.
These ideas are meant for a freethinker's marketplace of ideas—especially for those of influence. Feel free to distribute—for example via your email lists. Also feel free to print to paper, bind, and share with anyone you feel would benefit because people are much more likely to read printed copy. It is too bad not every Judge and Jury not read this—as this especially pertains to law. So if you have inroads to the Supreme Court or State Legislators—feel free to distribute. However, many people are not apt to read a series of chapters on a computer screen. They like printed copy.
My problem, as author, is that I do not have the money to print this work and mail. Therefore other people may recognize the theoretical importance of this work and carry the ball—getting it to senators, congress persons, supreme court justices, lawyers, law schools, professors, writers, etc., including translations for other languages. In a way it is a bit of a revolution.
Nevertheless, all who contemplate reading this work should read the "caveats" directly below, as not all persons are of a sound and objective mind to deal well with this level of controversy. Some personalities can "not" distance themselves from their own presumptions about religion, interpretation, politics, etc., so as to remain openly receptive. One ought least be aware that religious debate of any magnitude is potentially an explosively charged subject—but then is not war and racism equally the same?
Nevertheless, if you feel this work is of significance, then it is important that you take some responsibility to share it with others who might benefit from it (professionals, committee personnel, judges, professional associations, other authors, journalists, artists, etc.), for positive and sober change. You may have more resource and connection to get this anonymous work into the kind of distribution it deserves. Thank you for your consideration.
This book is dedicated to political theorists, progressive theologians, alternative news websites, blogs and radio talk shows that are working for social progress, and the likes of people like Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, etc. It is also necessary to recognize the contributions of Nicolo Machiavelli and the King's Star Chamber, and the Bush Administration. Finally this book is dedicated to all who are unsure how they feel about their relationship to religions and as to how they might relate to political matters (or how "personality", per se, plays a role in religious formulation, follower belief and political propensity—as this book presumes such relationship).
Preface (as Series of Notes):
As author, I truly wish I had more time to research, edit and organize this material; but I think the major themes, as interconnected ideas, are clear enough for people to get an essential understanding. Hopefully this work will provoke more speculation of a similar sort.
If you, as reader, are limited on time I would suggest starting with chapter 2,3, and 4 as the best summaries as to why this book is important to our modern political arena and threatened existence. But all chapters are essential for an overall grasp of the message. Personally it seems a page-turner—as it certainly was an interesting project to write. Nevertheless accept an apology for any redundancy or lengthiness. I've tried to keep it lively without sacrificing the cogency of analysis. If it seems a challenge at times welcome the necessary time to reflect—as opposed to simplistic diatribes about its value.
A bit of paranoia can be healthy. It is good to be careful so read the following caveats:
[Note 1: (As caveat): This book contains ideas that may be threatening to rigid thinkers and people who maintain "fear-based" sentiments about religion. We will be looking directly as such concepts as a punishing God, frightening character like the devil (Satan), terrifying prospects of hell, etc., as "fear-inspiring ideas not too different from notions we regard under the rubric of 'terrorism'. Therefore, this treatise is meant for people who are mature enough to "tolerate" thinking about terrorism as a "psychological" element within potential religious interpretation.]
[Note 2: (As caveat question): Is it "more" than just a curious coincidence that modern psychologists and psychiatrists have not given due emphasis to various forms of psychoses that spring from religious orientations (for example, paranoid delusions that presume a Satan is behind certain ideas)? We readers need to ask: "Why have mental health professionals evaded this line of reasoning?" A review of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) shows us that not only are religious types of schizophrenia (etiology) downplayed but also they are pretty much ignored altogether (as if "shunned"). Yet this reality is reflected within the "authority" of scientific literature. Hence we question the idea of whether these professionals are really doing their job, when evidence seems there is a strong "avoidance" of realizing and acknowledging religious psychoses (for which there is ample evidence throughout history). It is especially timely to contend with these issues (both consciously and unconsciously if we want to ever be free from such repression). Whereas to "ignore" (as in choosing to remain "ignorant") these psychological lapses by mental health experts shows us why Thomas Szasz, iconoclastic psychiatrist, was correct when he asserted that sometimes psychiatrists and related helping professionals reinforce political and super egotistic biases, (including those of a theological nature). This "phobic" avoidance, on the part of these professionals (and their associations) cannot be acceptable today (for a political sense of sanity and security around the world—with such fears of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands). No longer can modern man avoid the political consequences of religious psychoses, prejudices, and emotional blackmail as played out in the political arena and the life of the mind.]
[Note 3: Psychoses, as in "insanity" (or that which is not 'sanus' or 'sound'), or as a "grave" mental disorder, is a simple concept. It is a "dis-order" in which the subject does not exhibit orderly thinking, and consequently the disorder seriously interferes with daily living—that is in the sense of not being in touch with reality—and thus potentially doing something harmful to self of others.]
[Note 4: Psychiatrists and psychologists regularly refer to "delusional" psychoses and paranoid" psychoses as disorders of particular people (which seems true for numbers of people); but, magically (inexplicably) they seldom refer to "social" (or super-egotistical) psychoses like religious delusions (that affect large masses of people). So while they regularly diagnose certain individuals as psychotic, who may think themselves as religious figures, or when paranoid of religious persecution that makes it impossible to enjoy life; yet professionals have little to say about broad social and political implications of such potential insanity—as if the mob's majority were never a tyranny. Nevertheless if religious institutions have contributed to today's political insanity then this needs to be recognized and confronted.]
[Note 5: Mental health professionals do not readily acknowledge political persecution (in a worldly sense), such as the fear of police states and their likely concentration camps; or false and malicious prosecutions, or incarcerations and potential torture abuses; governmental and subsidiary privatized corporate spying; or being labeled an enemy by potential pressure groups, etc. The exception to this truism, at least prior to the Patriotic Act, is when certain "crazies" presumed forces "normal" (average and ordinary) individuals did not readily perceive (for example, phones being tapped) ... Yet we will be noting a "semblance" between authoritarian political states and authoritarian fears instigated in social religious conditioning—even if psychologists, sociologists, etc., neglect to confront such truths.]
Introduction (as recent political scenarios):
Scenario One: Retired U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop, honorary chairman of Frontiers of Freedom, recently wrote a letter to: "Dear fellow conservative(s)..." attacking the ACLU for things that include ACLU's lawsuits to ban the pledge of Allegiance, to remove the Ten Commandments from public view, etc.
Scenario Two: Abdul Rahman, recently was flown out of country Afghan, had faced a possible death sentence for alleged apostasy, because he converted from being a Muslim to becoming a Christian. According to an Associated Press story, Rahman was being "persecuted" under Islamic laws. Meanwhile the highest levels of some Western governments (including the Pope) were involved in diplomacy with Hamid Karzai to prevent such an outcome as death (news stories in U.S.).
Scenario Three: Zionism evolves in the 20th century as a nationalist movement calling for the return of the Jewish people to resume Jewish sovereignty in the "Land of Israel". The first Zionist Congress organized by Theodore Herzl convened in 1897. The goal was to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This homeland was predicated on the religious notion that Adonai (Hebrew name for the ineffable one) gave this land exclusively to "his" chosen people. (Historically this is a recent event).
Scenario Four: Recently a slew of books have been published on religion's far-reaching influence in modern American politics: Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers by Brooke Allen, How the Other Half Worships by Camilo Vergara, The Truth About Conservative Christians by Andrew Greeley, The Kingdom Come: An Evangelical's Lament: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America by Randall Balmer, The Theocons by Damon Linker, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by Michael Onfray, The Meaning of Life by Michael Eagleton, The End of Faith by Sam Harris, etc. There are more titles but you get the picture that this is a critical time for how religion has re-emerged as a critical set of forces in American and world politics. And one other title, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meacham (managing editor of Newsweek), says, according to a short review by Lyric Winik of Parade magazine, both the extremes of the right and left need to step back ... for the left ... "There is no reason to be afraid".
Scenario Five: Specific right-wing newspapers columnists have been calling for a "clash of cultures" pitting Christian nations and Israel against Islamic nations in a decades long confrontation—in essence wreaking World War III or more neo-cold-war operations, or at least destroying the financial viability of this nation.
Scenario Six: This book that now lies before you that says there is plenty of reason to be afraid or at least be concerned—it is called a terrorist psychology grounded within some prophetic interpretations of Abrahamic religions. This work is pretty much unique in its focus as compared to titles currently coming out—many of which settle to attack superstitions (not that I have read most but I've glossed several reviews). This work addresses a different but important angle—fear inherent of religion. (And as a "long" historical side note, some religious interpretations, and their corresponding propaganda, have already contributed to the death of a lot of people in a variety of conflicted contexts). At minimum you will likely find this series of essays provocative.
There are many incidents that could be included here, such as Jerry Falwell claiming Hillary Clinton will motivate more Christians to vote Republican than the devil himself. But this is just to get you interested in this work as a relevant and meaningful read.
Despite what you think of democracy or republican constitutional forms of governance, it is indeed both a "democratic" and "elitist" impulse to presume enough "faith" in the rational nature of mankind's ability to reason so as to plumb these issues. Whereas, plenty of others are less ready to adventure where angels dare not tread. But by now you either have a clue as to whether you want to continue reading—hopefully you have been, as they say, tempted?
Chapter 1: Provocative Thoughts While Touring a Park
by William Wraithewrite
Abstract: 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".
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.
An "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 extensively explored in this writing, but still noted as important, is that "other" personality traits and human sentiments "equally", or even more substantially, have influenced the way religious doctrines have evolved, as interpretations given to ideologies. This is laid witness to the many, many millions of people who find meaning and solace in the messages of these religions.
This book's particular focus is on the authoritarian influence found within these scriptures, minority as they may seem, so still this focus might seem unbalanced, unfair, and overwhelming; yet 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 planet earth.
Cicero was quoted to have said: "Nothing that lacks justice can be morally right." We deduce this statement 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 and worthy of veneration—irrespective of purported origin and irrespective of propaganda vessel of presumed 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 about 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 kind of psychology that might be used to instill fear and 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 (at least according to our contemporary standards). Even the killing of animals as sacrifice today is now viewed as demonic—yet how many religions did that—and how many people manage to stomach meat (not necessarily implying the killing and eating of animal is immoral)?
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?
Chapter Two: Abrahamic Models Of Governance
By William Wraithewrite
Authoritarianism, politically speaking, is a style of control that demands obedience and usually gets it. Individuals have little choice regarding compliance. It hardly needs mentioning that this style of command and control is different from legalized authority written as legislation and negotiated between governors, representatives and citizens.
Psychologically, authoritarian personality traits refer to those attitudes and opinions that allows for a basis of prejudice, discrimination and oppression. As defined as such it is a mindset so composed that it is obviously opposed to democratic principles of sharing power.
In modern societies authoritarians tend to align themselves with fascist and oligarchic statism. Authoritarians are generally intolerant of ambiguity, as they tend to see things within the strictures of realities being either black or white. And it appeals to personalities who view things in such simplicity as: "You are either for us or you are against us", with no middle ground or alternative explanations considered valid.
Yet according to studies on such personalities traits, those who share authoritarian bents often are, ironically, submissive to an already established authoritarian order (and not terribly critical of the quality), although they tend to manipulate such authority toward their own ends—if and when they can.
More often than not, as theory has it, these types of people come from homes that used heavy doses of punishment, both psychological and physical, as domestic forms of justice. They are established more in poor neighborhoods that are less educated, and are less psychologically familiar with nuances of perspective and tolerance (such as tolerance for sensitivity and consideration—or what are stereotypically called feminine traits).
However there are also highly educated authoritarians—but as a rule of thumb, the more school on average, the less so. And if this sounds like academic crap—it is—because studies have shown these tendencies to be features of this type of personality.
Some people driven to be authoritative also go into professions that require a good deal of combative verbal finesse such as lawyers, bosses in general, some editors or opinionated yappers, including those "professional" deception artists that have come to flourish in the political think tanks and America's corporate media.
There is also, to be sure, a form of authority that is built on merit and competence. Professional authority comes more in play today, as most professionals require various amounts of expertise that can help counter balance rash impulse and stubborn will. Their authority is not derived from raw ambition. It is founded on skill, insight, ability to relate to others, etc., and is proportional to the expertise they bring to bear on issues.
Still authoritarian sensibilities gravitate towards a right-wing status quo. They often "project" (attribute) some of their own impulses (those found unacceptable within themselves that may be unconscious to self) onto outsider people or groups. Not surprisingly they tend to be suspicious and accusing. Plus they are more willing to resort to aggressive measures to get ends met. Authoritarians, on average, also fear intellectuality, creativity, and tolerance.
These fears, when stressed, can take refuge (if not countered) in rigidity, control, and violence. Therefore such people who share these traits are more likely to resort to discrimination, anger, harsh punishment, and under stress, even torture and murder.
According to one dictionary, "rightists" advocate conservative and reactionary political and economic policies. They are willing to restrict the masses with oligarchical rule. They tend to favor laissez faire and "strong" executive power. And the "extreme" right supports fascist dictatorships.
But despite their aggressive exteriors, authoritarians, on average, do not have strong self-concepts of personal independence or autonomy (although they may have heavy accomplishment in various areas of endeavor—such as military or police service). In fact like couch potato sport fans, which do not themselves stay physically fit, they tend to vicariously glorify leaders who rule with the qualities they admire but may not have.
[Note: On the other hand we also note that some of the left, who think themselves liberal or tolerant, also at times, display faults such as excess of pride that steps over into hubristic arrogance when contemplating their own intellectual prowess. Equally some from the leftist camps manage to maintain, more or less, their own sacred cows of distorted bias and prejudice—which equally is a form of rigidity. Some fall into the trap that if a Hence there can be a distaste for rigorous honesty on both sides of the isle that may hide behind masks of feelings of superiority. In fact a propensity to see things as basically on the left or right is itself a black and white template.]
The Plasticity of Language:
Languages are fluid. They cannot easily be commandeered to operate in "total"-itarian and absolute manners. Some people try to make language, and its meanings, to operate as such—but ultimately such trials fail. Languages do not readily conform to rigid demands for inflexibility.
Nevertheless, given the Bible's long historical "presumption" of infallibility as a document of words, mankind has declined to realize that in order for a "perfect" religious truth to exist it would require a perfect and infallible language. Each word would be limited (perhaps more likely oral traditions) to one, more or less, exact meaning. Therefore there would be little need to have any kind of priestly intermediary to interpret ambiguities for lay peoples.
Instead, what society inherits from the ancient past are mountains of religious verse and a potentiality of infinite interpretation—that require multiple lifetimes of study as well as and an infinitude of patience and wisdom. Such voluminous religious literature could provide any kind of personality the verbal justification for almost any kind of propensity. Centuries upon centuries of scripture and their scholarly opinions have provided various religious communities with enough semantic confusion to bury the most ambitious of readers and thinkers.
Confusion can spring from the ambiguity and ambivalence of even one word or phrase—never mind longer units of prose. Plus the sheer volume of scripture and revered writings again shows us how intricately language itself, as enterprise of human meaning, is tied to individualized word choice as both writer and reader.
People who fail to understand that human judgments were inscribed into the records of religious scripture, by way of how the human mind works, will not likely realize that propaganda was being used to manipulate readers' beliefs and presumptions. These "historical" paradigms—even supposedly sacred papyritic scrolls and fine parchments handed down over multiple generations were human artifacts, similar to how culture attempt to create human history in deliberate and random choices of emphasis versus censorship.
Three Near Eastern Religions:
There are three religions that currently wield influence over vast numbers of people and cultures in the Near East, Middle East, as well as other societies around the world. They are, as you already know, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. All three of these religions are related, and ultimately derive at least some of their ideology and attitude from the elderly Judaic religion, from which both Islamism and Christianity are offshoots.
So despite an inability of adherents to get along, or to see eye-to-eye, all three religions are in a sense still family. This "familiarity" is an important point, as some of the followers of any one religion tend to hold animosity toward adherents of the other two. There are attitudes of intolerance by members within all three—breeding, if you will, a kind of family dysfunctionalism.
Erstwhile Judaism, as a religion, was conceived (according to many theological scholars), at least partially, from significant ideas loaned from yet more ancient, as well as contemporaneous, religions—such as from the older religions of Babylonia, Assyria and Egypt. Hence there were similar religious motifs found taken from the greater Fertile Crescent, such as the great flood motif, that goes back to at least the 2nd millennium B.C., to the epics of Gilgamesh of the ancient Mesopotamian religion of Uruk (what is now within southern Iraq).
So despite what plenty of people want to believe, Judaism is "not" a unique or absolute religion molded strictly out of a Divine Will. No—Israel loaned ideas from travelers passing through—just like Italian cooks loaned ideas from people sailing the Mediterranean sea. Their tribes borrowed several of their ideas and rituals from surrounding societies. Equally it seems true that Judaism, over much time, changed and solidified unique ideas as well.
This heretical assertion that religions take ideas and rituals from earlier religions makes sense. Scholars have concluded, that as religions evolve and slowly change, they do so, not out of a vacuum, but from cultural influences they interact—coalescing and amalgamating ideas to eventuate a different set of religious interpretations and proclamations.
This phenomenon of borrowing ideas eventually included incorporating philosophical sentiments from Plato's and Aristotle's works as applied to newer interpretations and writings of the New Testament. It is natural that various ideas and customs, in general, tend to spread and intermingle or inter-tangle with foreign cultures. There is no pure religion from the Middle or Near East. Most archeologists would agree that much sharing of goods and thought is ancient indeed.
It is not just "abstract" ideals that compose religious belief systems. Human personality (psychology), and tribal politics (sociology) play a big part in how religious values and literature evolve. And part of the "politics" of religion is found in the "spin" placed on which ideas take precedence for a given culture, group or person, at any given time—and which ideas prevail as over-riding psychology.
For example, are there relationships between the psychology of religions as forms of governance (sociology) and how the psychology of politic systems play out on earth (law)? And is such an analysis worth contemplating or mining for insight?
After all tribes and societies need some way of establishing rules of conduct and value systems. Or how would a basis of establishing predictable norms and a sense of morality evolve? Without such institutions there will be much anarchy and chaos. It would be the insecure self against a world of all unpredictable others. Such a non-society of chaos is what political philosopher John Locke, in his 1690 Treatises of Civil Government, used to explain how and why a "social contract" evolved.
Religions and secular legal frameworks work toward similar ends—they reinforce social values and established rules of conduct and morality. Thus religion is as much the study of sociology as it is a study of theology. In fact the separation of the church as state is a recent development of the 17th century enlightenment espoused especially by John Locke.
It is not mere coincidence, that despite whether there is any actual life or judgment after death, adherents to "humane" religious precepts have reason to treat one another with care or concern while living in the present moments here on earth—including the helping of the downcast?
As people presume an all-knowing God judges them—they do so in respect to how they act toward their fellowmen within their lifetimes in this realm. So religions have sociological ramifications. As even Moses' purported Decalogue of Ten Commandments were mostly for the establishment of rules for that tribal society as mortal interaction. These Commandments also included a definite hierarchy of authority as "one" supreme God that tolerates no others explained by later echelons of priestly caste.
Does That Old Time Religion Still Matter?
The question before us today is whether it can be convincingly argued that Judaism, and its two branch religions of Christianity and Islamism, the three basic "mono-theistic" religions, were predicated, at least partially, on a foundation of "authoritarian" rule?
And we ponder with similar gravity the following question: "Is it 'justice' (as in 'juridical') for humanity to ask: "Are there traces of an authoritarian personality (as prophesized and espoused) in the Old Testament that eventually allowed variations of authoritarian interpretation for both Christianity's New Testament and Islam's Koran?" " And, if such an argument can be made cogent and feasible, does such authoritarianism, seem at times, to espouse vengeance, retaliation, intolerance, or war as a psychology that would engender unreasonable fear of violence or threat?
If such an argument can be convincingly made—that Abrahamic religions contain elements of right-wing authoritarian personality and tactic—then how does modern society learn to comprehend the "humanity" of religion in all its paradoxical breadth and do so with wisdom? How do current cultures integrate the healthier, more progressive values of ancient religions into the present age (forms of spiritual reverence deemed worthy), while neutralizing right-wing aspects? How does humanity deal with politics that is currently trying to justify conflicts by manipulating religious prejudice as cause of another—such as the current attempt to dehumanize those people of Iran's religious culture?
[Note: For the record this series of chapters as critical analysis is "not" meant to "not" recognize the "many" positive contributions religions and spiritual practices have made for many millions of individuals around the world throughout the centuries. Neither is this book meant to argue that religions or believers, per se, are mostly misguided. Also, it is not the purpose here to argue that religions are, on the whole, a negative phenomena. Rather the opposite—religious and spiritual practice is important to humanity precisely because it reinforces and esteems certain social values that need to be practiced on an individual, communal and international basis.]
However we choose to examine some religious ideas through some very skeptical prisms—because we can come to realize that a lot of what a man believes to be true or sacrosanct is not necessarily so—and can even be detrimental.
Making claims "for" God or "about" God, no matter how ancient, or revered as sacred printed context, is not necessarily the same thing as actually representing a God—assuming that such a thing as speaking for God could even be done. Many people have made claims regarding the intentions and authority of various Gods (that amount to egos speaking for "projected" egos), when in fact their own mental filtering systems and imaginations of personality, or cult, or culture, have played a major role in those "purported" claims about God's word and intent—including prophesies proscribed in the "Holy" scripture.
Skepticism toward "human" interpretation of anything metaphysical or religious should not be surprising to open-minded thinkers—since even "within" religious literature and its history, there were many accusations of heresy, false Gods, and false prophets—usually with the background goal of creating an outsider person, sect or religion in relation to a presupposed insider group. One would get lost trying to understand how many religions and cults have competed against each other over the centuries. Cynically, the skeptic realizes an irony—that competitor religions claim their own outlook and belief systems to be the most correct.
[Note: Within the limits of human knowledge mankind reels at the infinite and notes the abundance of life's miracles (wonders). He speculates that there must be some "force" much greater and more glorious than mankind's limited awareness. The spectacularity of the cosmos could be caused by no other than an ultimate Divine Presence. But people vary in how much they think they know about such a force. "Agnostics" as in ('a-' not 'gnosis' knowing) do not think that mankind has a capacity to ultimately know whether God does or does not exist. Whereas, both "theists" ('theo' God) and "atheists" ('a-' not 'theo' God) presume a human capacity to know such things. Theists "know" that God exists, and presume to know his "mind" through religious teachings. Whereas atheists "know" God does not exist. Hence agnostics are modest in presumption about any human capacity to know these kinds of reckonings. A fourth category of believers is called a "deist" who believes in a God of nature that becomes known through human inference and reason as opposed to revelation and dogma of a scriptural sort. Many of our important founding fathers were deists—as deism was a popular movement in the 17th century that tried to reconcile scientific rationalism with faith.]
Ultimately knowledge or awareness of God, or the Great Spirit, or whatever name used to refer to a Creator or Ultimate Cause, is "not" something "owned" by one, or a few, religious cultures—save the dogmatism of an authoritarian mindset and literature, or tradition, that says otherwise. In fact the more adamant one is sure he or she knows with absolute certainty what is religious reality—the more skepticism is in order.
Given mankind's natural fallibility and naiveté, divine meaning is not likely to be perfectly codified by any one set of documents or religious people. As even well established religions, over conservative amounts of time, have changed perspectives and grown with new interpretations.
It is difficult to assert opinion about religion and faith as verifiably true. This is equally the case for any investigation of religious faith. However the previous statement about no culture "owning" true still seems intuitively true—irrespective of whether followers of various religions believe otherwise. It seems true no matter how great the number in opposition (or how indignant their hostility) to such independent assertions. Anger, hostility and attack are often red flags that indicate emotional blackmail. People sometimes express anger when they experience fear; but anger in no way indicates that rival points of view are of a sounder sense of truth.
One could even argue that the search for truth is the search for God—in all its paradoxes and mystical states of realization. Rhetoricians could argue all form and manner of truth defying sophistry arguing many a sundry things about the Divine.
Politics and the politics of religion (as in all social activity) is full of anger, self-righteousness, fuming excoriation, blame tactics, accusations, name-calling, lies, threats of damnation, etc. But making demands or threats via self-righteous posturing and claiming one's own point of view right beyond doubt does not make it so. Intimidation is a tactic of those ready to use "coercion" psychology in their righteousness road to be right. Seemingly then there is a certain amount of egoism in all form of assertion—but we digress.
Communities of people who lived three or four thousand years ago had many of the same social dilemmas that we have to day. Obviously they were more primitive in many ways and levels—but the human condition has not changed. How did they come to organize their reality systems?
More generally should we ask "who" (which humans) decided what canons were to become those as officially recognized, and which beliefs were to be rejected—and why? More importantly what personality traits, such as those of church clerics, saints, and prophets, that attempted to describe God's intent, did so in fashion descriptive of their "own" preferential outlooks and political tendencies? In another words how much of themselves (psychic traits) did they interject into what eventually became officiated (or negotiated) as "orthodoxy" about religious belief and the Divine?
[Note: Hence this analysis forthrightly presumes, and thus alleges, that "all" human interpretation of religious doctrine (as well as all recordings of alleged angelic interventions, and alleged interactions dealing directly with the Divine), is by nature a human and mortal enterprise—including all words purported to have been spoken by Moses, Mohammad, Jesus, and other Biblical prophets. Religions herein are recognized as artifacts of mankind and culture.]
Equally, and especially, there have been many heated and controversial debates about the "nature" of Jesus. Was he totally divine, totally human, or both divine and human? Did he have different essences during different parts of his life? Did he first come into existence at birth or was he always in existence? Is he equal to God the Father or subordinate? On and on went the many church debates regarding the nature and essence of Jesus. These disagreements within early Christianities created a long list and history of declared apostasy and heresy—relative to declared orthodoxy.
Human Opinions Codified:
What some prophets and saints referred to as divinely inspired mandates, were perhaps to some extent, answers to issues of social need—such as ways to organize people against injustice.
Mohammed, for example, supposedly was angry with the merchant wealth class of his time and place that took advantage of poor people. His religious inspiration saw a way to change this status quo of exploitation. There seemed to be a need on the part of the prophet to address social and political issues as "moral" issues.
Gregory of Nyssa (330to 395 A.D.) and other Cappadocian Fathers, as well as Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in the 2nd century, are just two examples of the influential personalities that determined the "official" doctrine of Christianity, as we in the West have come to know it. Their personalities, within the hierarchies of their respected churches, engaged in rhetorical and political battles as to what was to become their orthodoxy—and what was to be denounced as wrongful headed heresy.
"Heresy" is labeled as such by the human "ego", that presumes an authority to judge what is, and what is not, accepted as truth. In the early Christianities there were many allegations made and trials held regarding allegations of heresy over the centuries (some that took place in formal hearings of the "closed" door sort). Eventually, within these "human convenings, certain minds (personalities) prevailed in deciding what was to be "official" prescriptions of religious interpretation (as battles of human opinion and will went against other equally human opinion and will). Political it indeed was.
One can only imagine the rumors and falsehoods made behind the backs of others in those catacombs of priestly monastery. Quite probably clerics and bishops bickered about preachers getting too uppity, or becoming too artistic in their independence and thought. Anyone who has every read a book on modern day office politics knows the sort of behind the scenes scheming that was likely to have taken place during these all-too-human proceedings that sought to determine the orthodox truth. One can speculate that this was some dicey business given that these clerical institutions were themselves based on authoritarian principles and personalities.
Nor was it that different from Judge Judy and Judge Brown on afternoon TV, more or less, "dictating" (by way of interpretating), what seems the truth to matters with contradictory claims. But these TV judges speak in tones about what "did" in fact happen—as opposed to being more tentative. In fact you will notice that Judge Judy occasionally has not asked enough questions—but rather she jumps to conclusions that impose her presumptions and views—irrespective of all relevant facts.
Again, the fact remains—it is "within" the fallibility of the human mind that people makes judgments and decree decisions. It is from their personal attitudes that people come to impose their directives and control over others—that is from their interpretation of events—the same is true of those peoples who lived millennia ago.
Ancient religious scripture depicts some authoritarian judgments (although such kind of judgment may not be representative of the quantity and quality of the literature in general). However what is examined herein is of such extreme example. Nevertheless we cannot ignore these important aspects of religious writings.
Turn now to the Old Testament's Deuteronomy Chapter 17, in which readers are instructed, according to this "scripture", that fornicators engaged "out of wedlock" should be stoned with stones.
This biblical verse, as extreme example, of what may not be representative of justice in the Old Testament, still makes example of what passes as justice. According to our sensibilities stoning the accused for sex outside marriage was not enlightened "justice" way back in those days; and therefore it can be argued was not likely the will of a purely divine sense of will, because our intuitions tells us a "fair" God would not have decreed such a punishment for this kind of social violation (at least by those who are willing to check within their own feelings and sensibilities). Thence we intuit with strong suspicion that this justice was really authoritarian justice wrapped in sheep's clothing.
Or much more recently, there was an article in the local newspaper of an unwed Nigerian woman, who is Muslim, in which it was reported that she would "not" be facing death by being stoned with rocks (now in a 21st century society). This article was openly printed in U.S. papers to allow us Americans to know how man's rage and feelings of indignity sometimes get substituted for Allah's "supposed" justice—as written and interpreted by particular verse in the Koran's teaching. However most people today probably feel such judgment is pretty crude to our own ideas of justice here in the West.
We can see a pattern of judgment across time that is retained within the family of Abrahamic religions. Obviously there is an attitude of intolerance against appeasement or forgiveness that will not take into account consideration for vulnerabilities of the human condition. Furthermore there is little attempt to distance the self or ego from the passions of resentment and revenge.
Is it not "human" nature to be easily angered? Is it not the "human" creature who waxes in outrage and who maintains resentment? Is it not the "human" personality, as we know it, that is quick to judge, condemn, hate, and that lives and operates within a world of prejudice? Is it not aggregate groups, as well, that exact recrimination and punishment? These experiences, as we all know, are human forms of enterprise.
Nevertheless some would have us believe that they are also traits of the Divine. These people would like us to believe as they do, that God feels the same way about such situations as their own perceptions, attitudes, and judgments. They would like us to feel that God too comes down to our levels of justification and rationalization in order to reward or punish in manner similar to how we feel—then "human" will gets codified as "divine" scripture.
A Will's Wild Wile:
Why, for example, would a "just" God be so offended as to condemn a mortal to death, by the action and will of encouraging humans to stone another—in a case that seems to be a cuckolded man who avenges out of murderous passion? This is not even an eye for an eye type of reprisal. This is violence at a elevated level of violation. Such punishment usually stems from personal experiences of humiliation that often get acted out in rage and violence. And it is especially important to note this kind of "so-called" Divine Justice was "not" performed by a God's direct thunderbolt—but rather by human intervention and fomenting of human attitudes—as justified by human ascription of sacred law.
Whereas, if a mere civilian, as a regular secular citizen in our culture, had made such a harsh judgment to be carried out, would he be thought fair and just? No unless enormous prejudice was at play. Such and act would be considered murder and gang violence. So how can one justify such heavy-handed punishment as fair? Only authoritarian instinct, blind faith and fear would allow this kind of revenge and killing as the stuff of fairness. Only an uncritical obeisance to power would call this righteous.
Apostasy against religion? Yes. Apostasy against God? No—against the dark side to human nature that has managed to portray God as authoritarian within human judgments "claimed" as God's sacred decree.
And although mankind has a dark side (read history), he should not willingly honor it as either glorified by institutions of law or religious doctrine. This is the equivalent of "projecting" the dark side of human motive as Divine Justice. Criminals, thugs, gangs, tyrants, fascists, and people who feel cheated and humiliated etc., do these sorts of things to other people—but these sorts of things should not have the honor of being claimed as God's will—any more than war should be perceived for what it is—human enterprise.
Nevertheless human nature by way of institutions will use "attributions" of God's "will" to carry out and disguise what is not morally justifiable—if the blindly faithful are gullible enough to believe it.
As long as there is enough faith and obeisance to a God (much out of fear) then "any" behavior (be it just or tyrannical), when fanned with propaganda and hatred, can be justified in the name of religion, expertise or law.
Heresy Too is Human:
The history of religion is itself one long historical argument about sacred meaning (including equivocations over finer points of semantics). The heretic chooses an alternative view not considered correct by those who claim the authority of orthodoxy. The old Greek meaning of 'hairetikos' meant "to choose". The heretic is the individual who "presumes" a "right" to choose which perceptions, from various heterodoxies, to believe (from the gray areas of controversy that not every authoritarian would appreciate).
Religious speculation and inquiry (which is as natural as are the seasons), as a form of individualism, runs a long course of intellectual history. Yet curious inquiry often ends in heated debate against reactionary tendencies of those who want to maintain or establish a different status quo.
Eventually, over time, one opinion wins out, to become, the more or less, official word—that other people will more or less conform in belief—or at least give lip service. But we note that it was still likely the individual, or small group, who "once" began the controversy, and once thought heretical, that later came to have his views thought orthodoxy (which is not the same thing as saying most heresy eventually becomes orthodoxy).
Nevertheless, for every orthodox matter, there are camps of heterodoxy, whose members "choose" to believe the minority opinion—that is not beholden to the dominant version (dominate as market share and influential power). And when minorities get too influential in gaining market share, or their ideas seem especially a threat, they may officially warrant the label of heretics and be so condemned—all the way to hell on earth—like early Christian sects before Constantine were persecuted.
Consider for example the various Ecumenical Councils that took place in Asia Minor—that ultimately helped determine modern Christianity—such as formed be proclaimed as the Nicene Creed. We also emphatically note (you are taking notes?) that it has never been claimed that God presided in person over any of these conventions. Perhaps some aspect of God's spirit was resident—but every word spoken about those heretical controversies was done so by human mouth and heart. Every thought transpired within the nervous systems and brains of those in attendance. If votes were cast they were done so by human votive (unless cheat votes were counted). Therefore these were then "human" conventions sraped in the garb of authority. But no Angels or extraterrestrial forces appeared, debated, fought battles, or usurped decisions.
Nevertheless these men who convened in 325 A.D. on the Western banks of Turkey, decided official dogma regarding the essence of Christian belief. This dogma, as argued and decided, was articulated by their thinking abilities, language skills, politics and personalities. No omniscient spirit showed up to give a speech.
Morality Versus Fear:
Some claim that pretty much all the wars enacted by ancient Israelites were historically supported by Yahweh. Michel Onfray's Atheist Manifesto more or less claims that the Israelites invented the idea of a holy war (but probably not true—it is probably a much older idea). And according to Onfray Yahweh sanctioned murder, assassination, and crime within the context of warring people and culture interacting with other warring peoples and culture.
It is especially important to realize that many cultures have used their God and their religion to justify war—especially to their own populations who would then be expected to fight the war for those articulated justifications. Hence leaders engaged in the art of justifying hostility and war (terrorism) on a presumption of moral and spiritual approval from the highest and loftiest of Commanders—whose wish was really more a demand (as sanctified). Thus is the power of persuasion.
Note as well that political and military heroes in today's more secular nations are sometimes regarded as "mythic" heroes, that are eventually lauded to the heights of demigods (transcending mortality through a process of glorification and eulogizing fanfare). Worldly eminences of leadership held to the glorified pedestal as if mythic in transcending dimension. For example, even the mediocrity of minds as paltry as Ronald Reagen's were held to such esteem that some saw them as no less than national "saviors".
Will Ariel Sharon too be knighted in heaven as if standing beside the Almighty—as he has been lionized in Western mainstream media? Whereas Kofi Annan had a much tougher time getting any kind of recognized sainthood, or ordination for chivalry, from the schools of orthodoxy (presumed "elitist" authority). Kofi was targeted by well-oiled propaganda machines, with much calumny, for what was more the Security Council's, including the U.S. responsibility and fault. Nevertheless several right-wing Judeo-Christians like Senator Norman Coleman, found it convenient to target the United Nations in general as worthless to supposedly 1) reduce its independence of will to speak out against moral atrocities like the U.S. illegal "invasion" of Iraq, and 2) to limit the world body's attempt to address Israeli habits of thuggery against the Palestinians as heresy.
Can a given society progress a valuation of "morality" that is not stuck in a confused morass of belief or tradition, which coerces conformity by Machiavellian fear of punishment, or an equivalent excess fear of what God stands to represent in the credulous imagination? What "mores" (as folkways) can be considered conducive to the welfare of society (like most of the commandments of Moses) that are universal to mankind's sense of ethics?
And what relationship is there between a social compact (as elaborated in ancient Greece, and later by 18th century philosophers like John Locke) and a covenant between a people and their vision of God? What kind of a relationship is there between religious ideology and secular laws (and mores) that are espoused by governments?
[Note: Rhetorical question—is it just coincidence that the Anglo Saxon words "God" and "Good" are related words? "Good", as adjective, means praise towards what is considered "worthy" in a given community. Whereas the spiritual path, most universally advocated worldwide, is often directed toward doing "good" works for others—and not surprisingly is thought equivalent to the wishes of God—that is when man is not busy creating propaganda for war. Thus one synonymous interpretation of the abstraction for the word "God" is "good" as for community and brotherhood.]
Monotheism, as a religious "model" of authority, claims there is "one" God. Such a form of religious hierarchy relates to "one" dominant and "ego-ized" ruler (anthropomorphized) usually mediated to and interpreted by clerics.
Monotheism is equally buttressed by having "one" source of written "authority", or a "set" of recognized writings (layered through historical time), considered as legitimate and authentic orthodoxy.
Whereas competing literature is considered un-orthodox heresy—even if some cults consider these alternative "authorities" (thoughts) as "apocryphal" or "pseudo-epigraphical".
Religions and their sects have multiplied over the millennia like the Tower of Babel's confusion (that represented diverse linguistic and cultural chaos). And what is considered authority within even major religions' splinter sectors is often up for debate. Contemplating differences between sects does not even begin to ponder mystic sects that borderline a mainstream's dogmas.
Nevertheless, monotheism, as form of hierarchy, is equivalent to the political force of "autocracy". It asserts (as reinforced through tradition) that there is one absolute establishment of power that arrogates absolute control over an entire people or community.
God was declared master. He was said to have stated: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and you shall have no false Gods before me ..." as his eminently first command(ment), thus establishing his "authority" to rule as foremost priority! (at least according to those who wrote for Moses).
We emphatically note here that Moses did "not" suggest that the ideas set to stone were to be taken up for discussion by the tribe's peoples and then voted on in a democratic manner. In a sense it was an autocratic coup.
Political leaders of the dictator type presume the same mindset of control—even if they do not bother with formalities of justification—their rule usually does not last long enough to sanctify it in written formalities. But first they plot how to take control (such as steal elections) and then do it via a coup d'etat (get the news medias' and leading institutions' cooperation). Then they assert their imperative command irrespective of what others think or feel—meaning the "common" people (as subjects, serfs or slaves) who are afforded no privileges as to whether they consent to such an authority (because if there is resistance, or rebellion, force (of one kind or another) will likely be expedited to quell the uprising)). Autocracy, as authority, then is not about sharing power. It is about consolidating it to an absolute hierarchy or oligarchy that dictates the rules to others.
[Note: Again it is necessary to emphasize that this analysis is "not" arguing that God, per se, is authoritarian. Rather this analysis asserts that "humans" with authoritarian bents, have "projected" some of their own beliefs, wishes, personalities, and politics onto an "authority" they choose to call God, Yahweh or Allah. Thus they have "defined" aspects of God through historical tradition, with words that reflect their own political propensities and persuasions. Hence folk wisdom that claims that God has created man in God's image is reflected back to mean that Man equally created God in man's image—that also includes aspects of an authoritarian mindset.]
This phenomenon of "projecting" human design and motive onto God's presumed ego, such as the human personality prone to make judgments, is a historical eventuality. These attitudes were initially handed down by way of oral traditions, and then came to later generations by way of written scripture.
This ancestral handing down via verbal story telling has confounded humanity to accept on faith claims made to God's authority—because few question such an ideal of power as a monotheistic and absolute God.
In truth no one alive today knows with certainty, save their faith and personal belief, whether that mortal named Moses, had any real encounters with a Divine Presence; or whether he merely made conspiratorial claims to such experience. It is as likely, from a skeptic's perspective, that he and a cabal of insiders made claim to leadership role over gullible others. Or perhaps he was suffering from delusions of the grandiose sort. All we have as rationalists is hearsay handed down via more hearsay over the centuries with various degrees of exhortation as to what will happen as punishment if non-believers choose not to believe in the Bible's claims. Nevertheless terrorizing the ambivalent with threats of eternal damnation is hardly the stuff of factual verification that skeptics like to examine.
The wrapping of personal ambition (and we are politically astute enough to be aware of personal ambition) in an invincible cloak of religious authority is the ultimate solidification of control—at least to those subjects who willingly believe it. Then the authoritarian can say: "It is not I (or us) who wish such decrees—rather it is God himself who has decided so"... "I am (we are) merely your religio-politico servant(s) as intermediary(s) for God's authority, of which I (we) just happen to be in agreement ... and by the way God just told me (us) that you need to do such and such... so hop to it".
Certainly, as skeptical rationalists, we would be wise to be suspicious of faith systems many lay people have unquestioningly presumed as the "nature" of God—for we are indeed aware of the "nature" of mankind—especially as a political animal and clever propagandist.
Experience and history both show mankind again and again that some people, who are ambitious to rule, are willing to make any claim (formulated or else wise) if they think it will get over on the naïve.
This reality is not much different from the willingness of some corporations to help electronically steal elections, or certain polls that fabricate tolls as to who is really leading, or politically parties in cahoots with major networks that try to marginalize people like Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
[Note: This observation does not discount the humane ambition of quality leadership ambitious to lead society for the benefit of the community (as might have been the case with Moses and other historical monarchs and religious leaders). Still a potential leader may knowingly act out pretenses of assertion of God's overweening authority—similar to what some feel regarding George W. Bush's relationship to the Almighty.]
The Measure of Man:
However it is not enough to simply do as too many atheists tend—reject religion outright as having no legitimate authority—and leave it at that. Such supercilious rejection by some holier-than-thou atheists leaves society with a moral vacuum (especially if such a society, in its secularity, is left to the "dogma" of political and economic religions that are not respectful of things needing to be considered sacred—such as the ecological systems of the diverse biosphere versus neo-liberal conceits).
Obviously there will always be a need for a form of authority in any given community—as well as a need for a sense of sacred for what needs be considered as such. The question then before humanity is what ought it be composed—and what values ought inform this authority? Human society needs some basis morality that goes beyond modernity's egocentricity and its glorification of narrow self-interest.
For example, when politically elected officials enter into a covenant with its citizenry via a Constitution do they consider themselves "servants" of society? Or do they merely pay lip service and then serve the masters of corporate greed and corruption—because they have not yet found the wherewithal to reform the corporate loopholes that get them elected?
Every lawyer, judge or legislator, worthy of his or her salt, will tell you that the law is only the beginning of moral and civil society. What they mean here is that the law, by itself, cannot get people to appreciate ideals of mutual respect and cooperation. Something more is required. That something, as shared attitude, needs a way to help mold a peoples' outlook and appreciation for social order and regulation—without getting too bureaucratic or corrupt. So what institutions, besides family will provide for that something else that can assist the law in socializing a "sense" of morality—without going dogmatic and iron-fist?
Therefore it seems that a variety of institutions are necessary for dealing with the various circumstances and problems of society. For example, which activities will be viewed as crimes (or sins against the community)? What does a village do with an offender of social value? How does a city or region establish and enforce its collective will over those that attempt to commit crime? Yet only a naive anarchist, no matter how sublime he thinks his esoteric attitudes, will be foolish enough to presume that all or most people will naturally and maturely look out for the self while maintaining respect for others. How are people to be socialized—especially in a culture ripe with mercantilist enterprise that neglects the social order for private gain?
However, the realization for a need for authority is not an invitation for "authoritarian" forms of social control, via politico-religious dogma that ultimately relies on jackboot impulse. Authority does need not be so punishing or revengeful in which harsh consequences becomes the norm—like cruel and unusual punishment. Should a healthy society that claims to honor liberty be so cowed that it honors the passivity of sheep—while the wolves roam free to do as they may?
[Note: People can be affected by what has been termed the Stockholm Syndrome, in which case, captives taken hostage by captors, eventually come to see their captors as decent and good people, and begin to identify with their captors. Therefore it can be argued that captives of authoritarian aspects of religious doctrines—doctrines that are terrorist—can too come to identify with their captor's point of view. And why should this not be the case given the trauma of deciding to believe and love versus going to hell? Also, in way of psychological explanation, there can be a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in which individuals react to exaggerated fears about religion and political dogmas with disorders of sorts such as an excess of anxiety.]
Social sciences such as psychology have been slow to tackle this religion-as-conditioning hypothesis that spills into the insane and absurd. Granted some sociologists and anthropologists have written about religious belief from a scientific perspective—few however directly confront or analyze a religions' capacity to either solidify social will or weaken a person's ability to think freely—leaving such persons manipulated by extreme forms of fear.
Professionals need to help challenge "bad" ideas about religion—similar to those who challenged the Catholic Church's prior insistence on the Ptolemaic interpretation of the universe. Once upon a time at the Vatican's dogmatic insistence, about four hundreds of years ago, Copernican cosmologist Giordano Bruno was burnt to a stake in 1600 Anno Domini (year of our Lord). Copernicus became another of many scientific heretics when he challenged the accepted idea that the planets and sun revolve around the earth that the Catholic Church had blessed. Therefore by the Church's authoritarian insistence, the "geocentric" model of cosmology (as opposed to a "heliocentric" solar system) maintained "humanity" as God's main, and no doubt greatest creation—to which he held center stage in the entire cosmos.
This same debate further had Galileo renounce his own former proclamations of the same Copernican theory, 32 years later, after he was summoned to "court" in Rome by the same type of Inquisition (as act of intellectual and bodily terrorism), because his fierce temperament was not particularly inclined to renounce strongly held opinions but for some very good reason.
The Religion of Civil Liberties:
Today, at least prior to 9/11, our constitutionally "secular" theology proposes, as sacred, civil liberties and equality for all citizens—irrespective of a citizen's religion, politics or ethnicity. People were not (past tense) generally denied citizenship because of their religion or ethnicity. We could "choose" to believe openly, or at least privately, whatever dogma we wanted to believe, according to whatever grace and insight we were afforded—without being either persecuted or prosecuted. We believed in freedom of speech—no matter how heretical or arbitrary it seemed—and such a matter was considered sacred—even against the tyranny of the majority.
Thus in this American creed you were considered a "full" member of the republic irrespective of belief (at least this was true in theory on paper). All people had a right to run for office, and theoretically had a chance of being elected to serve in the full capacity of a representative (that is if you had access to the required cash), or you could apply to work as a civil servant—and not worry about excessive forms of McCarthyism.
Religious freedom was key for our American political Covenant. It did not matter if you were Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Palestinian, Rastafarian, Animist, Pagan, or Jew (at least it did not matter officially matter—meaning the principle was suppose to have legal weight).
A non-discrimination clause, in theory, is part of "real" democracy, in which all were allowed to participate—unlike aristocracies, oligarchies, plutocracies, monarchies and theocracies (or forms that pretend to be democracies—as some pretend rather well). In a democracy "all" citizens have a right, and a fair chance of serving the highest levels of "good" Government.
America broke away from its European past of religious feuding in which religious sects of Christianity went to war against each other—that is when they were not carrying out bloody and horrific crusades against the Mohammedans or Jews.
The establishment of a separation of church and state, via John Locke's philosophy, is also related to how we broke away from the then concurrent monarchical and oligarchical tyranny as well—or autocracy.
Nevertheless, "puritans" of sorts, still tend to believe, however naively, that religious scripture was, and still is, the "pure" word of God (as if a cosmic God had need to "vocalize" sounds via symbolized graphemes). In their fervent zealousness they were not suspicious that just maybe there might have been varying amounts of cultural, ethnic, political, personal or historical influence that came to "taint" God's will.
Not all religions have deities who practice much in the line of "will", as in the willing of specific things to happen, or a willingness to ordain certain leaders, or buttress political outcomes like wars that are ordained to transpire, at God's "conscious" behest.
Abrahamic religions however (such as Judaism and Christianity) refer to a God who had much interest in human and political affairs (including wars and discrimination), and who expected certain outcomes to prevail ... Whereas Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation points out that Islam was a religion of conquest. And certainly we know Christian armies have engaged in plenty of conquest.
Thy Will Be Done:
"Will" as in the word "wish" is an attribute of both human and animal nature. Animals of all sorts have wills necessary to survive. Animals have wills to eat, hunt, compete, procreate, socialize, romp, play, fight, etc.
Humans with more complex brains and with language skills have a greater expanse for will and desire (but do not think this is said to belittle an animal's complexity). Human skills are not limited to abstract language or idealized words such as the word "love." Willfulness can take credit for the entire gamut of human behavior—including all forms negligence, ignorance, deceit and violation.
By way of human imagination and our natural capacity for language, "will" can be willed onto a deity. The phrase "the will of a God" can equally blame one's enemies. "The devil will be damned" can confirm one's beliefs even if there is no evidence of the willfulness of God's rebellious angels, etc.
Plenty of political situations lead toward conflict and violence—it is a human reality—conflict, anger, hatred, fear, etc. People act out cruelty but we need to be aware of manipulation of hatred and cruelty by human words, thoughts, opinions, judgments, decisions, etc. Advocating unjust cruelty and violence should not be sanctioned as part of a sacred decree.
If power corrupts then the power to speak for God equally corrupts. Humankind learned long ago that it was expedient to use God's authority for justifiable, as well as questionable, actions. Moral decrees were used to convince the masses by way of religious and political propaganda that both just and unjust actions could be projected as the wishes of a Divine will as an unquestionable and unanswerable power.
Expediency lies in the "bolden rule" that Might makes Right. And as long as the masses are blind or apathetic to the true motives of the state then lies and propaganda seem to work perfectly well.
Nevertheless people are being murdered, and various crimes committed daily, irrespective of what Immanuel Kant thought about a moral imperative. Plenty of great minds have written on the theory of justice but injustice is a daily occurrence. The masses, as well as many elites, don't have time to quibble over delicate matters—even when such ideas hold immense importance.
This is why it is important to keep religious leaders focused on real social issues—even if a government says there should be a divide between the church and state. Most religious leaders still have a "moral" sensibility for right or wrong. For example it was Catholic priests who were murdered trying to protect indigenous peoples from death squads in Central America—obviously at great risk to themselves. Now monks are acting out in Myanmar.
So it is not just the religious right that can influence the morality of any civilization. The religious center and the religious left can participate as well, and maybe should, if the right intrudes in such a behemoth manner as it has been doing of late—especially to a point in which the United States is likely to go bonkers for another war that will eventuate in a World War and the downfall of our economy.
Secular man has not taught civilization a common morality, save his hackneyed veneration for three ideal words—liberty, freedom, and happiness—that have basically been translated into self-centeredness, hedonism, and ignorance as bliss (that is the freedom to be distracted).
Certainly there must be more to a healthy culture than the right to be ignorant or misinformed, overweight, or dependent on pharmaceutical palliatives? What do secularists and existentialists have to offer for this spiritual vacuum?
The Near Middle East has a long history of violence—not necessarily an exception; but this tribal mentality goes back for thousands of years. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not a particularly high standard of justice. It may be a human standard—but is it all that wise—given that such violence and provocation does not likely stop—but rather reinforces itself like a wheel that keeps spinning?
Not recognizing a connection between the psychology of some aspects of religions that resonate with personality traits, and how governments, and their politicians, special interest groups, and people in general, think and behave, is to ignore important psychological factors that underlie political realities. It is time for more professional authority to assert rational and skeptical expertise against the propaganda of fanatical opinion. Friedrich Nietzsche did have some insight when he wrote: "A very popular error—having the courage of one's convictions—rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one's convictions."
Chapter Three: Religious Conditioning:
By William Wraithewrite
Most Americans have not been introduced to a general theory that claims religions (some more than others) condition people, psychologically, to be more compliant towards certain kinds of governance—in which case, religions, by default, operate as "models" of government?
This assertion is true—or when was the last time you heard of such a general theory discussed in a college course, or newspaper? And where else would you expect it to be discussed—in books—what are those titles that have had any reach?
Yes there were some books published of late about how religions and politics inform each other, especially since the 1980s, that more often than not focused on Islamic fundamentalism—as opposed to this thesis of a similarity of right-wing personality within all three of the Abrahamic religions. Also, very recently, several books have come out, listed in the Introduction, about how right-wing religious fanaticism is thriving here in America.
Karl Marx certainly had things to say about religion's role in the status quo speaking to religion's role of human alienation and self-deception arguing that religions are a byproduct of the social and political order. Immanuel Kant, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, and other renowned social scientists have had insights to address regarding religion's influence into culture.
Still chances are good that you, reader, have not thought about religious conditioning—at least not to any comprehensive degree. (Or is this "theory" too just another conspiracy theory in the mind of some schizoid?) Yet, if you think about it, how could it not be, at least, somewhat true?
This is not to imply that such a theory has never been stated or written. It is more the case that such awareness does not fly onto the radar screens of most citizens' cognizance—primarily because such an analysis is not a circulated "meme".
Rather what is discussed, from time to time, with much fanfare here in the states, is the much touted as sacrosanct ideal, of a separation of Church from State. John Locke in his Letter Concerning Tolerance 1667 distinguished between religions and politics as two "separate" spheres of authority and argued that religion ought be a private matter for each person. He was an advocate for toleration and was against the divine right of kings. Montesquieu in his work The Spirit of the Laws 1734 advocated for the separation of these two powers while advancing the idea of "limited" government. Both men informed our founding fathers. (Note as well that both entities of church and state have organizational hierarchies—meaning that both can become, or veer towards, "autocratic" rule, in which power is concentrated at the top of the pyramid.)
So law professors, historians, as well as some media commentators, then do discuss this separation clause. And as a "secular" notion, this American principle of government, evolved here in the states from Great Britain because of the way oppressive religiosity had previously been employed during Europe's late history. Call it ancestral paranoia—or a serious concern about political entities imposing religious values and dominance over people, in which discrimination and persecution came to bear. Whatever religion the king abided back then determined the "official" religion for the entire realm.
Plus plenty blood was shed so that religious factions, and their political constituents, would come to power. The winners of these massacres could then likely use their power to terrorize others for believing in other doctrines, and could also threaten their corresponding political agendas.
Beware Oh Wary Awareness:
Still we note that from an academic perspective today, neither the disciplines of political science, nor sociology, psychology, or theology, as teaching subjects, dwell much on any kind of potential role that religions might play toward "conditioning" people into being more willing to submit to various forms of national, corporate or family governance. Nor do other academic disciplines, such as law, consider this matter to any healthy degree. Why?
College campuses are supposed to be places of battle for the mind and soul, in which "relevant" theories are articulated, contemplated, and debated. Are not colleges supposed to be society's bastions of free thought? Instead, American teaching institutions are not nearly as controversial as they could be, at least not for some topics. Instead they are, in some ways, mundane "establishments".
They maintain hackneyed reiterations of thoroughly recognized political conflict—the usual trench warfare of dominate, yet staid, ideologies bashing at one familiar polemic or another—battles that are re-fought again and again for each upcoming freshman class.
But the bottom line is that most people to date, including a majority of our political leaders, have not explicitly thought through a conditioning connection between religious orientation and historical governance—even as important a subject as it well seems and is important.
And because few have contemplated such with a wary awareness—that is on how religions help mold mindsets into accepting formations of political formation and outcome, even if the conditioning remains unconscious—its affects are all the more augmented (and less questioned).
Think about it: "What could leave a society more vulnerable than having a "naive" nation, including its political leaders, who have not realized any possible extent that they (or groups within the same community) might be manipulated by presumptions about their own culture's underlying moral agency—religious upbringing?
Or to what extent are they likely aware the degree their cohorts are so manipulated by religious rhetoric—like "fears" about a pending Armageddon (the mountain of Megiddo—sight of several strategic battles in "ancient" times and the location where the Kings of the World will gather to fight against God (see Revelations 16:16))?
What institutions or ideologies, if any, could help condition a credulous mind to be easily seduced by seemingly plausible "political" explanations—that are exactly opposite to the sobriety of truth? For example, how is it that a person comes to gain an almost blind trust in his own culture, its institutions, its media, and its leadership—so that that person can not, or will not, objectively evaluate the competence or virtue of those institutions, leaders or culture in general (or more importantly even have the desire or curiosity to do so)? Are there formulae for long term cultural conditioning that allows a majority of psyches to cling to whatever rationalizations or deceptions that might be politically propagated—irrespective of how irrational or delusional?
Could a religion contribute to crystallizing authoritarian rule in a region? Or could a religion's dogma, for example, on the afterlife, be used to manipulate fear that indirectly operates as a tool of control over people, and their followers political propensities, here on earth?
Perhaps a psychology of religion is in order? And perhaps a good place to begin is by looking at the beginning—in this case the "purported" on-goings of angel stories as "mediated" dramas—that were reported to have happened in the heavenly realm (where supposedly no yellow journalism would have taken place to alter the facts)?
But first it is important to notice that not all religions make reference to angels and angel lore, not even as more or less stock literary figures, in some Cosmic Court. Nevertheless a story of angel society and rebellion is part of the Abrahamic stories.
Angel messengers and their specific "loyalty" propensities are especially a theme found in Near Eastern Religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islamism. And despite the possibility that some of these various angels would have been complex personalities operating within social circumstances, they are "mediated" to us mortals, primarily as to whether they were "loyal" to God or against him (male gender noun).
But in the Bible at least, despite their importance, angels were not much rounded or fleshed out, as complex individuals. We do not really get a sense of individualized angelic personality (although it is purported that Milton's imagination fleshed out Satan in his epic poem Paradise Lost in which he is depicted as a wounded character driven by his pride being slighted). Nevertheless, in the Bible we basically get hierarchical job titles that you would expect to find in a monarchy, like Raphael as the Prince of Heavenly Host, or Lucifer as the Prince of Darkness, etc.
According to fallen angel lore, that we can somewhat boldly refer to as "mythology" or religious "folklore", the deviously vicious and imminently notorious Arch Angel known as Satan (name used in Judeo-Christianity), was a "traitor" (political concept), who was, and still is, a very crafty "liar" (social and political reality) and treacherous "enemy" (political concept), who was nevertheless left on the loose (not on a noose) to connive against nice, naive and respectable people like you and me (who make up the political society).
Religious tradition tells us that Satan, the "leader" (political and social concept) of the fallen angels, had enormous power—and still supposedly does—especially here on earth (where he roams freely in this forsaken world of evil). Accordingly he uses his wily powers and craft of temptation to get men and women to sin against the true faith in God's Word (corollary to faith in a political party). But again we notice that this "motive" scenario of slinging allegations (dia bolos) too is "political" reality found on earth as 1) propaganda wars where both sides claim to be politically correct and the enemy as evil, and 2) souls (seat of belief and action) who no longer believe in the faith (political or economic ideology) are labeled as "fallen" in order to marginalize them or the credibility of their power structure).
And, as this mythology goes, if Satan is successful in his temptations (we are warned) very dire things will ensue to those who have succumbed (again a political reality in the sense of souls are punished for "treason" if they have joined an oppositional party or junta that could possibly levy war or counter-propaganda against the sovereign).
In another words the entire Luciferian Rebellion, as purported by Middle Eastern rumor and tradition, that was to have taken place in that Cosmic Ordering of God's Kingdom (eons of primordial bygone) was a "political" drama, as in how we humans understand the same ways and means of power struggle between factions here on earth. (In fact an American can now get a little nervous in having fears that a police state can hear and learn more about you than even any obsessive compulsive deity of antiquity could have save an omnipotent being).
[Note: Again we notice that Satan, at one time, was primarily known as "the adversary" (Hebrew meaning) had a role or function that primarily tempted mortal souls, so as to learn their true nature or attitude toward God and his sensitive issues. So first Satan was viewed as one who played the role of "tester" of God's subjects—as opposed to an entity of universal evil.]
Nevertheless, from ancient religious lore of the Near East, specific ideas were passed along from European ancestry by way of the Roman road of domination. These angelic dramas encompassed situations of intrigue, spying, lying, tempting, deceiving and rebellion, in which case "traitors" were severely punished. Interesting, how it is, that these activities are precisely the same types of things you find happening in any century of politics here on earth.
Child's Play or Nightmare?
It should be asked as rhetorical question, if this type of psychological orientation of religious belief doctrine, as it is relayed and interpreted, with its foreboding episodes of political outcome and provocation of fear, does not in fact surpass the threshold of "fear-mongering" that could be used like intensified forms of indoctrination?
Can it not be concluded, at least in theory, as a kind of conditioning process, whether intentional or not, that such stories allows true believers that one too could be "ostracized" from their God's kingdom (that is kicked out of his political realm as extradited) or punished in a tormenting hell (like a political prisoner is found in concentration camps)? And does not this kind of belief system potentiate for kinds of manipulation that step into delusional belief?
Christian Naiveté in the West:
Are human "sapiens" of this modern age, whio have more of a sophisticated clue, really expected to go along with these forms of terrorizing hysteria? For example, are educated peoples, the world over, really expected to passively resign to a psychology of a religious right that is under girded by related propaganda of a God's imminent and presumptive right to punish those who disobey? Are "The People" of this country, when literally threatened by political think tank agitation scheming to ignite another major war in the Middle East via religious blackmail, supposed to fall for this kind of "terrorist" manipulation?
It seems beyond the brink to exploit religious hysteria in order to foment war by fears of being "possessed" of ghastly visions of cosmic darkness versus grandiose righteousness in which soldiers die for an undisclosed patriotism to religious fervor that really does not benefit Americans. After all the Powers-That-Be are threatening nuclear strikes as preventive strategy—that is prevention against nuclear war! So when is the world going to have this conversation about Middle East psychology that makes some sense? The issue is not just differences between Sunni's and Shiites or a presumption of progressive countries against backward countries.
The Reflecting Pool of Belief:
Yet while stories of Satan, and his corrupted minions, are propped as the ultimate in evil, "we" humans seem very capable of evil of own devises (be it out of ignorance, weakness, calculation, impulse, or indifference). We also have developed plenty of skills in order to deceive others—including masses of people via the arts of political mass propaganda—and control of the information infrastructure.
Furthermore, the human psyche is often enough master of his own self-deception—even while his same ego capacity readily projects and enumerates all the faults of other people—both real and imagined. Whereas every man is innocent and wise in his own eyes. But, like the judgmental and righteous Dante Alighieri (as interpreted by some of his readers) in his Divine Comedy, many of us are less willing to perceive innocence, or maintain a willingness to forgive the sins of others, or sins claimed ultimate the authority of God. How many souls are supposedly detested and denounced to suffer in those nine realms of Dante's inferno? The sociological question for society is "who" is ultimately in charge of, or responsible for hell (or the criminal justice system and prisoners) as societal institution?
If encouraged by propaganda, the human psyche still prefers to blame bad choice as the deliberations of the devil (separate from God's cosmic perfection). In the judgmental world of black and white thinking there is little awareness or acknowledgement of mitigating circumstances, accidents, genetic difference, ignorance, fear, poverty, lack of viable power, etc. Apparently some crimes or infractions seem inexplicable unless there is a way to explain evil as a motive from a dangerous chamber of malice—that is always "intentionally" and "willfully" corrupt—rather than just stupid and naive (nevertheless many people in the American prison system today can not read well for whatever reason).
So this is no small point—humans confusing, as well as blaming, evil action onto forces "outside" the human agency and into the supernatural. This is similar to the kind of people who often blame other people for their own issues and feelings—they have little capacity to take responsibility for some of their unhappiness.
A World of Evil:
Evil does exist—as mankind can also define evil in secular terms as well—meaning that "evil" is that which is perceived to be "inimical" to the self or society's better interests (Nietzschean explanation).
Our problem then is not deciding if evil is a hobgoblin or real; but rather, determining and explaining its causation—such as determining, as much as humanly possible, the extent it is composed of conscious will, intent, foreknowledge of its effects, and thus responsibility.
In the divinely inspired Satan story, religious literature has come to allow the "accusatorial" prosecutor, in this case the Bible, to assert by way of interpretation as pure and absolute judgment, that evil is 100% intended, 100% calculated, 100% willfully perpetuated—and is committed with 100% awareness of its full consequences. Thus these kinds of cartoon figures of bad angels do not need to be understood against any areas of gray doubt regarding circumstances of their diabolic schemes!
Whereas secular, and scientific explanations, as theoretical as they may be, more likely leave people with the mundane feeling that evil is partially the result of chance happening or unintended consequence. In this reflection there is less certitude of definite and complete culpability and absolute justice for punishment. It is not be as easy to argue utter and total evil with a "relativist" outlook that is willing to consider the particulars, of not only social standards of a specific setting, but mitigating circumstances as well, that may border toward the banal and ambiguous.
Non-dogmatic arguments that nuance areas of the intermixed grays do not appeal to black and white of absolute judgmentality. One is not prompted to fee as righteous. Worst yet, for the absolute authoritarian, relativist examinations call into question forms of extreme condemnation and punishment like those of religious templates of eternal and damnable hell.
Judging the Judges:
There is such a thing as culpability. Individuals are aware and cognizant, at least on occasion, and at least partially, of the extent and consequences to their choices and attitudes. More importantly there are evil consequences to actions and choices irrespective of awareness and attitude—that communities must deal. People should not be allowed to get away with anything—and yet organized crime and levels of white collar corruption do exist quite nicely.
Nevertheless are there not situations in which the consequences of personal choice were not anticipated—despite what a "prosecutor" would like to allege or accuse? And do not so-called "victims", or affiliate communities of "judges", at least occasionally, choose to over-dramatize their senses of being violated while dramatizing accusations of "willful" intent—when such intent was never in existence? For example, are we to believe that every accusation of date rape really is the high crime of rape—and that it is inevitably the 100% true blame for the male?
The typical prosecutor's position, in his "assumed" authority to allege crimes, is one that perceived violations were deliberately committed and as fully understood to result in the kinds of consequences that transpired, prior to crimes taking place? Criminal prosecutors do like to presume and allege guilt.
The Devil's Advocate:
[Note: This defense is not to argue that attitudes of willfulness and awareness are not factors in many incidents of crimes. But rather this awareness stipulates that some personality types do seem to believe that perpetrators are often 100% in possession of the stock character of evil intention and psychopathic depravity—rather than say some partial innocence due to bumbling naiveté, desperation, or just plain stupidity or drunkenness. ... Yet we, as modern scholars, must fully remind ourselves that it was the institution of "law", and "not" that of religion!, that decreed to Americans, via England's Anglo-Saxon ancestry, the culmination of evolving legal rights for a legal defense—so that the accuser and prosecutor do not have the sole and final word as to the dispensation of the accused and convicted.]
Granted, there is a somewhat legitimate counter argument made in books like Andrew Delbanco's The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost The Sense of Evil, where he argues that secular and scientific explanations regarding human nature devolve the idea of evil as it "... recedes into the background hum of modern life, that the 'industrial system', as anthropologist Lionel Tiger puts it, "provides a uniquely efficient lubricant for moral evasiveness"".
But note too that "absolute" relativism (in which case human agents bear little to zero responsibility for their actions) equally is a form of black and white thinking. It is absolutist as is John Calvin's belief in predestination. It is equally as absolute as a mindset that never, or seldom, has time to consider how a greater society could also be at least somewhat responsible for crimes or negative consequence. Many would rather prosecute, scapegoat, and incarcerate the single soul—a soul mind you that is often is poor if not minority.
Nevertheless, if we abide to a standard of absolute perfection of God's judgment, as justice in the Bible, and as related to the intertwined mythic dimensions of demons, exemplified by Satan and his minions, who received "extreme" sentences of eternal damnation, then we presume to accept that these devils knew beyond a shadow of a doubt of the extent of their evil. We follow in belief that the devils willfully chose to do their evil deeds, and that they knew their dire evil, as absolute certainty, whilst they felt it in their souls. So as true believers we then bow to God's extreme punishment—as never to be forgiven—and always to suffer interminably.
Angel history, as scant as it seems in some ways, paints a judicial system of crushing oppressiveness that brooks little leeway for areas of gray to consider. It this judgmental court of black or white we will few tints of brown, blue, greens, reds nor yellows—just stark black and white thinking and harsh punishment.
Therefore the devil, however misshapen in form and character; however intense in spiteful defiance; however unrepentant and contrary in attitude; however deficient in brain's wiring; however cold in the calculation of his every sinew and nerve; however inexplicable his haughty hatred of deviant deed; he is "never" portrayed to have had even one half ounce of naiveté, nor mustard seed of innocence, nor dolt of ignorance, nor mental languishment of disease, nor abused soul of past neglect, nor any conditions in which he might have operated from mitigating circumstance, etc., that could have diminished his immortal sentence of eternal damnation for even a single day or single minute.
Rather he is personified as a creature of "total" knowledge and power—and yet he, in his spiritual soul of action, was purported to have chosen evil intention—and the worst of political crimes—rebellion and insurrection—that is parsed and flipped as a mere excess of pride.
Although mere mortals cannot know actual truth as to what might have transpired to have created this biblical story, we can nonetheless, intuitively compare it clues to things we know about the human condition and human agency. For example, in the Hobbesian mindset of political loyalty to the monarch, it is taken as a given, that agents of the current power structure have free reign to do as they please. Meanwhile subjects of the humanly realm are instructed, by Thomas Hobbes, not to attend to their individuated senses of consciences, as not to rebel, or not to assist those being bullied or beaten by the powers-that-be—kind of like being in a prison. Thus the imperative in Hobbes' dys-utopia is merely staying alive in which an individual's conscience is "sacrificed" to obedience (which granted is wisdom in times of no choice). In both angelic lore, as in Hobbesian philosophy, there is no room for concerns like individuality, independence, pluralism, etc. There is no consideration for personal ambition, sense of self, personal tastes or desires, etc. There is no recognition of the human passions like honor or glory. Rather, we are left with the official word and simplistic repetition of said motive—counter-resistance as merely a matter of an excess of pride?
[Note: Equally, is it not somewhat ironic that when one human ego attempts to judge another human ego, that the person being judged often perceives naiveté and an excess of bias on the part of the person doing the judging? How many autobiographies do not show more the measure of the person writing than it does the person written about? Judgment, by nature, is often subjective—subject to the moods, perceptions, experiences, presumptions, ambitions, desires, etc., of the person making the judgment. Has not your own passion for justice, or honor, or glory, or ambition ever irritated another—so that your motive was belittled to some form of overweening pride? And even the best of political commentators can get excessively judgmental toward their assumed ideological opposition—while staying quite ladida Pollyanna in respect to one's own infinite wisdom and own political camp and political presumptions.]
Nevertheless, and more importantly, are not "most" rebellious uprising, coups, and civil wars, in this world of humanity, as throughout history, been instigated because of something greater, or more noble, than mere "hurt" of an excess of pride? And let us ask Hobbes and his minions if there something intrinsically wrong with having some kind of constellation of honor in which one is willing to die—as opposed to succumbing to mere living as subject in a despot's realm of control—like sheep ready for slaughter or craven flatterer obsequious in every manner?
No doubt there are many wounded egos with ambition and drive that aspires for political means and ends to power—as well as a presumption of glory. But why would the Bible's scant explanations of Lucifer's rebellion focus to mere sound bites of wounded pride when other parts of the Bible seem also to imply a weaning need for glory on the part of a mythical God that just seems a bit too jealous or threatened?
Obviously there are rebel natures that are haughty and egotistically proud. In fact some theorists opine that many people who get involved in politics are somewhat unbalanced or eccentric or driven by a dark side—but this too is human opinion even if there is truth to it. Why would not the alienated not want to gain both the means of contentment and understanding?
Granted those who aspire to study politics are likely less conforming—in the sense they think they attempt to affect change or change the status quo. Perhaps they are not as prone to blind humility or deference? Somehow some beings seem to get a notion in their head that they have a right to think for themselves and about their own needs (however modest or immodest). For example, whether you believe in unions or unions busting you have to admit union organizers have been labeled with acrid superlatives as some have even been physically attacked, beaten and killed.
The issue of pride brings us to an excess of it that culminates in a bit of megalomania like that of some of Nietzsche's attitudes. Here is a man who has told the world that God is dead and that rationalism and people like Darwin had changed history forever. The human as being in the cosmic order is merely conflated pond scum. So his answer to this existential problem of nihilism is an elitist super individualist who follows his own path within the spheres of philosophy and art. Yet if anyone knows anything about artists, it is that some have an excess of pride and faux eccentricity. Meanwhile, many willingly copy the fads that capricious art critics extol. Art, as well as being lost in an excess of gibberish philosophy, is escape par excellence. How often do American artists really get involved in the reality of underlying political issues? More often they are "behind" the curve—not the avant-garde they conceit to be their place. Too often they are concerned with how they are perceived rather than whether they are really of quality. So this is Nietzsche's answer to the human race left outside the imperial Garden of Eden?
There is no room for imaging alternative realms with man's capacity to regenerate into alternative systems of thought—like focusing energy and resource on saving God's Garden of Eden from global destruction. God, as Nietzsche conceived through the Judeo-Christian prism, may be dead, but a sense of the sacred is not, a sense of a functioning community is not, a sense of justice is not either because there will always be a need to reconcile values.
A story can illustrate some preconceptions about the concept of defiance: A man was accused of defying his boss. Most on hearing of this accusation presumed the man to be in the wrong because one simply does not "defy" the boss. However, when the man heard of the rumors swirling around, he confronted those talking and said:
The Latin meanings to the word 'defy' means to renounce one's trust, faith, or confidence in someone ... meaning there were likely reasons why an employee, in a contractual relationship, would respond in a defiance manner ... meaning you should be asking a question like: "What circumstances would cause a person to seem defiant?" rather then jumping to the conclusion that an employee, and not possibly the boss, is automatically in the wrong.
It is from the ego that defiance springs. It is the soul that feels resentment or hostility. It is from the human heart that acts of treason arise. It is from the mind that rebellion starts it course. These are all political realities in the human world of politics.
But you already know the conquering party writes the history and propagates it to the citizens. Therefore if this man is soon found fired for defiance and out of his job, the corporate culture's version for his pink slip will mostly be influenced by the boss' version of the reasons of him being let go. C'est la vie in paradise.
So would an intelligent creature, such as a Major General Arch Angel, choose a path, that is purported in society's dominate propaganda, as merely a path predicated on self-interest and an excess of pride, or are many of these kinds excuse stories lacking in a sense of a "fair" trial? Perhaps there were issues or facts or mitigating circumstance missing from the reported newscast? For example, does the Bible advocate free speech as political principle—or do we in the modern age of civil liberties look elsewhere for such ideology? Is the Bible our main source of precedence of civil liberties in general like freedom of assembly, right to privacy, right to pursue liberty, and a space for minority groups to have some freedom of action?
Or if an accused (or Satan himself, as supposed "created" creature which presumes a certain level of naiveté) were "not" an all-knowing being, then is he still wise? And if he is not so much wise—is he then somewhat vulnerable to factors and naiveté beyond his ken or heart or control? Or is he simply ambitious, cruel, recalcitrant, rebellious, or criminal—and how can we fairly decipher the semantics of accusation, motives, and action given the limited data? Certainly it is hard to say with little in the way of court transcripts or biography or autobiography?
Is There One Correct Path?
Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher or 4th century B.C., is quoted to have said: "Only the just man enjoys peace of mind." Whereas Epictetus, stoic philosopher of the 1st century B.C, is quoted to have said: "Every place is safe to him who lives in justice." Now, these words of mortal minds are not without significant truth, as Epictetus' ambition as a stoic, was "to desire nothing but freedom and contentment".
Still, while it may be true that freedom first comes from within—it is equally true—that all men, irrespective of their attitude and philosophy, are also vulnerable to politics, threats, war and terrorism. And therefore such stoicism, as advocated in imperial Rome, was still of that biting your lip kind, similar to the mantra that reminds us that ignorance is bliss—and perhaps it is.
Indifference can be considered evil if the consequences set by its conditions facilitates others to be victimized. Ignorance and apathy too, on the part of a community, more readily allows for the expansion of corruption. Or for that matter, not being aware of one's impact on the environment can leave harm done. Plus, taking too much for granted can be described as a vice (if it leads to negative results).
But such attitudes of negligence are not regularly regarded as intense kinds of deliberate and conscious corruption? Gross negligence may be willful, but much of what can be called negligence is not the sort of cunning that deliberately allows for a premeditated harm.
Evil then is a "human" concept and attitude (even if it is also purported a Divine concept from ancient literature). Evil derives its emotional power from our human capacity to judge people in actual and theoretical situations—realized in the emotional affects of those related feelings. Evil is often based on socialized perceptions that circulate within a given society as presumed to be "common" sense. Things generally considered harmful to health, limb, community, resource, and freedom, etc., are viewed as "inimical" agency.
Evil is mostly understood in reference to the self, or various notions of the extended self, such as in reference to family, group, community, nation, or world, etc. People do not much think about the evil of antibiotics killing off microbes or joining clubs like Rats Have Rights Too. But the self can be extended in the imagination. For example, the aftermath effects of depleted uranium dust from military armor, circulating in war-torn lands and breathed into human lungs that causes various diseases can be considered a kind of long term evil.
Paranoia Will Destroy You:
Psychiatrists and psychologists are much familiar with the notion that certain religious fanatics cannot enjoy their lives here on earth because of their constant anxieties and fears of what might happen in the afterlife (that is their spiritual retirement plan as aftershock eschatology). Therapists are well aware that these kinds of people, who suffer from religious persecution, are inclined to episodes of neurosis and fanaticism because of their interpretations of the Bible (or whatever similar sacred literature they subscribe). Helping professionals also are well familiar that religious beliefs are taken very seriously (at least because torture is taken serious), and they know that such patients are, to say the least, worried about the long-term outcomes of their constantly judged lives.
In fact when street preachers market the idea of heaven as positive place in the afterlife, they do not use the advertising field in the way of quality features, like the vacation industry advertises swimming pools and golf courses. Rather if you ask one a hell and brimstone preacher: "What is so great about heaven?" they often reply: "Well, you do not want to go to hell, do you?!" Their motives are aligned to "avoid" pain rather then envisioning eternal pleasure—unless somewhat smug and secure in their sense of destination. But the sweetness of the carrot is not nearly as important as the sting of the stick. (Unless your notion of pleasure aligns with Epicurus who thought that pleasure was the absence of pain—which is certainly a good starting point—but not exactly the greatest marketing program.)
Nor does the Kool-Aid response: "Don't you want to be in the presence of God and his love?" quite explain the hysteria of fundamentalism. It does not get at the underlying anxiety—even if unconscious. Besides, God's love seems kind of abstract and dispersed. You are allowed to come into God's kingdom "if" you believe in his authority and leadership; and you do good works, or have faith. But you cannot be in "his" kingdom if you plan to rebel against him or the laws of the community that are hierarchically dictated to you. There is no mention of representational negotiation anywhere in most religious dialogue. I am unaware of any prophet negotiating for whiskey or fine dining or symphony halls and any of that kind of stuff.
Martin Luther struggled with the question of whether he could "earn" divine grace. Finally after much turmoil and personal suffering he decided, based on scripture in the New Testament, that grace was something gifted from God—that people could not "earn" enough grace to be accepted in God's presence. It certainly is a high standard of esteem that mortal man, due to his "inherent" sinfulness, cannot possibly earn God's grace, and thus "save" himself from eternal damnation. One has few cards to play but to hope or find a certain security in believing that one must accept on faith God's beneficence—as if real and independent choice—with no emotional blackmail involved. And if Martin Luther was so crushed with doubts, what might such anxieties do to lesser souls?
Men and women often struggle with concern about what will please God or what will anger him. Whereas few of the faithful spent much time wondering ultimately how God might be pleasing them. There is no it takes two to tangle mindset here. Perhaps it is even arrogance (to ask) to even think about one's own satisfaction? Therefore not only is this biblical psychology a conditioning process—it is one that is based on highly unequal amounts of power—on one side a potential punisher who supposedly controls all and the other end one who could be punished and does not feel in control—like always walking on thin ice. Not exactly a relaxed environment unless you like cold feet.
Political Paranoia as Paradigm:
Meanwhile, other people may be more caught up by being frightened, or paranoid, by concerns of political and economic terrorism—such as the circumstance of war or general malaise, or things like explosives, gun battles, incarcerations, persecutions, conspiracies such as fraud, torture, racism, fascism, murder, crimes, addictions, diseases, poverty, unemployment, starvation, etc., within their own local areas and realities. Or think about the fear of not having resources forthcoming like the high unemployment, terrible condition of infrastructure, and long-term levels of stress and disease found in Iraq today. The world wide wonders what Iranians are feeling these days regarding short and long-term consequences of the U.S. saber rattling and threats of a thousand bombing sorties?
Nevertheless we can perceive, at least unconsciously, the mirror of a religious paradigm (of reward or punishment) reflected in real world of politics (where the use and abuse of power is carried out). Being beaten by thugs is scary enough even if transient.
But evil here in the real world is seldom the product of 100% intention—not when mankind has capacity for having faith in so many stupid theories that he is willing to believe might actually work. Evil in the real world cannot always be blamed on one singular soul or group who supposedly knew the consequences of their bad choices.
Rather one's choices are played out against many elements of chance and naiveté, within context of other peoples' choices and naiveté. All choice interacts as social context (like economic realities are shaded by a thousand small seemingly insignificant decisions). We give wrong doers too much credit for presuming the wherewithal of their awareness levels. Certainly crooks realize armed robbery is wrong, etc. but equally there is a lot of bad consequence that was not anticipated in many situations.
[Note: Regarding the Iraq war and conflict in the Middle East, the attitude ought be that if Western countries ultimately need access to oil, as a real reason for war, then they can base their politics and debate on this real motive rather than trying to conjure up war based on xenophobia, racist stereotyping, religious prejudice and exaggerated lies.]
Nevertheless, one can be atheist, agnostic, or deist and still be confronted with the "same" kinds of fears—that is to say political as opposed to religious paranoia. The only difference is that the focus is on becoming aware of what is actually happening on earth that is equally too often fear-based (political paranoia).
After all it does seem more than ironic that an afterlife is "again" fraught with more politics! Have they not had at least one rebellion up there already—at least metaphorically in that "courtly" palace? Why should we then presume an afterlife to be so safe and secure as we would like to imagine—like some stagnant status quo of listening to angelic choirs singing Gregorian chant into eternity.
But irrespective of which notion of paranoia you choose to grapple—religious or the politics of the day—both are based on a fear-based psychology that assumes the realm of neurological and psychological capacity to experience pain and pleasure—that we biological creatures identify too well.
Heaven, as concept, is abstracted as the ego's capacity to experience psychological and physical pleasure. While hell, as concept, is abstracted as experience of psychological or physical pain. This commonality of the centrality of the central nervous system versus the imagination's projection of nervous capacity in the after life for either heaven or hell stems from the ego's neurological potentiality, as well as the brain's ability to understand and feel loss.
Old Mythologies Echoed Again:
Mythologists, those people who study "retired" religions, inform us that myths (those once "living" religions of yesterday) did serve, amongst other things, to maintain (that is to stabilize), by their doctrine, certain structures or mechanisms of power (within their respective time frames and communities).
As various tribes and civilizations expanded the earth, over the centuries, there were certain people within communities, who came to be accepted within the inner circles of tribal power. The small group of insiders stood contrast to the greater masses left mostly on the outside. To maintain their levels of power, the inner circle strained to control the doctrinaire of their larger groups. And some individuals likely exploited such conditions for their own purposes. This generalization would not be true in every case of society but we can understand that hierarchies have unequal distribution of power and therefore unequal access to resources—so it is likely that some outsiders would want to rebel for different reason including more access to resource and more freedom.
Speaking of the Devil:
Joseph Campbell, popularizing mythologist, seemed to believe that the significance of Lucifer's fall from grace was due to his pride in refusing to serve mankind as God had commanded him to do. According to this interpretation, Lucifer was only willing to serve God—and not man—even if mankind was explained to be part of God's creation.
In general Campbell's explanation of this dominant idea certainly seems plausible. After all why would an Arch Angel, way up the corporate hierarchy, want to spend much time and energy "serving" a lesser community? This ideal attitude would only be true for the more enlightened role models as to be found as philosopher-king in Plato's Republic—leadership as service—as opposed to using positions of leadership for one's own self-enhancement, or one's group's enhancement, at the cost of the greater realm of lesser mortals.
From our personal intuitions, as we gaze into the crystal ball of soap operas and scams, we can think of "many" leaders in positions of political power that use their power primarily for personal gain, and at the expense of the greater community (and theoretically such people should be "rejected" from power—if not placed in the custodial hell of orange jumpers).
Whereas perdition, as place of torment, at least according to Campbell's and several theologians' logic, became the "absence" of God's love and presence (feeling empty and unfulfilled as needy creature of dependence). If we were to substitute the world "community" for "God" we could especially understand this idea—that man is a social creature—and as a social creature he needs to abide by its laws.
Originally, hell (Sheol in Hebrew) was not a place of eternal torture as we have come to know, but a place of despair of separation, in which case Lucifer was ostracized from God's beneficence and love. His pride of not wanting to serve mankind was supposedly his downfall.
But irrespective of theological interpretation, we have political corollary, in which one psyche refuses to obey another psyche (and in this case with attitude that refuses consideration for the masses of God's creation—namely mankind—or some stratification therein—at least as the journalism of that day have supposedly passed down the story to us throughout the transcribed ages with fidelity).
Lucifer's refusal to go along with the program is the kind of thing that happens in social dramas all over the world. Individuals and groups assert independence as difference and disagreement, and sometimes refuse to carry out orders or wishes as forms of dissent. Thus angelology is really a study of motive—and the subject of propaganda.
Corporate Greed or the Greater Good:
But this allegation of refusal to "serve" mankind (community) needs further speculation as well. After all, can it not be argued, as metaphor, that if the selfish interest, inherent in buying a company's equity at a stock offering, leads to investors having very little ethical liability (by way corporate structures are made legal, especially for exploitative industries that thrive at the expense of the common good or the environment), then is this not, in a similar way, a refusal to consider serving mankind, or better yet God's interests such as the biodiversity of ecological systems? Can corporate negligence, even if not deliberate (capitalized as private property but without legal liability like a private mercenary running amok), be considered as evil—if the consequences of such personal investments have dire significance for some? Is there not something potentially evil about an economic system that allows millions and millions of investors to move money in and out of corporations, say like into military hardware companies or tobacco companies, with zero liability—while these same protected investors have vast opportunity for personal gain in wealth (in which case their is no if little ethical incentive as to how one bets one's money)?
Are consequences of an excess of pride (waywardness in rationalizations), at times, a form of heedless recklessness or deliberate blind concern? And does such "legalized" potential for corporate negligence eventually come to corrupt a society, or even a global world, or its people, so much so that it creates great harm? Or that it grows to such levels of corruption that it can no longer sustain it's preening ways? Does extreme individualism and laissez faire capitalism, as every man for himself, leave society divided to eventually push extremes of rebellion and civil war as extremes in poverty and wealth accentuate?
Montesquieu argued that different forms of governance correspond to different moral sentiments: monarchy is bound to "honor" whereas a republic must have "virtue" that is manifest in a sense of public responsibility. What virtues have the privileged classes here in America found sacrosanct—reflection?
Fact: The issues that potentially cause fear that include economic issues and ideologies are not going away—the only question is how we choose to deal with various issues. But first we need to ask the more basic question of if we can afford to live in a dark ages of the religious crusades—when we need to battle a more formidable foe—industrial success that threatens our very existence? Can scientific enterprise really afford to engage in wars of cultural clashes between religious factions at this time in history?
The Distracted American:
What happens when the devil's most renown trait of being a liar and an accuser is turned into political smear campaigns by various camps of dogma that are willing to sacrifice truth to create simplistic sound bites? What do you do if even some of your best sources of thought are also willing to get down and dirty by exploiting peoples' propensities toward prejudice and hatred as they unctuously smear the declared enemy with creepy insinuations and wriggly half-truths, as if their very pitched voices slither in weasel grease?
But even more sophisticated are those "plausible" arguments that seem to be justified on a rational basis, but are loaded with presumptions that work to hook the naive, who are not hip to the missing factoids and realities that are left undisclosed?
What a challenge for the human mind—trying to figure out what is truth and not so—especially in a political and superstitious world. What is one to believe? Is there no end to our naiveté?
"Who should be the next Supreme Court Justice and why?" "Who is actively manipulating the system to elect so and so and why (infusing money from special interests transfers)?" "Should Darwin be taught in schools versus Creationism?" "Should gays be allowed in the military or allowed to be married?" All these issues and more are targeted as religious issues.
Thence the separation of powers of church from state seems more rhetorical than real. Spirits of the historical past keeps haunting modernity. But why do religions continue to insinuate themselves in American politics when we have a separation clause that is suppose to prevent this interference?
Political Issues Are Moral Issues:
Many issues of political contention evolve around, or contain aspects of, "moral" consideration and consequence. And many who feel the strongest, and are politically activated today, are religious people. Fundamentalists have entered the fray in a big way and are pushing their charismatic leaders' chimes (while tacitly supporting more restrictions on our civil liberties as they blithely ignore economic inequalities).
But why, we ask, is it that religious zealotry interferes so "often" with what are presumed to be secular powers of state (like proposed legislation and lobbying efforts by the moral majority)?
The answer is rather obvious—it is because both religions and political theory share something important in common, namely, "values" about morality. Both spirits (religious doctrine and political practice) play out within the realm of "social" values and moral consequence.
There is then, due to this shared role of value establishment and behavior shaping, never really a full-fledged separation between THE State and THE Church. Religions, at least some religions, both reflect the political nature of humankind, and reinforce the authority of political formation. This is a reality we will likely deal for a very long time.
This is why it is a conceit of modernity and progressive presumption to automatically assume that secular societies are automatically superior to theocracies. The amalgamation of religion and politics is ancient anthropology. This new fangled idea of separation of religious feuding due to Christian religions cutting each other's throats in Europe is new phenomenon. But what makes a society superior because it focuses on crass materialism, narcissistic self-centeredness, and ecological breakdown? Still we Americans are being manipulated by simplistic propaganda that attempts to portray Muslims and Arabs as barbaric fanatics whose societies are assumed inferior—this sanctimoniousness is indicative of our own ethnocentricity.
At best one hopes, when people are generally too blind to perceive the manipulated fears and prejudices (or oppressive propensities of authoritarian tendencies creeping into political ideology) that they will be contained. Hopefully wiser ones within society, will comprehend such manipulation, and will wise up to dual forms of McCarthyism.
Do "We the People" Still Have a Constitution?
Modernity has come to legislate Constitutionality (in which governance is ordained to prescriptions of "written" rules that set limits, via prescribed procedures to power, so as to be followed for a more legitimate and regulated society). This form of governance was modeled after the division of balanced powers of the Monarch, the House of Commons and the House of Lords in England (of course as rumor had it the king's "patronage" to buy influence in the these branches with his power to distribute resource and title). Our political heritage is different from the old Latin school. The United Colonies was founded on a creed. It is a creed that individuals have dignity, choice, and a right to satisfy their needs. It is not based on the total domination from the top down.
So we progressive Americans must "re-declare" our "independence", not just from tyrannical dictators of earth (and their financial and fascist minions), and not just from ignorance and it concomitant mob rule, but equally from religious and other ideological forms of tyranny as well. The American Revolution is not over. We are still not free of the baggage dragged over here from Europe and the Middle East.
The founding fathers of this country were clearly rebels that reluctantly fostered a rebellion that claimed a right of power of THE PEOPLE versus absolutist monarchy. Yes their ideas were considered seditious and threat, and can be compared to those who plot against "any" form of tyranny—including and especially forms of tyranny that rules the minds and hearts of people—be it secular or religious.
John Locke's Second Treatise of Government used the word "tyranny" as the exercise of power beyond "inalienable rights" that no form of governance has a right to violate. These inalienable rights included the right to liberty. But we must be ever vigilant and skeptical of ideological and religious fanaticism—and how it plays out in the world's politic, or serves as propagandic cover, to hide real motives of the ruling classes who feel free to remain corrupted. Long live true republican and representational government. Long live the freedom for independent thought.
Where's Chapter 4? Can't find on the Internet—was posted in 2007—Indymedia.
Chapter Five: Man's Influence On Religion
By William Wraithewrite
Religions are not all the same. Each one has it's own individuality and psyche-ology (or allows for multiple interpretations). Also many leading figures, even within one religion's lore, have their own individuality that can cause ideological and values clash within.
Still we generalize the idea that religions, as institutions, and given their differences and functions, attempt to deal with what is spiritually real, as well as what it is ultimately important—at least from the soul's perspective. They point out to believers what matters most while living in this realm of earthly consciousness.
Whereas, philosophy as a discipline of inquiry, also attempts to identify what is real, but does so in different manner and attitude. It does not assume that any particular principle, a priori, is sacrosanct. Philosophy, per se similar to psychology, as a general mode of inquiry, does not operate from a framework of presupposed and unquestionable dogma. So as a "disciplinary" approach to reality it is more skeptical yet often more worldly.
Dinesh D'Souza, author of What's So Great About Christianity, has a somewhat giddy explanation as to why religions continue to exist, in comparison to small numbers of card-carrying atheists. Citing Reverend Randy Alcorn, founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries, he offers Alcorn's two versions of the creation story. The "secular" account says humans are products of primordial protoplasm and chance happening from about 3 billion years of evolutionary struggle—merely conglomerations of atomic particles and exist in a meaningless universe. "In short humans came from nothing and are going nowhere—existential angst." Whereas, Christians believe that they do matter because God created them as his special species, and mankind can have immortality of soul in the afterlife. Furthermore, the Creator's love is reflected in the "fact" that Jesus died for mankind's salvation. So the Christian group has an animated sense of purpose. "Which attitude would you choose about life?"
D'Souza then goes on to cite that countries that are less religious have lower reproductive rates; whereas, countries that are composed of true believers have high fertility rates—such as Catholics in South and Central America. Using evolutionary theory D'Souza makes the case that religious peoples, being more optimistic, are genetic survivors, whilst atheists produce "listless" tribes that cannot perpetuate.
True enough is his insight. But given the billions of people the world currently bears few will miss those who have not re-incarnated children. Existential reality can be a grim outlook, however immortality, or its clone pattern of genetic perpetuation is not the only criteria to base existence as meaningful. Besides there are different takes on the idea of immortality itself—not all perceive it as unending sequence of time.
And why should the human mind or soul conclude that life is a worthy enterprise—given the many ugly realities and the nature of mankind? So if reality itself is grim how does the mind react—if not looking at it in the teeth? John F. Schumaker in his book, The Corruption of Reality, says "... religious beliefs are examples of adaptive cognitive errors. They are probably false because they are constructed in defiance and ignorance of available empirical data". Schumaker believes that the human mind did not evolve to for the purpose of dealing with too much reality. He believes that the mind "needs" forms of escape—be it drugs, alcohol, religious illusions, escapists activities, or mental breakdowns. He says that there may be some truth to the adage that "the job of the old is to lie to the young". Needless to say mankind also is adept at lying to the self as well.
But more directly we can ask of Dinesh D'Souza's "optimism" of Christians: "Just what is so exciting about a belief system that confuses the supposed torturing of a man named Jesus, as mankind's and/or God's scapegoat, into some logic of God's un-bounding love?" What does he mean by the religion tribe having found meaning if such meaning means being more or less forced to do whatever will stave off eternal damnation of terrorist hell? Certainly such hopefulness is a bit neurotic (that is if religion and the idea of God is tainted with oppression)?
Furthermore, over-population today, in the minds of many, brings its own forms of worry and terror—does it not? Could not overpopulation also incorporate an undercurrent of anxiety that haunts one's soul while putting on one's happy smiley face that convinces self that God will make it all OK? Especially since anti-abortionist more or less than settle for another kind of murder—war.
But Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor tells his readers that mankind does not really want freedom—rather he wants to be subject to the authority of the state. He claims through literature that man doesn't really choose the idealism of heaven—but opts for selling the soul for security (Hobbes' point). Freedom, he says, puts too much demand on the "lowly" individual who prefers to be subjugated by mystery, miracle, and authority (what the Catholic Church he says has learned about human nature).
People then want security, cash and bread. Tomas de Torquemada, Spanish Dominican monk and first Inquisitor-General of Spain of the 15th century was Dostoyevsky's role model for the Grand Inquisitor—since Torquemada was responsible for the burning of about 2000 peoples lives in real life Spain. Within this novel, Dostoyevsky makes the case that man, with his feelings of inferiority, will willingly submit to a greater will in order to save his self. (Meanwhile we should also be asking ourselves how or why people have been conditioned to feel so worthless and powerless.)
Erich Fromm made the same case in his Escape From Freedom, as did Eric Hoffer in The True Believer, in which they portray revolutionists, and their mobs of motley followers, as people trying to escape their own discontentment and failure. According to Hoffer "mass" movements, including some religious movements, require a psychology of frustration and fear that readily appeals to the poor, outcasts, misfits, minorities, the impotent, the selfish, the bored, etc. And no doubt he is correct in enough respects—the politically motivated may be alienated, and many may have low self-esteem or low sense of self—that they willingly join up with mass movements in order to feel of greater value and to have more security.
Yet there are many theories in the social sciences today, and aspects of inquiry in philosophy as well, that seeks to explain reality, as perception, as well as what constitutes the motive of human behavior. But a skeptic equally has to believe that there is times when a healthy mind or soul could find legitimate reason to be plaintiff, organize, rebel and associate with greater forces. This world is not all that Utopian in which all frustration is the fault of the inferior self or due to feelings of envy?
Hitler was certainly a discontent—but does that mean that Gandhi, or his followers, motives were not noble? After all social life is political—and not all politics is ideal in which justice plays itself out as the way it supposedly would were earth God's heaven. And quite frankly why isn't it—why should people be led to believe they first have to live here where evil exists, as some "test" to prove one's right to a presumed Utopian afterlife?
A Will to Believe:
Still, any institution, that claims to "know" and "prescribe" reality for others, can have significant power of persuasion on its adherents. As most readers would agree—religions per se in the West—operate from the proposition of a definite kind of reality—they "prescribe" the vision of God's reality to believers (that is they claim to).
Such "institutional" assumptions, as presented, are not tentative—rather they are doctrinaires not meant open to self-examination. Religions (at least Western religions) operate from a framework of "knowing" ('gnosis'), as they attempt, via their spokespersons, to persuade others on their rightly righteousness (like the right-wing voter who believes in "my" country right or wrong).
The Value of Religion:
Religious faith provides people with tools for living, and specifically for coping with difficult issues and situations. Religions tend to focus on moral dilemmas, as well personal crises, that happen to people and to communities at large (as they are social institutions with socializing affects). They also provide a code of values, attitudes, and guidance about morality.
And since societies need at least some levels of conformity they operate as agencies of regulation that can help reduce personal anxiety—as opposed to feeling alienated in a world of atomistic ping-pong balls. (Meanwhile theoretical anarchists optimistically give too much credence to an idea of a benign and mature kind of nature of mankind. Such naïveté presumes in the good of mankind—similar to the ideologies of the neo-liberalism and libertarian doctrinaire.
God, irrespective of name or culture (as there are many names for the Great Spirit), has comforted many, many, peoples in times of need—from the pre-historical up to the present. God, as faith within stretches to a greater community, and helps make life more bearable for people who seek meaning against the gray haze of chaos. And it has provided a place of solace and comfort in a world of much insecurity and tragedy. This is a truth many atheists and agnostics too easily overlook—in their haste to destroy the very idea of religion.
Besides being smarter than others, or entertaining fewer mirrors of illusion, or feeling more independent, does not automatically mean you feel content or happy—after all why do some people who are so politically astute seem so unhappy—which is D'Souza's point.
If God is anything, he or she or it, is an attitude toward life. Religion, and spiritual practice, helps people obtain attitudes on how to live, on what to think about in respect to violation of the greater good, on what to appreciate, and what to give thanks and show reverence, etc.
The search for meaning and sense of the sacred seems to be a universal characteristic of human nature in religion. But that does not mean that people should swallow religious teachings and ideologies without chewing them first. Because not everything about a particular religion or family of religions is necessarily beneficent.
One fact remains universal—mankind suffers a variety of social, psychological, physical, and spiritual ailments and consequences. Mankind therefore seeks healing process and meaning for these states of disease (as "not" feeling at "ease").
The perpetuity of potential suffering, or anticipation of suffering, is mankind's constant threat and burden on earth—especially within his homo sapient capacity for imaginative and creative communication—that sometimes comes to haunt him in the form of imagined fears and apprehensions, or potential abuse from claims of terrorist threat.
It is not just physical ailments and tragedies that cause suffering. There are the existential issues of explaining to the self why living in a world of suffering even matters. There is then a need for vision and purpose. And there is a human need to matter beyond the solipsism of the self. There is especially a need to combat the jaded or trivialized stories of the six o'clock evening news, the trickle to accumulative stream of signs of environmental decline, and debates about a potential global warming disaster—amidst higher demand for more commercial resource for more peoples.
Adjusting socially (as in getting along with and supporting others) is a form of suffering as well—because people need to learn to live within community—be it friendship, marriage, family, neighborhood, community, work environment, political region, nation, world, or ecological dependence, etc.
Humans are not born with prefabricated social skills and attitudes, so as to be programmed to automatically operate in smooth fashion within the natural conflicts of society. It is not like inheriting a set of instincts that dominate one's will. One needs to be taught, or orientated, for the compromises necessary to maintain coexistence with others—especially with others who variety in personality and propensity (and political suasion).
And although academic disciplines like anthropology, archeology, socio-biology, and history, offer insights to understand the wide variance of ways in which Homo sapiens have adjusted to their different social environments, there is still a common theological need to wonder and reflect on how it is that man, as creature, learns to evolve and adapt with community, as religions have evolved to promote such adjustments.
Therefore religions had, and continue to have, an important function in society. Because it does not seem to matter if a particular society is more or less technical or industrial than another. Nor does it seem to matter if a given economy is arguably more sophisticated or rudimentary. Nor it is an issue on whether a given community is highly advanced in language, writing, industry, etc. Religions as moral belief systems that still provide an important basis of meaning, hope, and psychological survival—and this is especially true when people feel challenged in times of stress and confusion. (Which is not the same thing as arguing that authoritarian propensities should be given free reign when anxiety or stress levels are high—because that is precisely when authoritarian figures, the Thomas Cromwells and Rudy Giulianis, like to assert themselves.)
However it needs to be stressed that religions today are not as pervasively in control of the social mind—as they once were—at least not in the West. There are other institutions and disciplines that help counterbalance the once dominant influence of religion. Today, besides friend and family, people gain orientation from schools, libraries, media culture like TV and radio, science, newspapers, various industries, governments and legal systems, etc. Still religions play an important role in the life of the moral psyche or soul.
Caveats Are Necessary:
But these positive attributes about religion in general, and of their believers, should not blind the human race to potential abuse, or manipulation or mind control, by those who speak as if they, themselves were God, or think they thoroughly know how to "realize" God—and hence speak for God's will. Why should we, or anybody for that matter, believe that all claimed prophets were sincerely in contact with a higher power—just because a particular book says so?
Too often human personality drapes itself in the robes of authority (both religious and secular) and speaks for God or State as if some ultimate authority that cannot be challenged. Such claims of sacred authority have come down to us through the institutionalization of "formalized" religions and the printed word.
A recent example of this phenomenon is the controversy that surrounds the fictional work of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in which we witness reactionary elements denouncing the book as false, evil, and apostasy.
Whereas we see in the religious left a choice and attitude to see this same novel as an "art" form and opportunity to introduce and expand on controversial ideas. The novel takes its material, at least partially, from historical and scholarly studies of Christianity, that may threaten rigid interpretations of the orthodox.
So while persons on the right claim conspiracy theories are dangerous, others on the religious left think it is realistic and good to open up debate as to what constitutes fact and fiction about religion, or at least allows for speculation about religious meaning, its history, and its main figures.
Personality Types as Popular Myths:
Within such debates we have personality "types" in the audience that tend either to side with one polemic, while condemning the opposing perspective (or heresy) against what they feel is correct. Other personality types prefer to see opportunity to consider and research "alternative" points of view.
[Note: We assume to generalize "types" of personality as they frequently do in popular psychology—even if we need to abstract types from individuals who have complexity. We will accept theoretical stock figures. Naturally, other personality factors, besides one that weighs on a scale from conservative to liberal, are at play in the real world, when it comes to discussing human motive. Education makes a difference in a person's perceptions. Few people are two-dimensional robots; but apparently there are some scales of measurement that find validity in the hypothetical conclusions about a spectrum of attitude.]
But the bottom line is not all people are content with officiated orthodoxies that attempt to censor alternative explanations. In a sense being allowed to have debate and entertain speculation is itself freedom of speech and thought—a purported American democratic value—which is why libraries are such democratic institutions—especially those willing to carry a wide variety of ideas—even if they clash.
The authoritarian personality, according to some Berkeley researchers some time ago, is referred to as the "ethnocentric" personality. He is characterized as beholden to traits of obedience, dogmatism, prejudice, rigidity, contempt for weakness, low tolerance for ambiguity, hostility to members of outside groups, and generally maintains high retention of "superstitious" beliefs.
And not too surprising is it the case that those found on the right-wing spectrum of politics also are likely to be clustered in religious right's wings as well. Precisely the point of this book—but even more the point is the right tries to dominate the psychology of God.
There are no few people today who believe that the final apocalyptic end (according to God's "official" authorship) is soon at hand, and the world will be shortly consumed by fire. And many of these same personalities are diehard in league with loyalty for the current White House Administration's war in Iraq, and it's purported need to also attack Syria, Iran, etc. Lock, step and barrel, these God "fearing" soldiers are ready to march to Armageddon—not much questioning if they had been manipulated—or seldom suspecting they might have been played as pawns in a deadly game of intrigue. Rather they are assured of their righteousness.
Important religious figures historically have been controversial. For example all three Abrahamic religions have had adherents that disagreed with other sects and leaders within their overall umbrella religion. Heresy—that is the establishment of orthodoxy and challenge to orthodox, is a historical constant.
Increases amounts of controversy can be expected with the advance of various intellectual disciplines and media technologies. The more disciplines there are to help explain reality the more diverse the opportunity for individual interpretations, as well as refutations of older and mustier schools of thought.
Science has revealed, for instance, a universe far more complex than anything the human imagination dreamt up in its mythological and religious presumptions. Or at least a few religious cosmologies got a little claustrophobic. But now we see that eternity is much greater imagined through scientific instrumentation—even if we no longer feel ourselves as the center of the cosmos. So while we may "diminish" to some corner of the universe—we are not as paranoid either as being center stage with dagger hanging overhead.
Even the very idea of "reality" is open to question, as some say social systems construct reality (social constructivist framework). And it is language that gives meaning—but Shakespeare added more new words to the English language than did Jesus to his native tongue. So although Jesus may have had some "universal" values—he did not especially project a vision radically different than his cultural presumptions—save his liberal points of view on justice.
Meanwhile, established religions, with large market shares of population, continue to struggle to maintain their grip on believers—as new and old controversies transpire. This competition for the mind is played out with various attempts of free inquiry as well as mind control and threat—like don't read that stuff or the devil will "possess" your mind and soul!
Nevertheless fears of the unknown will push some people and groups, if allowed, to try to dominate how others should think and act rather than providing individuals with access to a variety of competing perspectives to determine for themselves what are their values.
Morality By What Authority?
To the extent that people are willing to believe that Elohim gave Moses a tablet of Commandments (or via angelic enterprise), such tribal "regulations" were meant to help create a social order for that people living back then (as a kind of social values philosophy) except they were commands like the rule of law laid down.
No one alive today can vouchsafe for the events of Moses as having a direct line with God the Almighty as accurate account. Rather belief of religious claim, and that recorded on scriptural testament, is left to one's faith. Nevertheless religions, to various degrees, define a sense of morality within a given community in "temporal" terms—irrespective of the causal inspiration.
A Personal Perspective on Morality:
But making up rules is not the same things as having them obeyed. Not everyone conforms to every rule or principle set down by others in a given society (or every authoritative interpretation that attempts its own brand of righteous imposition—like we ought be putting more people in jail and for longer time frames).
Lawrence Kohlberg, scholar, committed himself to understanding how a sense of morality evolves in a human being. This question became his quest after he was involved in the effort to smuggle European Jewish refugees into Israel after the Holocaust. He set up a theory, Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Scale, in which he purported that people can advance through three stages (or six levels) of morality, starting within at the pre-conventional to conventional to post-conventional levels of a continuum. But, according to his analysis, not all people advance through the three stages (or both levels of each stage).
The pre-conventional stage of morality enforces behavior as "obligation" that is commandeered, or the subject suffers punishment (via "external" control). The second stage of morality, according to Kohlberg, is that of "internalizing" values as "conventional" expectations because adherents value their membership within society (you hope to be accepted by other conventional minded—but still operate by "external" approval via others' expectations). The final stage of morality is if you select your values and behaviors based on thought-out "principles", such as those of equality or fairness, regardless whether you are personally rewarded for what you do and believe (you have advanced beyond the point of external control and are willing to go against the grain of either authoritarianism or conventionality if you feel it is morally right to do so).
It should be well noted that Kohlberg claims most people never surpass conventional values (depending on psycho-social skill development and brain wiring). Enough people advance to conventional levels while some remain at the authoritarian stage in the first two steps of stage one. (And supposedly these lower level functioning people do not readily come to understand the reasoning of the final steps of development—which makes their opposition greater!)
The question then becomes how much more true is moral conflict and misunderstanding in play when some officiated religious principles themselves are set up on a foundation of authoritarian rigidity or an excessive need for either revenge of punishment?
Methods of conditioning and sanction evolve as forms of social control in most schools of dogma or ideology (especially if they deal with important issues). But some of the tactics used to exact conformity are more forceful or terrorizing than are others.
Any truism of how things can effectively operate via human nature is not an argument that all forms of control and punishment are equally moral or worthy of respect. For example, few people appreciate being forced to do something without their own consent—irrespective of what level of morality they themselves gravitate. They at least appreciate their "own" freedom to choose.
Still it should not surprise people that some strategies and actions seem to work more effectively towards getting ends achieved than do others. Manipulating a person's need to belong and feel accepted by a group works. Fear of rejection or ostracism is a great motivator—especially for those who feel less secure within the self to take an unpopular stance. But the fear of physical violence (torture) be it on earth, in the afterlife, also has an ability to oppress and control.
Authoritarianism can be effective in controlling large groups of people, but this does not mean that bully tactics and blackmail should be appreciated by socially mature and skeptical minds—it certainly is not godsend.
And what happens when those in control of society violate social, moral, or legal expectations? Or what if leaders in a country go further and begin to change the very laws so that what was once deemed inimical to society's functioning and health is now projected as necessary choice—to maintain the new status quo? Do such leaders get away with arbitrary exercise of power because they happen to be the ones in power at the moment—as they re-write the rules?
In early Greek mythology even, the gods and goddesses of that respective pantheon, endowed within human-like qualities to engage in mortal-like foible, did not really suffer human-like punishments, as lesser mortals would have been so condemned.
Maybe Greek deities suffered some embarrassment, or bad press, and presumed lessons that should have been learned, but they, for the most part, did whatever they so pleased as long as they did not violate each other of similar rank too much. In our same day ranking dictators and white-collar crooks seldom sit in prison like the lower levels of people on the streets. So it seems that elitists and politicians, per se, assume different kinds of justice.
American Illegals From the Old World:
European experiences centuries ago motivated many white people to migrate to Native Indian lands (here in the New World). This European invasion on the Native American is one example of religious repression spilling across the ocean. Yet ironically it was the same kind of repression that led to Europeans escaping the old country to elsewhere for freedom.
Caucasian migrants (as "foreigners" back then, and as "illegals" in the eyes of the red skinned locals) came seeking a better life away from the religious and political oppression in multi-Christian-cultural Europe. Besides, Europe was getting crowded and was a political mess.
Europeans ancestors came to "Amerigo" from a history of STATE ORDAINED RELIGIONS, that regularly were at war with each other. It wasn't very Christian-like but the concomitant oppression towards followers of "non-official" religions, within various feudal states (and later nation states) was a major bone of contention that led to persecution. One's particular brand of Christianity could be a real liability.
Catholics were killing Protestants and vice versa. All kinds of religious sects and monasteries popped up with different theological twists. Cults of any obscure kind were especially suspected—especially if they had political motivations—which often enough they did.
Then in later centuries a more general mode of persecution coalesced. Witches and pagans and Jews and queers and schizophrenics were persecuted, tried, hanged, or burned at the stake. This is no short history as it spanned a few centuries yet it is part of mankind's legacy and mindset. This is especially part of terrorist religious history of European peoples—citizens ought burn (metaphorically) awareness of this kind of terrorism psychology into their memories.
Religious fears then, as now, had a way of becoming too dangerously close to describing humanity. Thus the "Tools of Torture" moving museum (mentioned in the first chapter) was not brought to America as a mere spectator event. It traveled here to instruct the politically naive as well as the morally comatose. But apparently it already was too late attempting entrance in a corrupted empire of the 21st century.
[Note: It should be mentioned somewhere too that historical Judaic conceptions of Hell, was not like the conception that evolved later in Christian Europe—of utter damnation. Ancient Judaism, I've read, thought more in line of some temporary purgatory as opposed to an eternal torture chamber. Meanwhile Europeans were inspired to a more extremist terrorist idea of Hell (of course inspired by all the wickedness, sin, adultery, need for stoning, etc., found in the Torah book of Deuteronomy—which no doubt helped inspire a need for more ameliorating Talmudic literature.]
The Personality's Perception of Religious Literature:
It is not a completely esoteric idea, that the God of the Old Testament (via Moses) was a right-wing judge, while Jesus, as mythic savior in the New Testament, was a man whose morality (and politics) was on the left. Rabbi Jesus was a heretic—in respect to certain expectations of tradition.
Along these divides of liberalism versus authoritarianism, certain Gnostic Christians, early on, were convinced that the Old Testament's God and the God of Jesus were different entities entirely. Hence their heterodoxy was rejected from evolving orthodox Christian points of view.
Meanwhile many Jews could not believe that Jesus could have been a Jewish Messiah as he was put to death by way of crucifixion; and, besides he was in their mind's eye, no great political leader or great warrior hero type.
Furthermore, religious scholars say that messianic literature is mostly a New Testament phenomenon that created a new religion. Jews believe Yahweh to be the deliverer of Jews to the Promised Land.
Nevertheless, the perception of many people, in respect to the character of the Old Testament's God versus prophesies by Jesus stem from ideas about what constitutes justice and humanity.
Because, as argument followed, and still follows to this day, if a supposed God of moral standing had both the Divine Right and a the judgmental tendency to have souls tortured "eternally" in hell (that is to have demons do it) how can he be considered to be a fair minded judge? (Ironically, "we" may think this way as the idea of "hell" really got cooking in the New Testament).
[Note: If people are willing to believe in a God's who allows for such extremes then why can not military personnel today torture enemy combatants for the duration of an "eternal" war on terror (even when it is now known that the specially created Pentagon Office of Special Plans incorporated faulty intelligence to justify war with Iraq—now known to have acted in bad faith)?]
[Note: Arguably then with this same moral logic we can go further. If a supposedly just God has both the right, and the mindset of will, to imprison souls in "his" hell (as part of his creative universe) then why can not a given culture build many prison systems so as to have a large prisoner population, and keep such souls, incarcerated for a long periods of time—even for relatively minor offenses? There is not much conflict in this psychology of power. It seems logically congruent—save the fallibility of human judgment versus an absolute perfection of an all-knowing creator.]
Therefore either God (as judge, jury and proxy warden) as recorded in scripture is just (as believed to have Divine Justice) or he not very just. And either citizens, within a democratic framework, are allowed independence of thought and attitude—that is to form their own judgments on matters as respected citizens, that is accorded their own introspection and criteria and education, or they are not really part of a democratic framework that would allow for independence of thought and free choice.
It was the great intellectual John Stuart Mill, in his On Liberty, who argued: "If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." He argued that the power to control opinion is illegitimate and robs the human race the opportunity to hear different sides of a question. Yet that is exactly what authoritarians tend to do—stifle the opposition. People need ability to choose how to live, to take up causes, to make mistakes, and to change one's mind. How else can society reach its potential? Dissenters are the ones that need the most protection.
Authoritarian personalities and tyrannies of the majority (humans within the faith) try to project the idea that God is just (according to their own fear induced acceptance of iron fisted justice) and warn sternly that all ought be afraid of "his" strict and non-compromising attitudes. They warn, as did the Bible, that those who deviate from the true path will suffer accordingly.
The New Testament:
Meanwhile the Jesus crowd tells us that God is a God of love (not a hammer) and that the self needs to undergo a transformation to appreciate the kingdom found within. Early Christian philosophy included ideas like: "judged not and you will not be judged", and be more concerned about the mote within your own eye.
And although there are "harsh" dictator proclamations in the Apostle's writings such as eternal damnation of hell in the New Testament, in general it seems, much of Jesus crowd would not as readily feel comfortable with double standards of morality—that apparently caused enough schism to break off into a separate sect.
Perhaps they are merely better at "disassociating" themselves from parts of their literature they don't want to entertain? Because it seems there is left wing liberalism and right-wing politics in both the Old and New Testament—which makes sense since both are products of many people's actions and different mindset's of interpretation.
But there is little evidence that Jesus was a scholar of early Greek philosophers, such as the views of the skeptics, or various minds that lived before him who studied in a more secular sense. Rather as a Jew, Jesus was centered in Judaism, and his own interpretation of that culture where he lived—via the conflict between the Sadducees (right-wing) versus the Pharisees (left-wing) versus the Essenes (alternatives).
It is not unheard of for one religion to try to destroy or weaken the legitimacy of the likes of another religion. Equally this is why certain propagandists through time immemorial have tried to destroy the reputations of various heretics within, and outside, the church or state.
Rebellion Made Eternal:
Hell, itself, as one of only two black and white after-death options, along with the ancient Zoroastrian polemic of good versus bad and angel/ demon lore, were evolving, as well as devolving, concepts. (And although religions today do not as readily emphasize hell and demon lore they did in some past centuries.) Nevertheless hell as final judgment has been a central concept for Christianity as it evolved in Rome' empire and the Middle Ages.
The word "demon" in the evolving Christian language, was not always either a black and white concept. The original Greek word "daemon" or "daimon" simply meant one's spirit or genius. It did not denote nor connote to automatically equate to an ultimate evil soul until the Roman Christians started their propaganda wars against various pagans.
But does human agency have a responsibility (at least to the self) to think independently? Thinking independently means to have the curiosity to ask a lot of questions—and not be intimidated from asking hard questions. Independence means not falling down of the job like many in the mainstream media has done in aces and spades.
[Note: Or what about the rebel in a corporation or small business that gets fired because his or her ideas are not in sync with the bureaucracy of turf wars? Scott Adams has already written Dogbert's Top Secret Management Handbook on this kind of office politics so there is no reason to belabor this important point of the system kicking out the rebel who may have helped the system that rejected him. We all know of people who should not have been fired that were, and people who should have been fired but were not, because we know the world is not fair.]
Respecting an angel's main function as diplomat and courier (as Greek 'angelos' means messenger), angels likely played other courtly roles in their respective "hierarchical" establishments. Like the men and women that, for instance, surround any modern leader as entourage, such as those appointed to cabinet level appointments in the White House, or other Presidential staff appointments, their role was to serve (in this case the Constitution).
This entourage of governance would include such roes as guardian protection—namely security. Security would extend to include police, wardens, homeland security, and jails over the realm—and any police state that might evolve.
Such roles would also include the likes of high Pentagon positions of authority to carry out battle against enemies, as Michael the Archangel, and biblical hero, was reputed to have assisted Hebrews in their many battles against their purported enemies.
If Angels sang in choirs and rejoiced in God's court, maybe they also sang in intelligence and research—not too unlike various weighty think tanks that advice and influence executive decision—be they good or bad sources of data and judgment.
Certainly they must have had their choir of Murdockian public relations hacks, forever ready to "Hail" the "Chief" and sacred home country, (and common soldiers who got lip service too)? They must have had flacks putting out the jingle jangle that all was well in Santa Claus' Kingdom and Castle? Angels, as Santa's helpers, must have been busy indeed getting oil here and there, getting billions of dollars disappeared, getting guns to be misplaced, having oversight over non-competent, caught torturing people, and rendering enemy combatants into secret gulags, etc.
Perhaps a few investigative journalists with a background in deep cosmological history could unravel some of this mess for us?
Did they just get bored up there in the land of eternity honey? So they eventually went around causing trouble? We should bear in mind that a good deal of this lore evolved out of the Middle Near East where many tribes and nations went to war against each other, as the land of Israel was caught in between giant powers.
But no doubt angels exited during the birth of the Iron Age that overcame the Bronze Age. And perhaps it was natural that such a place and history would have their "best" invariably contrived into various battles and coups? So maybe it is just prototypic Middle Eastern politics as usual?
The power to manipulate minds, en masse (no matter the century), as agents of influence or angelic choir, is no small power. But often even the manipulators as talking heads are naive to greater ambiguity, and hence are themselves deceived—at least by their own perpetuated rationalizations.
Garden of Eden Revisited:
Not even the environment, God's garden of ecological Eden, is considered sacred to the President's men. Environmental concern, the real "conservative" issue—as opposed to the phony conservatism of a class wealth and status—is another form of terror—in a very real way.
Every child born today, who has the opportunity of a modern education worthy of the name, knows the world is slipping into a sunken hole of industrial wasteland (ecologically speaking).
Young people today know the doom and gloom foreboding of the future, and the potentiality of brooding fear. They know their parents and grand parents are leaving them in a basement of moral bankruptcy—ecologically speaking.
Modernity, with all its technological glory and elitism, has brought along with it a curse too threatening to think about. The future itself is frightening—that is the pressures that are placed upon the human race in respect to the limited resources in demand (that shows little leadership by way of adults in the world's greatest economy).
Meanwhile environmentalists are sometimes thought to be the new haven of terrorists to be wary, since they have found a space in their hearts to care about chickens, pigs, cattle, and other species. Their waywardness has gone so far as to care about whales and dolphins—and not just short-term profit figures in annual reports.
This supposedly "lumped" class of whining brats, who don't know how to respect their elder's infallible wisdom and high-heeled life styles, is the problem? Whereas frustrated capitalists, who think themselves as the good guys who work for a living! cannot "willingly" understand the beef about not wanting to put chemical weapons of destruction into the environment.
To Care or Not to Care?
Not even nature's DNA or biology's genetics is sacred. Some corporations now are patenting native, as well as artificially engineered life forms, for profit and monopolistic control.
Yet is not the patenting of life forms, such as seeds of plants (for private corporate ownership), a form of terrorism to the poor and destitute around the world?
Is not the arbitrary splicing of genes motivated by corporate profit (and not wisdom particularly) not a form of fear—not to mention the playing of God? Privatized corporatism seems to want to attempt to own every world resource and thus control every social function on the planet.
But is not the environment sacred that transcends economic ideology? Even the most hardcore existentialist must come to honor something greater than man's dilemma—namely God's Garden of Eden for ecological survival. Many spiritual thinkers and teachers have already been pointing out this truism to all who care to hear.
The "cosmic" battle is about nature's soul—not just the little human ego that has managed to describe a God in man's own image. No, the battle is about the grandeur of something far more remarkable—life itself—even while distracters continue to worry about outdated myths and conceptions of reality.
The entire environment has a relationship with God, or as Chief Seattle said:
Your God is not our God ... Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the white man ... cannot exempt from the common destiny.
We white people (that is our ancestors who fled here from Europe) are still foreigners, even to ourselves, and yet we are still trying to pulverize other cultures to smithereens, while trying to dominate their land or resources.
Leadership requires maturity, and a sense of respect for religious sensibility—without mankind being overwhelmed by rigid religiosity. Leadership is a "service" job for a community. It is not a soulless corporate buyout.
The political "covenant" between "the" people and "its" leaders—is it one of mutual respect. Real leadership would have been working on a sane energy policy at least 25 years ago. Real leadership would direct our real national security to saner policies and teach personal frugality—away from a presumption of commercial products and the wasting of resources.
Abstracted Models of the Ideal:
Thus, "We the people" of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, ask in straight and rhetorical fashion: "What forms of government do various religions exemplify?" "Are they models of democracy and representational governance?"
There is no one right or wrong answer to these philosophical and political questions. But such questions should at least be asked and considered. We need to know if, and why, there was a basis for separating the Church from the State—because we seem to have forgotten.
Although authoritarian personalities would likely disdain such self-directed thinking as too much free thought, do your "own" political analysis by asking: "Can I vote God into or out of office (or is this reality one in which I must inherit with no say so about his or her character and ambitions)?" "Am I, as a single soul, allowed any say in the governance in Heaven or Hell (or whatever afterlife existence I and others may find to imagine)?" And if not then why am I destined to be part of such an existence.
"Are there any representatives in the afterlife and how did they become so appointed (fair and clean elections with fairly counted ballots)? And if I do have representation do any of these delegates truly represent "my" interests and the "state's" interests, or are they influenced behind my back?" "Will any of the angels even really listen to me?"
"Can any soul or procedure get God to change the status quo—if one feels there is strong need for improvement, and if so how?" And how is it that mankind has come to know and realize God so well, and so intimately—as centuries of sacred texts have suggested? "If I am accused of being a sinner or a traitor what kind of hearing can I expect—what rights do I have as the accused?"
These are indeed heretical questions in the world of politics. Yet how dare anyone, yet alone an entire nation raised on notions of liberty, question the status quo of potential for oppression in the Blessed Isle?
Chapter Six: The Legality of Justice Versus Blind Faith
By William Wraithewrite
Note that this book is also dedicated to the prisoners at Guatanamo, plenty who are, or were, innocent and to their lawyers who are attempting to bring justice to bear.
Are political guarantees just so man words on paper to be used for political speeches? Who is ultimately responsible for enforcing principles of law in a republic? Given the reality that justice is very much a human concept, what can people presume, if anything, about such abstract words as "justice" and "fairness: before the law? What informs these legal meanings that people too often take for granted?
If an accused is to be judged in a court of law, how is he or she to be so judged, and by what criteria? What codes of procedures, if any, will be followed (or can be expected to be followed)? What legal mechanisms will, or should, be provided and enforced by judicial institutions so citizens can presume some stands of justice are met?
The King Was a Good Man:
Early Christianity that evolved into European and Northern African history, operated as conditioning model for predominately "monarchic" governments of Kingship and bishoprics.
There were a plentitude of duchies, principalities and kingdoms that would evolve, as a common vassal would not have given much thought to such notions as voting in leaders and officers. Equally you, if you lived back then, would not likely thought to vote in your God or his personality as if some kind of choice. Both authorities were assigned to you without your input as you were destined and born. Yet you owed your King, or prince, or Duke an allegiance of loyalty (fealty).
The law was, for the most part, whatever you were instructed it was. There were no regular town meetings about your rights and liberties. It was not about listening to candidates stumping their opinions to you so that you could mull over ideas and who to vote. You simply were not a focal point.
And in some ways many people today still live in this top down hierarchy in their workplaces. An employee is expected to show a great deal of loyalty and deference to corporate leaders that they work—irrespective of such leaders' competence, fairness, or sense of ethics.
Even libertarians, in their religious devotion to rhetorical dogma, in which they worry much about excess in government, give little lip service to concern of excess of corporate power, debilitating greed and corruption.
We digress. Back to your time-machined vassalage. If you spoke out against your King, or one of his fellow ranking officers (irrespective of the righteousness of your attitudes) you could be despised and punished as a traitor, because you were not paying your required respect.
Loyalty is a very important value to many people, some who willingly sacrifice even their own lives for honor, family, state, and religion. People tend to take their patriotism in a religious sense—and expect others to do the same—at least rhetorically. Either way they will not understand dissidents not showing loyalty to the symbols and positions they think demand it.
Chivalrous knights took oaths to defend the Church and to make war against infidels without cessation or mercy (similar to some Muslims who are taught to war against infidels (see Koran (:123). Church and State were married with many of the same values. In essence knights and their men became pawns to leaders of the realm they swore allegiance. Good warriors of zealous ardor they were—but they were not necessarily astute to the guile of backroom deals that played their loyalties like poker chips.
Your king, during those European Middling Ages, for all intents and purposes, was your god. He had "Divine Right" justification for his actions. (And notice that the word 'justification' contains the word 'just' as in 'justice'.) Kings, like their knights, were appointed and anointed by a pageantry of sacred ritual that often involved the church's consent.
And what could you do if you did not like the king? Or what if this king, or his prince, or one of his associates did not especially like you? What recourse did you the governed have legally to dispute and rights of redress? How much power in the Princely realm, as a peasant, were you likely to wield (not too different from being homeless today)? And how would you have arrived at such power if you could manage to muster any—that is if you felt the system a smidgen unfair?
Naturally , some kings were more noble and righteous than were others—depending on their personalities, political styles, attitudes, and circumstances of the day (or if the king "got" religion). Any way, some were more disposed to kindness or fairness (equally depending on your own situation and status). So a kings could be fair-minded and practical as a monarch—using "good" judgment—even while he held most cards. Why not? Humanity has such capacity to be fair.
But more importantly, what kept a king, or his men, from tyranny when he held the cards? Traditions have a way of reinforcing the power of those currently in power. What checks were there to balance out abuse? And who was to define abuse? What institutions were there to counter injustice? And what kept the Holy Church, often allied with the king, from various forms of tyranny as well?
These are questions we American should revisit in our seemingly complaisant age of presumption. Because if you were a bit of a rascal then what would have kept you out of the king's private dungeon? You remember those dank, dark and dangerous dungeons you read about while exploring castles and saving damsels from their celibate and protective towers?
Dungeons were just as real as were ivied towers. But, they were hid away from the daily grind of life—like underground (or at lest "rendered" outside the normal order of community life so others could not see nor hear). Would you have been "tortured" in the king's dungeon (not far removed from Dante's description of the eternal infernal)?
Once you landed in the brink (hopefully on you feet) you likely had few options available. Or do you think the kings henchmen were going to let you talk to a lawyer for the "privilege" of confidential and fair representation in a law court?
And when was the last time some soul was released from Hades to get past the entry sentinel as three-headed dog named Cerberus? One fierce dog can terrorize the soul enough to cause some serious upset stomach—not to mention dealing with the Hydra gyrations of three dog necks set to snarling and slavering with cynical and bare teeth. You had better have some "think" naked skin, since dogs can be trained to dislike you a bit—don't you know—and they can show you a ferocity of spirit with both sinewy muscle and canine dental power that can easily overwhelm a naked ape's sensorium. Perhaps some dogs have the temperament of some people—vicious and vile—at least one's imagination could assume if "stressed" out a bit?
Thus finding your self in the Empire's dungeon of "carce-ration" (as not have been put to death which may have been a better fate) you come to realize that you do not likely have too many, if any, "rights" (although public relations experts may be saying otherwise, in the rhetorical sense for those in the outside community to believe).
Not many people back then were organizing or sending donations to an International Red Cross, or Amnesty International, or Human Rights Watch, or ACLU. And even if the Red Cross existed back then, and had some status of clout, do you think the Emperor had to honor any kind of international agreement, protocol, or social pressure to allow visitations of inquiry? Do you think the Emperor, and his team, had to make allowances to the consensus of other states or peoples?
[Note: according to Ann Gearan of the Associated Press, Karen Hughes, bush buddy and Undersecretary of State, was quoted to have said: " It may take decades to change anti-American feelings around the world". Now why could this be the case? Illegal retention of prisoners and prisoner abuse was not mentioned in the article. But could it be that people around the world consider our policies on combatant prisoners, gulag systems and torture as moral issues?]
Rendered All Alone?
If the body of law (or religious literature) is thick enough are there ways to rationalize or justify whatever you or your group wants to justify? Are there not always creative minds able and willing to rationalize any kind of moral ethic—even that which is diametrically opposed to moral ethic?
While in the dungeon you could be water starved or hung out to dry in public. You might not even know the name(s) of your accuser(s), or what potential evidence existed that could be used against you (be it rumored, manufactured, or otherwise). There was likely no place for discovery. There was few guaranteed fairness rules on the books of enforced regarding the presentation of evidence of the disputation of it.
Who would have been arguing for a "fair" trial—as we Americans have come to understand the abstract concept? In fact there might not have been a trial at all. Your trial might consist of you praying while henchmen unleashed you from a rack to be noosed for your hanging. To pray originally meant to "beg".
Or if there was a trial, was there any right to a lawyer with a sincere interest in protection you or your rights?
Nor would you have asked to "read" the law (assuming you could read with nay sophistication as few schools taught peasants). It is not like you could walk into some county law library and gander a morass of complication in fine print, set down and orchestrated to a labyrinth of specific delineations by state assemblies (assumed to be based on some sort of substantiated principles). Surmise it as faith if you will that dungeons were not well equipped with the niceties of legal libraries or reading lights for your perusal. Nor was anyone available to assist the non-tutored self on the legal jargon.
And what was "habeas corpus" to you besides a strange Latin phrase? Certainly this conception was not some "liberal" idea that sprang from either the Bible or Koran? You could be dead for years before anyone in you family knew with certainty—irrespective of your nationality, political party, or religious suasion.
In fact what laws regarding "fair" trial and evidence have ever been proposed for God's judgment day as mentioned in the Bible? None existed in the way that we think of principles of justice today. Why? Because it is "presumed" on faith that God is just, fair, and all knowing—that is he is beyond question for noble spirit and magnanimous judgment.
Few skeptics think to question "his" anthropomorphic form of justice ("projected" human-like personality). Or what kind of trial does one come to expect to confront in the conference rooms of St Peter (a Saint no one questions in regards to any bias or delusional neuroses)? Or, if God is all knowing, wise, and powerful, why was there to be a hearing in the first place? Or why all the religious rhetoric about the masses doomed to suffer?
On one hand you have this Egyptian mulatto (metaphorically) who understands the Egyptian ways, named Moses. This Moses guy became violently upset over revelers worshipping a golden calf. He gets outraged to the point of smashing his famous stone tablets and then having 3000 or so idolaters of his own tribe killed (that some claim this histrionics' "finest" hour).
On the other hand you have social Christian conservatives who complain about spoiling America's prisoners and calling for harsher punishments.
On another hand you have the New Testament's John 2:18 saying: "He that believeth not is condemned already ... properly belongs to hell", which is psychological blackmail and coercion in a sense. On the other hand you have John Locke saying in this 2nd Treatise of Government:
"He who attempts to get another man in his absolute power does hereby put himself in a state of war withy him ... he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it ... fore nobody can desire to have me in his absolute power unless it be to compel me by force ... that is to make me a slave." (Sound like a foreign power tactic?)
Rather we citizens, even to this day, are arrested to a state of trepidation to the very idea of a final judgment due to its ramifications of hope or utter damnation. The paranoia was, and still is, enough to keep most off kilter from having equanimity to think freely and to question the lockstep of jackboot hell or conformist heaven.
Yet we, mortal egos, did not dreamily will, before our birthings: "Wow would it not be nice to be born into a world of political consequence where the odds against me, just then to die to a re-birthing into another political sphere that is equally risky and in which I just might be suffering a very long eternal time?" "Yes I want to chance that! Wow that sounds like a fair proposition by a loving and delightful Godhead to offer such a great bargain!
Meanwhile will the king allow me the right to speak for my own defense in his kangaroo court? Maybe? Will anyone have a right to speak in my defense? Will a judge to appointed who is predisposed of professionally required to even care about my opinion, carcass, or sense of impartial justice—even if I am allowed to speak? Or will I be cut off the minute I begin to speak?
Will there be opportunity of cross examination? Will I even be allowed at my own trial? Or how about a "public" trial—which is not the same thing as a sensationalized trial like that of O.J. Simpson. Are we looking at "secret" proceedings?
As likely it would be secret, similar to "privatized" corporate databases funded by public monies, but with no recourse to FIOA, secretly "profiling" information on masses of people, willy-nilly on dubious suspicion or political heresy, at the behest of those with power and wealth—which is itself a kind of "secret" gathering of judgment. That is thank to elected officials who passed the fascist Patriot Act and the and media fifth columnists who allowed it (officials who stymie on the question regarding whether water-boarding is torture so as to completely negate any focus or attention on people killed in the torture process).
We digress. Will there be a jury of "peers" in Orwell's dystopia? Or might a public trial become a staged event to intimidate others? Dictators have had trials and elections—even if rigged.
Or you could be more or less left to rot. You could be starved of all food or water deprived. Chances of nutritious diet would not be terribly high. You could go deranged by a lack of specific amino acids, vitamins, minerals, or just caloric content.
There were no health inspectors worrying about building codes. Clean air was a relative term. Bathroom? Depends. And when would a nurse or chaplain have habit to come around? You had better have a long memory. Besides there is no suggestion doctors or interns are floating around hell healing burn scar tissue. God is not concerned—why should the hench guards? Things are presumed ghoulish—at least to artist renditions and biblical explanations rendered.
A Question of Justice:
Now with slavish prostration to the idea of "out-sourcing" prison management to private companies, will corporate types be so interested in profits that they will allow for inadequate consideration for the welfare of prisoners (given their performance and motives found lacking in Iraq)?
Or do we just accept bestial sneers like: "So what if they have to live and sleep in over-crowed conditions? So what if prisoners today are mistreated or neglected—they violated society's laws and people in the process? Too bad if they do not have money or connections to hire good lawyers?
But what we especially note is not a weighted sense of citizenry justice—but rather an inflamed passion of hatred, revenge, and willingness to select the ideas one is willing to contemplate as rationalization.—the potential tyranny of either a outspoken minority or majority.
Justice is too often adjudicated by the tyranny of personality, politics, and inflamed prejudice and propaganda. Plato was right in his distrust of "absolute" democracy of the mob—in which he believed the average person was not especially wise in any learned sense. It is an ideological and political conceit to grant too much power to a base majority—especially when it is not well educated, nor curious to learn the particulars of a matter, but still zealously compulsive to jump to judgments nevertheless.
However, wariness of the tyranny of the self-righteous and aggressive is not to advocate for an elitist hierarchy as top down arbiter of injustice. Montesquieu was right when he advocated for a separation and balance of powers. Further it should be noted to Thomas Jefferson's credit, he thought that it is because people are social that they have a moral sense: "... state a moral case to a ploughman and a professor and the former will judge it s well as the latter." (And we note neither was inundated by right-wing radio hosts casting spells on insipid and stupid minds—the fact is there was some residual of intellect in the 18th century—now we cannot even presume it inside the beltway).
Whereas the CFO of Enron got six years (no small amount) for that company's snakes bilking millions or billions; we have right-wing radio hosts scoring big points screaming for tough love harsher treatment for the likes of blue-collar people or minorities who are busted for being addicts. Meanwhile profits are up for 4-profit imprisoning corporations.
Pathetic Apathy Goes to the Pharmacy:
How is it that the human mind can so readily disassociate self from those whose fates suffer un-rightly?
[Note: This may sound like bleeding heart and liberal whining to some, but this is not arguing that criminals never deserve incarceration, or that some are not despicable persons and personalities. The point is why does the public not monitor these institutions of human hell more closely so there is some humane treatment—rather than allowing for the potential of cruel and unusual punishment?]
There is a kind of national character that reflects a mirror on a moral system that is too negligent and too vengeful. Alex de Tocqueville said in 1835: "In America ... the spirit of gain is always on the stretch ... the human constantly diverted from the pleasures of imagination and the labors of the intellect, is there swayed by no impulse but the pursuit of wealth". Well what about more curiosity in respect to how society works and common responsibility for prisoner welfare?
As an existential threat one rhetorically needs to ask: "How is it that some souls are imagined to be eternally happy in heaven (in the afterlife paradise) if they readily know, on a moment by moment basis, that other souls are "eternally" suffering in a hell with no possibility of parole or redemption? How could a true spirit of conscience make pardon for this nonchalance or indifference?
It seems that the only way presumptively heaven bound people (the chosen) could come to view eternal torture and damnation as divine justice is either through brainwashing, dis-association, prejudice, fascist personality, or enough psychological isolation of not really being able to appreciate what goes on in hell, or gulag, or Guantanamo, etc?
Heaven then must be some metaphor for the well-to-do suburban lifestyle of the middle and upper classes with the right pedigrees? It must be for those people eternally distracted form serious issues that have the luxury of ignorance and wealth accumulation—even if one's country's "real" foreign policy is forever violating the rights and needs of foreign peoples—for the chosen minority?
The Land of the Free:
In the last 50 years or so the incarceration rates in America have increased "ten" fold. Does this sound like a potential evolution of a police state? Or is American really that criminal that it needs more prisoners locked up per capita than all other cultures? Or are some in power anticipating a need to imprison masses of people in the future so they continue to build new prisons?
When conditions in a prison are crowded then fights and hostility ore likely ensues. Riots and gang wars more likely ensue. Social scientists the world over knows these truths about crowded animal and human conditions.
Prison torture can include things as simple as excess noise and living with mentally ill but dangerous people. There are a lot of psychological conditions that can make for a hell. It does not have to be actual violence.
Too many prisoners today are not even doing time for violent or serious crime. In fact too many are in for drugs and that are not necessarily that dangerous—that are not as detrimental to self or society as alcohol. What a price tag for taxpayers!
Fox Butterfield in the New York Times wrote of a study which found more mentally ill in jail that in hospitals. Have we regressed backwards—to days before revolutionaries like Dr. Jean Charot—the man who challenged the idea that mentally ill should be locked up as "deserving" of criminal treatment because hey were thought to have sinned against God as reason for their insanity? That was back in the 17th century.
And speaking of the institutionally insane, her you are again left off earlier in the king's dungeon—or did you expect to have been sprung so easily? Bail? What is a bondsman? You would not be here in the first place had you connections or bribe money.
Fire fir warmth? You're a funny waif. It doesn't take you a fortnight to realize that a blanket is a nice thing indeed. But you have plenty of time to contemplation the physics of heat conduction—especially on that full stomach.
Your only company may be your bodily fluids. The proximity of your defecation ("dung" as in dungeon) is now your estate. With no running water? This is by decree of Divine Right of Kings! Why in London they chop off your head!
"Jurisprudence is the academic term for understanding the philosophy and psychology of law, and the application of its principles to a given society. The word is composed of two roots: 'juris' as related to 'justice' and 'prudence' which implies wisdom and foresight.
Justice, prudence, and wisdom are not attributes of virtue that one just happens to inherit when growing up. How does one learn to deal with other human beings—those variety of personalities and dispositions—that exist in every community? How does one come to understand and hopefully accept various kinds of social arrangements that could be one's lot—depending on history, culture, custom, circumstance, etc.?
So we now dare ask, as skeptics and cynics, as relevant to this book's focus: "What does the Bible, as both Old and New Testaments, and the Koran, either guarantee, state or imply, about issues and criteria of justice—especially since there is so much foreboding reference to mankind being judged by the high God of the Middle East? The consequences loom large and are eternal. What principles of jurisprudence, if any, can any one expect in the Divine Court—save an appearance by the "accuser" or "adversary"?
An Eye For An Eye:
Is the "eye for an eye" clause of retaliation not in fact a second injustice perpetuated against a first injustice—especially when respect of one tribe against another—being it no more just?
Justice is indeed a human dilemma—to try to decide or act out in the real world of real political conflict. At times it is harder to judge as a human than as it would be for an all-knowing God removed from the real world. We live in a world of much gray matter and a rainbow of colors—not in a world of black and white. Real time judgment in a constantly changing world requires much learning—and a tolerance for mistakes—but even more a willingness to change one's mind.
An eye for an eye is a form of justice to be sure—but it is a man made justice. It is not sacrosanct—just like killing 4 Palestinians for 1 Israeli killed is not a form of Divine Justice. Verbal excuses are in relation to what the market will bear—that is if one is not wrapped in the cloth of blind faith.
Humanity plays God when it feels empathy or sympathy for others. People come to believe that a just God can relate to the human condition and would do the same.
Is Justice Divinely Inspired?
Should law judges have some discretion in punishment? Are not circumstances different for each defendant? Why should politicians, who want to "appease" a perceived tyranny of outspoken voters, have the final say about somebody's life, especially when justice is something they cannon much comprehend?
We live in a "spy" society that is evolving a massive campaign of social surveillance. Many technologies are introduced to solve one problem but police find new ways to use them for more and more violation of personal privacy.
Meanwhile people are continuously terrorized into thinking to not trust strangers, or men, or sex offenders, or terrorists, or foreigners, etc. Everyone is suspect. The Nazi template is happening all over again with the gullible middle class drinking the Kool-Aid. Only this time right-wing Zionists are equally involved in the brown shirt production. Someday even white, middle class Christians will be eligible cell mates with brown Muslim political prisoners.
Currently Californians en masse went along with the three strikes your out law (because theory always sounds better on paper). The official word is that these criminals all are "vetted" as too dangerous—but ridiculous parodies of justice are glaringly apparent. Petty larceny crimes are putting people back into prison for life. Whereas perpetrators of corporate scandal steal billions see not a single day in jail.
Better Than the Third World!
Yes prison life is definitely better here than in many other parts of the world. Harsh legal systems have people so cramped that they can not move while sleeping on the floor. It is worst than chickens and pigs in large corporate farms.
So why is not the State Department not particularly focused on penal systems around the world—not just countries we don't like—but countries we consider business partners? Why is there not more news about the penal systems in Iraq today? What does it mean to "export" democracy?
Dinesh D'Souza says in a news paper article that religion provides something that secular society does not—a vision of transcendent purpose. He says it seems perplexing that nature would breed a group of people who see no higher purpose to life or the universe.
Well maybe it has something to do with "real" justice on earth—rather than castles in the sand? But then he D'Souza is the same person, in his The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, who supposedly wrote ridiculous assertions about America's leftists while he raged against the separation of Church and State.
But even more fundamental is the question of what is the nature of the Church and the nature of the State—why should anyone presume such character is automatically of quality?
It is citizens' responsibility to learn what his or her country's internal policies and actual practices in regard to prisoners (in reality) including all countries the State Department has relationship (Israel and its penal system as well). If necessary it may mean challenging inhumane conditions—not presuming an omnipresent "state" or swashbuckling security company to take care of the matter. Do we really want a Monarchy Mentality and evolving Police State in this country—because that is what we are fast track getting?
Free ebook on political philosophy—worthy to read and share.
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