God the father, God the son, God the holy bigot
By Corey Gilkes
I really did not intend that my return to writing articles would start off with a subject this sensitive, but we are living in too perilous a time for people to be still harbouring nonsensical prejudiced views as if such views did not lead to even graver consequences.
The year 2004 closed with one of the most horrific disasters in history when an underwater earthquake triggered a tsunami that killed upwards of 170,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and even as far away as the east coast of Africa. Now I am not going to get into the question of whether or not this disaster could have been avoided you know, seismologists predicting that the earthquake itself was going to happen, inadequate funding for the placement of sensors and so on oh no, we got an even bigger fish to fry.
From the minute news broke about the tsunami, I began to see comments (not totally unexpected) about this being yet another sign of the "last days" and the impending apocalypse and what not. That helpless resignation is in itself bad enough and we will open that bag of worms some other time; but what really irked me was something I read on a Caribbean oriented website www.Islandmix.com in which more than one individual made comments to the effect that "god" chose this region because it was predominantly Muslim and anti-Christian!
Here are a few choice pieces:
"look at the part of the world it happened (the tsunami) and the majority religion represented. Just an observation"
And in reply, another person said:
"Why are people afraid to say it? The Bible preaches everlasting life through Jesus Christ. Other Gods and idols shall perish!"
Now I don't know why I am so surprised that stupid, religiously bigoted statements like that are still being bandied about in this the so-called Age of Information; indeed, with the advent of mass communication, racist groups and religious fundamentalists were given even greater opportunities to reach much wider audiences. I certainly expected such nonsense to come from some bible-waving American citizen given the fact that the average US citizen is almost completely clueless about anything outside the borders of the USA and who has grown up in a culture that sees everyone who does not follow the "American ideal" as a hostile Other. I guess I was not expecting to see was such inanity emanating from people with Caribbean roots, even if they do reside in the United States. But then again, I suppose I should have expected it, given the manner in which Xianity was imposed on the Caribbean and, as anyone familiar with Caribbean social history would know, the one colonial institution that was embraced with almost puritanical zeal by the colonised and served as a foundation for many aspects of Caribbean life was religion, specifically Western Xianity, with all of its prejudices and ignorance.
Don't get me wrong, I am not making a case here, as say Kevin Baldeosingh would, for dispensing with spirituality. Religion, yes. A formal institution with rigid rules that often defines itself in opposition to the tenets of another religious or spiritual faith is not the way to bring about the kind of harmonious co-existence most of us would like to see one day. What I am calling for is a collective re-examination of what we have been made to believe for generations was the divine word of some god. Comments like that, if left unchecked eventually grows into something much bigger and before you know it, turns out to be the foundation for some act of violence or an organised atrocity. We have seen that happen over and over throughout history and in almost every case there were people who honestly and deeply felt that what they were doing was not wrong but was divinely sanctioned.
Most people do not accept that there is in Xianity as well as Islam an innate arrogant conviction that that faith is the one and only true faith. It is the only legitimate way of being "saved" and its sacred writings and rituals are the purest and everyone else's is corrupted, incorrect and downright heathen. And of course you can find passages saying as much in the Bible and the Qu'ran and many ardent devotees, even many of those who would not openly say that would quickly open their books and find those passages for you. Again, here is another thread from that same online discussion on Islandmix:
"...here is just a thought, no judgement but just a thought, What if God requires a certain type of worship, and by diverting and doing other than what is commanded is going against him. He is a God of love but he also passes out judgement".
Now this person may have said this in all innocence, but this type of outlook almost always leads to the most amazing displays of arrogance and contempt. Are people ever going to stop and listen to themselves? Will they ever pause and examine the things their religious leaders and books demand they believe? When are otherwise rationally thinking people going to examine this notion that the Almighty would choose one little region in the world, pick one ethnic group and use them as the model of how the rest of the world should behave, pray and exist regardless of culture, geography and ecological conditions? Are they aware that by accepting such nonsense they have in effect condoned the means by which the religion they hold so dear was spread throughout the world regardless of the fact that it meant the death, rape and enslavement of millions of people many of whom committed one offence and one offence only: treating total strangers with kindness? And someone is going to tell me that GOD ORDAINED THIS?
Now I know there are some who are going to read this or pass it on to some semi-literate religious type who will open his bible and extract this gem said to be uttered by Jesus: "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother and wife, and children and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). It matters not that that passage was most likely not even what was originally written, or was meant to be taken out of context. It matters not that this passage may have been one of the numerous forgeries littering the Old and New Testament (Joseph Wheless' study is quite revealing in this regard). Oh no, none of that has any bearing on the issue at hand. It was written in the bible and so it is not open to question.
But perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh with Christians. In all probability those comments were made in all innocence and why not? A great many Xians and Muslims honestly believe that their religions came into being at a time when the "whole world" was steeped in sinfulness and iniquity; that the older ways of worshipping were not only out of date but outright barbaric. Xianity in particular is noted for proclaiming vociferously to everyone whether they want to hear it or not that Jesus came to "save mankind" and that he went against the customs of his time and all sorts of romanticised nonsense. Who's to say otherwise? It's not like comparative religious studies are taught to the laity. The average lay person knows nothing about the history of their faith because that is not taught in most places of worship and definitely not in any school I know of. Those who are able to tear themselves free from the powerful hold of religious indoctrination are amazed to learn that the notion of a "one true faith" and one form of worship originally had nothing to do with any god. Far from having anything to do with any divine injunction, the ideology of a one true faith, god, government, etc. really came out of primal responses to harsh ecological conditions. In other words, Xianity's claim to being the one true faith began as a psychological urge among some pre-Xian/Jewish hunter-gatherer tribes to come to terms with the harsh, hostile environment that characterised life in the Eurasian steppes. It would be further developed a couple thousand years later in Catholic (and Protestant Europe) in order to justify secular geo-political ambitions. I tried to throw some light on this in such essays as "Christianity and the Birth of European Nationalism" and "Bush, Religion and Eurocentric Geo-politics"
It's truly amazing to think that the seeds for the racism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, environmental degradation and before them the wars, pogroms, Inquisitions, and Middle Passage outings could have been sowed by little scattered hunter-gatherer tribes struggling to survive on icy windswept steppes thousands of years ago. But if we have any real intention of changing man's penchant for destructive and divisive behaviour, even in the face of crippling tragedy such as this tsunami, then we had better do some serious examining of the psychological defence mechanisms these societies developed and how they in turn coloured the evolution of what is now Western Europe and the many other cultures affected by them.
You see, I am no longer prepared to accept that people don't know any better. There was a time when we may have been able to get away with that since, because of (admittedly still extant) Eurocentric education, schooling and churching, we were not fully aware that there were alternative social, economic and spiritual systems. True, there were books but still, what little we did know of them was through the eyes of the coloniser. Instant accessing of information via the Net however, has done a lot to change that. Academic works dealing with theology, philosophy and international politics are no longer tucked away in obscure university and church libraries or discussed in lofty academic conferences unheard of by John Public. The commoner on the asphalt can more than spar with the priest and s/he had better start getting on with it before these legal bandits have us destroying ourselves to hasten the arrival of an apocalypse of their own design.
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