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November 2001

Loving God Or Eyes For Eyes?

By Stephen Simac

"Religion is like liquor, in moderation a social lubricant, in excess a homewrecker and the scourge of society."

Since 9-11 many Americans, both Muslim and not, have rushed to proclaim that Islam is a religion of Peace and Allah is a God of Love. Not to criticize the teachings of Mohammed, because that can quickly get a price put on your head, but to be perfectly honest many of the passages in the Koran contradict that claim. Like most Holy Books it is open to interpretation of course and that may be where the trouble begins.

In the media rush to single out a single branch of the One God's tree as violent and paint all Muslims as terrorists, the defenders of Islam are correct. Judaism and Christianity's Holy Books could also be classified as hate literature based on many passages.

This is not to exclude any other Ism that claim it's us or them from causing social problems, us being people who think and act alike.

Yes, these religions do contain exhortations for Peace and Love, but they are balanced with trumpet blasts for Violence and Hate in the name of God. Most humans have varying measures of these contradictory impulses. The personalities of believers determine which passages they choose to underline in their Holy Books to support their natural inclinations.

It's the individual who chooses whether their religion is more for Peace and Love than Power and Greed. Osama bin Laden felt himself religiously correct in his actions according to his original call for jihad in 1996. He quoted extensively from the Koran to prove his vindication that it was high time to kill all the infidels and unbelievers.

Of course the Peace and Love people can quote you contradictory passages in their Holy Books. They will pull out extensive discourses by imams, rabbis or priests to prove that an Omnipotent God is All Loving, even though Bad Things happen to Good People.

Maybe "Kill all the Jews and Christians" is only an ironic joke, not unlike Shakespeare's "first we'll kill all the lawyers."

This is not to deny that Islam offers plenty of peace and love. By most accounts if you are a Muslim's guest there's no worry about being stabbed in the back or molested, unlike with some religious folk.

Opiate Of The Masses

Mohammed was in communion with the angels in a cave around 700 AD when God dictated His Message to his faithful Scribe. This scenario is typically how religions start, similar to Joseph Smith's communications with angels to create the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints.

A contextual description of Islam would define it as having a warrior's philosophical core wrapped in a mercantile framework. It helped to smooth trade routes through the internecine tribes of the Middle East.

Religions are said to be designed by God, but they are invariably run by priests to hold society in a stable form without too much trouble for the rulers from the masses. When they fail at this, new religions arise with new priests and rulers.

Islam is currently the fastest growing religion in the world, except for religious indifference. Jerry Falwell, a Christian fundamentalist blamed the spread of Secular Humanism and Paganism for God lifting the veil of protection against America.

To attribute this or any tragedy to God's will is comforting, but it contradicts the loving God theory. Not that Jerry's ever put much stock in that. Hey, God if you're in charge of everything, you're going to be blamed a lot more than praised. Humans are like that, you should know.

While the majority of Americans don't attend church very often they do believe in a fatherly, One God who smiles on our enterprise. Shopping Malls are the temples of Consumerism, the undeclared religion of Capitalism. The Terrorists may have put a dent in shopping mall profits, but sales of big screen TV's are up more than church attendance.

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Property

The First Amendment was pasted on the constitution mainly to prevent religious leaders from getting too sticky a hold on the federal government, not just to allow the "free exercise" of religion.

You won't find "separation of Church and State" in our constitution, Capitalism or Communism neither. The Declaration of Independence does swear by the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God."

This was seen by the Deists who signed on to it as cryptic code for scientific rationalism. They believed in a God who was a builder but not a meddler, an amiable Architect who shaped the universe, then went away somewhere to let the renters discover the hazards of the wiring.

Most of the Founding Fathers were high degree freemasons, a fundamentally Deist organization. They idealized the rights of All Men and were hypocritical, of course. A noble hypocrisy isn't bad for a country to claim as its birthright. Fundamentally believing that America is the light on the Hill to a World in Darkness can be empowering to a democracy. Like any other ism, it becomes a blinding, self-righteous light if We the People aren't open to learning and evolving from criticism in a complex world. In its fundamental form Islam stifles criticism in the crib, like that of its sister religions. It does create a clash of cultures with the needs of industrial capitalism or communism. At the very least the prohibition on women showing their faces throws a monkey wrench into sales of cosmetic companies.

Since they no longer control battalions, Christian leaders have learned to moderate their message. They've retained some of their state power by sitting on the sidelines and sending in plays. The more moderate Christians contend the fundamentalists are like the crazy aunt in the attic with a few hundred cats, even though their teachings are all from the same Bible they adhere to.

People clinging to faith in primitive religions are understandable because modernism provides no spiritual succor or emotional balm. The philosophical jewel of industrial urbanism, scientific materialism says we're here by chance. Their extraordinary claim is that at death we simply dissolve into a jumble of molecules.

If whoever dies with the most toys wins, then why do even rich men die lonely and terrified, crying out for the mercy of God, not the keys to their sports car?

Unfortunately it logically follows from any kind of absolute religious certainty that all others are wrong, probably evil and deserve to boil in Hell for eternity. It's basically cursing your neighbors, because with global commerce and weapons of mass destruction, the other jewels in the lotus of industrialism, the whole planet is one neighborhood.

 

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