Religion has an enduring history of barbarity. A history of sin! From the beginning the church has always sided with the rich and powerful, a means to an end I assume. Therefore, the church puts itself before the multitude that makes up its congregation. The church holds vast wealth which contrasts with the poverty of millions.
Hate has followed in the wake of religious fervour throughout the ages. There are so many Gods that you need both hands and feet to count them, and then borrow an abacus.
The Gods are a source of much division. Religion separates, divides and invariably leads to conflict. Once ingrained it takes a mountain of effort to break down the hatred embedded in sectarianism.
We can go back to the 11th century – 1095 and the first crusade of Christian against Muslim. There were perhaps eight crusades in total, not ending until late in the 13th century. Both sides fought in the name of their God. What was really at stake was supremacy. Poor God, (if he/she exists) was an innocent bystander.
For several decades in Northern Ireland we have witnessed the division and the steps towards reconciliation. There is still a lot of walk and talk to do before the communities of Catholic and Protestant can bury their belligerence.
In the 1990s Europe was in the throes of the Balkan Wars 1991 – 2001 which was a mix of nationalism, religious and racial hatred. It began with the breakup of Yugoslavia. The various states that had been held in a tight grip by the communist leader Tito, suddenly took the opportunity to express their pent up frustrations.
Demands for independence of Croatia, Slovakia and others brought a ferocity not seen in Europe since the Second World War. Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Albanians and Bosnian Muslims would commit crimes of atrocity against each other. Ethnic cleansing raised its ugly head and barbarism stalked freely through the streets. It is estimated that the conflict cost 120,000 lives. The legacy is mistrust tinged with hatred.
A similar expression of nationalism, religion and racialism rocked Africa with ethnic cleansing in Rwanda 1994. The Hutu majority began the slaughter of the Tutsi people. The eventual death toll is thought to have exceeded 800,000.
The recent history of the Middle East is riven with conflict. Since the 1940s the struggle between the Jewish and Palestinian people does not seem to have an end. And now the brothers in Islam butcher each other in the name of their beliefs. In the background is the political struggle for dominance in the region.
Nonetheless, the mountain of bodies grows. There’s no respect for the others religious belief. The Western liberal command for tolerance has gone unheeded. The resonance of nationalism, Israel/Palestine and the demand of the Kurdish people for independence add to the mix of religious and racial division that would suggest that their God has been abandoned. Politics rules ok!
The regimes of Iran and Saudi Arabia while modernizing are the key players in the maintenance of an extremely conservative social domain and religion plays a significant role in that environment. It will be several generations before hands are clasped in friendship.
Religion is a blasphemous means of manipulation of the ordinary citizen used by the elite. Religion has beguiled us with control of what to wear and when, the segregation of the sexes, and of course what to think. A thought control methodology second to none. Modern day prophets may wear a different hat but the dogma hasn’t changed.
Even the Nazis recognised the value of religion as a means of control, hence their attempt to promote Mein Kampf as a Nazi bible. They understood the power of religion over the thinking, acts and actions of people.
All men are created equal in the eyes of God. Not so, cries the mother with hungry mouths to feed. Not so, moans the pauper in the door way of a closed shop. It’s your own fault, sing the choir of evangelicals. We all have free will! I am free to get rich and you’re free to be poor. That’s how fickle religious folk are, no rush to help or forgive, just blame.
Politicians talk but never walk the talk. They know ordinary Joe lives with hope and have used that hope to manage their demands. Life will be better in God’s kingdom or so the story goes. If you’re bad you are condemned to ‘eternal perdition’. Steven Grosby, p114 Nationalism
Neither does God stand in the way of capitalism. In the words of Bob Dylan, With God on Our Side – stanza 5: From the album, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.
A mere practical move as trade must go on and money made.
More recently from the album, – You Want it Darker, song of the same title, stanza 4 by Leonard Cohen (now deceased)
They’re lining up the prisoners
The guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle-class and tame
Didn’t know I had permission
To murder and to maim
You want it darker.
On a lighter note we have the idealistic words of John Lennon from the song Imagine:
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today.
Around the world religion is used by politicians to feed their political ambitions and that of their party:
1. The tension between India and Pakistan, Hindu V Muslim/ Kashmir
2. Christians in Kerala face persecution – Steven Grosby p76
3. Christians in Sind province having to flee to avoid persecution.
4. Hindu’s who believe India should have only one religion. – Grosby p5
5. Christians persecuted by the majority Buddhists in Burma.
6. Persecution of Christians and Muslims in Africa.
The story goes on and the manipulation has no end in sight. I can accept that for some belief is an escape from reality and brings a degree of succour to mitigate the hardship of their daily struggle – its hope, and hope has an eternal verve that helps us carry on.
Nonetheless, religion holds back the tide of change. It keeps millions blind to the reality that surrounds them, their faith traps them in the claws of their political masters. As they are bombarded by the constant stream of jibber-jabber.
Tomorrow might be better but I refuse to look ahead because all the days before have been so harsh. I wish and I pray. And the money men hope and pray that you never wake up.
Back to the Beatles: All You Need Is Love