Posts Tagged With: Spanish Inquisition

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM

At the heart of religious fundamentalism is the unquenchable thirst to dominate other people’s lives. To dictate to the populace what it can and cannot do. The self-gratifying, lustful power to reward or punish others based on how they respond to religious edicts. That power to include torturing, imprisoning or out-right killing other human beings should they disobey those edicts. This has been on-going for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years, or ever since mankind began forming into various types of societies such as tribes or clans. Most early tribal leaders had the power to destroy the lives of their fellow clansmen should they disobey the craven idols they had carved and called gods. Such power has always been too intoxicating for most leaders to ever relinquish.

Which brings us to the events going on in most Arab countries in the Middle-East. It was only a few years back that the world was enchanted by what was called the Arab Spring. Ruthless dictators that had been in power for decades, such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, were being overthrown and the prospects of freedom and democracy throughout the Mid-East seemed to burn brightly. Today those dreams have turned to ashes, as most Arab countries have become hollowed-out shells of their former beings. You can thank religious fundamentalism for most of this, including the fact that people all too often make incredibly bad choices and turn out to be their own worst enemy.

In Egypt, after the fall of Mubarak, Egyptians were allowed to hold free elections that would determine their next government. In an act that can only be described as incredible stupidity, the people chose leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood to run their country. The Moslem Brotherhood had, over many decades, openly espoused and advocated for the imposition of strict Islamic fundamentalism for Egyptian society. Once in power, that’s exactly what they began doing. Who could have guessed? When those very same Egyptians that had voted the Moslem Brotherhood into power, began seeing the ugly face of Islamic fanaticism being put into practice, they cried and begged for relief. They held massive demonstrations and prayed that the military would intervene and save them. Fortunately for them, the Army did come to their rescue and overthrew the Moslem Brotherhood. Today, there’s a new Army General in charge of a government that allows and tolerates secularization in Egyptian society.

Most other Arab countries, however, are not as fortunate. It was not long after the Prophet Muhammed established the Moslem religion that two factions of Islam suddenly sprung up. Both factions pray to Allah, both recognize Muhammed as the prophet, so that the religious differences among the two sects are relatively minor; yet the two have created a chasm between themselves that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon. One faction is called Sunni and the other Shia, and their hatred of one another has led to deaths among Arabs in the hundreds of thousands or more. It’s all about the power and the ability to impose one’s religious beliefs on often unwilling populations. All this division and dysfunction has led to terrorist organizations being created, such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS who view killing people and instigating atrocities to be such jolly good sport. Ostensibly their intentions are to kill western heathens such as Americans and Europeans. And, of course, Israelis and Jews. That goes without saying. But in the end, they wind up slaughtering  their own fellow Arabs and Muslims by the thousands. Much easier to kill Arabs since they’re right there in the Middle-East and so readily available. Today, Iraq, Syria and Libya have been almost totally destroyed by terrorism, while Jordan and Tunisia are tottering on the brink. The terrorists have carved out a huge hunk of territory in Iraq and Syria, with stated intentions of taking over the whole Mid-East. And somehow, all this derangement, slaughter and destruction, in the name of Islamic-Jihad has proved to be an attractive recruiting tool for hundreds of young Europeans, and even some Americans. They have gone over to the Mid-East to join the terrorists on their murderous quests. After all, why should only Arabs have all the fun.

In a way, it’s a bit unfair to cite Islam as the only example of religious fanaticism, since Christianity has its own bloody history. From the time that Roman emperors allowed Christianity to become the official faith of the Roman Empire, (a few centuries after Christ’s death), the Papacy was established and became a dominant power in the affairs of almost all European nations. Europeans that deviated from various papal proclamations were often imprisoned or burned at the stake. One of my favorite episodes on the top ten list of religious fundamentalist hits was known as the Spanish Inquisition. Started in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition sought to convert mostly Jews, but some Muslims also, to Christianity in order to save their souls from hell and damnation. Those “heretics” that refused to convert were often tortured and then murdered. The religious theory behind the killings were that since these Jews and Muslems would be dying at the hands of God’s children, (Christians), their spirits would be pervaded by the wisdom and knowledge of God’s followers, and they would therefore be spared from the fires of hell, and be transported into heaven. The old kill the person to save their soul gambit. This practice went on for centuries before some semblance of reason and sanity finally did away with the Inquisition.

Today, Christian fundamentalism, at least in the U.S. and elsewhere, takes the form of trying to forbid a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or seeking to deny homosexuals their basic rights such as marriage. Certainly a lot tamer than beheading those that are considered unholy heathens. But sort of the same mentality of trying to force their fundamentalist view of life and religion down the throats of people that don’t share their beliefs. As I’ve said before, religious fundamentalism is all about the power to foist one’s beliefs on everyone else. After all, wouldn’t God want it that way?

 

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THE TRUE BELIEVER

When I was still working, thousands of years ago, I used to have a sign hanging in my office that read as follows: ” NO AMOUNT OF HARD WORK OR CAREFUL PLANNING CAN EVER REPLACE SHEER DUMB LUCK.” It was, of course meant to convey the capriciousness of life, where through no effort of their own, some people seem to experience a constant stream of good fortune, while others appear to inherit a disproportionate boatload of bad luck. Just read through the obit column in your daily newspaper. There is the 26- year-old who just died of a brain tumor before her life had barely begun. Right next to the obituary of the 97-year- old who led a full and enjoyable life before simply dying of old age.

As we grow from childhood into becoming adults, we gain the experience to recognize the basic unfairness of the human condition. We accordingly adjust, learn to comprise, and recognize we won’t acquire everything we desire. That life is basically a game of give-and-take, and we mostly make pragmatic choices to get us through the day. As a child we may cry and scream or even throw a tantrum because Mommy won’t buy us the toy or candy bar we so desperately desire. But as we become adults, that type of behavior is shut down to us, and we have to make necessary compromises with our spouses, our families, friends, and even strangers in order to reasonably function on a daily basis within society. But for some people, the idea of compromise or pragmatism is beyond their comprehension. In their personal lives such behavior often leads to dysfunctional relationships, as well as dependency on drugs or alcohol. But when this type of uncompromising behavior enters the social and/or political arenas, it usually means death and misery for millions of people. Because more often than not, the persons perpetuating such hardcore, fundamentalist and uncompromising positions are “the true believers.” Those that believe that only their views of religion, or politics, or social behavior, is the right path, and those that deviate from that path must either be coerced into changing, or else, in extreme cases, be put to death. And unfortunately history is replete with such examples.

A good example, and certainly on the hit parade’s top ten list of man’s follies through the ages, is the Spanish Inquisition. When the Catholic Church became dominant in Spain in the late 15th century, the Inquisition was begun to convert all non-believers into becoming Catholics. By the way, this practice didn’t end until the mid-19th century, almost 400 years later. The non-believers that had to be converted into Catholicism included Jews, Muslims and eventually Protestants. The Inquisitors (true believers) stated that they didn’t have anything against these beliefs; it was just that the only way to save a person’s soul, and hence enable them to enter the kingdom of heaven, was through conversion to Catholicism. Some Jews and Muslims converted while others didn’t. Those that didn’t were either imprisoned for life, or burned at the stake. But it was for their own good. After all, the important thing was to save their souls. So went the mindset of the true believer.

In the 20th century we saw this type of rigid, true-believer mindset take hold in Europe and the Pacific, with both Communist and Fascist dictatorships causing the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. When the Bolsheviks took control of Russia, those that refused to become true believers in the merits of communism, were usually sent to slave labor camps in Siberia or simply put to death. In Germany, in 1925, Adolph Hitler got his autobiographical “Mien Kamf” published with its viciously anti-semitic diatribes. Most Germans at the time considered the book the ravings of a lunatic. After all, Germany was a well-educated, sophisticated country with a rich cultural history. But persistence and demagoguery began paying off, and slowly but surely, as more and more swastikas began appearing in the public square, Hitler’s lunatic ideas began taking hold, and the rest, as they say, is history. More than 60 million people died in in Europe, thanks to the fascist ideology  of the true believer. In the Pacific, at the same time, the fascist and militaristic dictatorship of Japan was killing millions of more “non-believers.” After WWII, China came to be ruled by the truest of all believers in Marxism, Mao Zedong. Those that refused to follow or bow to Mao’s rigid beliefs were slaughtered by the millions. On a slightly smaller scale, we saw similar occurrences when Castro took over Cuba and the dictatorship that reigns over North Korea. Today, the most fundamentalist of all regimes controls Iran, which has also murdered tens of thousands of its people that refused to abide by the tenets of true belief in radical Islam, which holds that all non-believers in strict Sharia law should be put to death.  And Iran is developing the nuclear capability that can make that happen.

What’s the lesson to be learned as far as this country is concerned, at this point in time?  The lesson is that the true believers in our country are acquiring more and more power and influence, and will have a dominant role should the Republicans win the November election. Among the true believers are the anti-abortion fanatics, who will strive to outlaw all legal abortions, because, after-all, this is what Jesus would dictate. Also, gay rights would be denied and homosexuals would have to get way back in the closet, because such unbiblical behavior cannot be tolerated is a proper society. Government assistance to the poor, the sick and the elderly would be sharply curtailed because, although the New Testament stresses helping the poor, it’s somehow a bad  thing if the Government does it. I could go on but you get the picture. The only question is whether the people will allow the true believers of today to really exert their rigid and fundamentalist beliefs on all of us.

 

 

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