My World

Flying the great Religious divide

 

I know I promised to post my piece about Property but with the very recent happenings in Paris and elsewhere, I could not go without writing about that and the wider issues. I am using, as always in my posts, personal opinions, conflicted thoughts, observations and stories from the past. I wish to warn you now, firstly this will be a long read so if you're not up for it right this very minute, no worries, please return to read it later. Oh yeah and make sure to leave a comment or hit the 'Like' button at the end. Secondly, this post contains reference to personal views on certain religious fundamentals and beliefs that you might find hard to take. Simply stated: This is just my personal questioning of religion more broadly especially as a reaction to recent events. Perhaps it will help you in understanding where I'm coming from and certainly it is an appeal to those who are like-minded individuals. However, those who wish to engage me in debate on one of my favourite subjects, along with politics need to be careful because my voice tends to get a little loud in discussions of this type. If you want to have a friendly, dinner table conversation then you know what they say about Politics and Religion?

 

So, I would like to start by sending my condolences to the families who have lost loved ones in these recent events, these events are atrocious and tragic. Unfortunately this is part of a campaign to divide and conquer the world over with a particular terrorist group taking that baton and running with it. The main event to me may be the #ParisAttacks but I know there have been many more such as in Beirut and Baghdad. It is sad to think that in places where this sort of activity is considered more commonplace we do not tend to hear about or take notice of individual events. However, the attacks on Paris are different in some way. I, for one, will not #PrayforParis but I will #StandByParis and other places where these atrocities occur. Really, this action/hashtag alone will only massage our own momentary feelings and emotions. We feel so far away yet certain events tend to hit closer to home. I think we should stop dancing around the issues and name the lowest common denominator in these atrocities. It is in the name of Religion, religious ideologies and it is in the name of Islam and Islam's war on itself and others. We should not be silenced, forced to shut our mouths, bite our tongues or even turn the other cheek only to get that coward-punched as well.

 

'Divide and Conquer' is something that human history is filled with and usually done in the name of some political and/or religious ideology. You could say the “three G's” of colonialism are back in a way, by “three G's” I mean 'God, Gold and Glory'. Think back to the Spaniards in South America and other empire builders in human history and civilisation. I'm not sure where the Gold part comes in, maybe the 'liquid gold' otherwise known as oil perhaps, certainly one way that this terrorist organisation is funding their campaign. The cult known as Islamic State, at its heart is Islamism or Islamic fundamentalism and it is just the latest to indulge in this and it is looking to spread its word and its seed throughout the known world. The word to them is God and Glory, why do you think the term 'Allahu Akbar' is so common.

 

However, followers of Islam have been previous offenders in different forms and different groups have certainly put on spectacular shows in recent history. By 'spectacular shows' I mean events like the 11th of September 2001 otherwise known as 9/11 – the World Trade Centre attacks. That, to me, was the start of a new era, an era of fear and random attacks against mostly civillian targets. An era of heightened security and use or abuse of intelligence. I have included a timeline of terrorist events published in the Wall Street Journal here as a guide to what I'm talking about. Reading this, one can not and should not still suggest that these are just the actions of a few maladjusted individuals. Think not only of those who have taken part but those who are collaborating, supporting and recruiting. No, this suggests something bigger is happening, the ultimate 'badness'.

 

Now, as my front page proudly announces I am not a little black bird but an Australian and an Atheist, i'm not usually that loud about it in public unless someone engages me in debate. I think of myself as something of a 'reformed Christian', think 'reformed smoker' and you might get a sense of where I'm at. That's not to say I don't have conflicted moments, there are times when solutions are not necessarily obvious to me and I'm being pulled in different directions. Instead of looking to the sky I look around me at humanity and its constant battles. Generally though, when folks with faith prattle on to me about, well, anything religious frankly I tend to sigh, I roll my eyes and say to myself “Here we go again. Once more to the breach, dear friends!”

 

It's not that I hate them, I truly don't, I mean here I am in a relationship with a Christian girl. Besides, they're my fellow human beings, fellow citizens and we live in a supposedly secular liberal democracy where freedom of religion and freedom from religion should be equally espoused. Strangely there are still some references to 'God' in places I thought should be at the forefront of the separation of church and state but I can move past that. I do hate the hypocrisy and division that these beliefs seemingly stand for. However, I understand the need to believe in something bigger than oneself, I just can not and will not see that as a being, an entity or any such supernatural silliness.

 

 

 

My history though is one of being in the church as a young fella, having gone to mass on Sundays, served on the altar and therefore having mixed with a lot of other 'Christians' both young and old with a range of views on the bible and spirituality. I was enrolled in catholic schools for a fair chunk of my schooling and I even joined a youth group or two. Obviously, this was a long time ago now but in that time I had, of course, read the bible once or twice. I was never so into it to memorise passages or anything like that and at the time I often found myself questioning the practices of kneeling, standing and singing hymns etcetera...

 

I was never a victim of paedophile priests or anything like that but I did cop a fair bit of bullying by other supposedly Christian children. This is not the reason I saw the light, so to speak, but the facts about Catholicism, Christianity and religion more broadly just slow-dawned on me. The facts are that religion generally aims to keep the masses poor and not thinking for themselves, more likely to think anti-choice on such matters as contraceptives and abortion. Religion like politics often divides us and defines 'others' as different, something to be mocked, oppressed and even feared. Various religions basically throughout history tell their followers not to question certain matters, only to question those of different beliefs, think the Spanish Inquisition.

 

Too often those with faith are the first to cast stones, what next? Its not much further to start beheading those who question your particular prophet is it? Oh, that's right, that is exactly what is happening right now in the Muslim world. Certain people protest more strongly when their beliefs are questioned than those same people would do against the killings and atrocities that are committed in their collective name. It seems the 'silent majority' truly are irrelevant in some of these debates and we have to look closely at where the extremists are heading, I find this video clip extremely hard to argue with. One just has to think Germans in Nazi Germany or the Japanese before and during WWII,

 

Statements such as 'God works in mysterious ways' and 'the Lord helps those who help themselves' are a Cop-out, an excuse for the inexcusable in my honest opinion. A blatant cop-out that covers for a lack of empathy and understanding. This lack of understanding goes further to the whole battle between creationists and evolutionary forces. What about the mocking of the 'Big Bang Theory', NO, not the television comedy but the strong evidence and serious scientific endeavour to unlock certain mysteries? I have been asked in the past “you believe in all that big bang stuff don't you?” To which my reply was something like “damn straight, I believe in that rather than what a book of fiction tells me and by extension, fairies in the garden and well, unicorns!” In fact, I feel I have been asked about my beliefs more often than I have asked others about theirs, funny that. Readers of my previous posts will surely know what I am talking about here.

 

Somehow, this supposedly unquestionable, supernatural, omnipotent, omnipresent being, not even sure what to call He/She/It, does not cure any real ills or prevent them and does not punish wrong-doers in the here and now. Why, simply because it [insert deity of choice] does not exist. It is all a creation of our own powerful human brains and consciousness, a need to be part of something, to believe in something. Religion is a type of extended groupthink and another term for a mass delusion if you like or some serious brainwashing over many generations. Some would say that breeding extremism/fundamentalism is paramount to child abuse. How is it people worry when kids watch too much violence on tv but dont think twice about giving them a book that has violence and other questionable practices at its core? “Cogito Ergo Sum” = I think therefore I am.... not only human but an Atheist. We, as human, homo-sapiens further developed this brain through evolution and diet, apparently. Yeah, that's right, it's Evolution, Baby!

 

So, we leave the actual healing and rehabilitation of human minds and bodies to medical science, justice administration and various human services. It's not a perfect world but 'to err is human'. Of course, in human beings wide scope there are charities around that assist those in need and some of these are done in the name of and based on religious ideology e.g the Salvation Army. That's simply not enough to prove that your particular deity exists by the way, besides they get generous donations and tax benefits for doing so. No doubt about that, but there are also those that are not based on religion, people will point to the Gates Foundation as one example, a foundation set up by the billionaire and his wife. This is just one example of secular humanism at work and a non-prophet organisation... err wait, that's non-profit?? I simply wish more people would read 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and 'Religion for Atheists' by Alain De Botton. Both are much more factual than the Bible, the Quran or any of those which so many people around the world 'cherry pick' from anyway to form the basis of their beliefs.

 

I truly look to science, the power of the mind and the wonderful world/universe around us. If you wonder what else is there but this life? The answer is Nothing, that's what! That's right – we came from nothing and will end with nothing, pretty simple really. I'm not a Nihlist but that's the sad but true fact of human life. Knowing that though I am not afraid of death, it's the act of dying that I'm not too keen on. I certainly don't want to die at the hands of someone who thinks they have a higher calling and makes me the victim. I know that I will die one day as I am but a mere mortal simply made up of atoms/molecules and various genetic material. So, I won't be going to 'heaven' or 'hell', to me these are more mythical concepts organised religions use to keep people in line. These concepts should be consigned to times past such as 'the dark ages' when folks didn't know better. My 'heaven' is my best day and my 'hell' is my worst day on this mortal coil. To those with faith I guess I am the ultimate infidel, unbeliever and heretic. All I say to them is “This is It, folks” “Get Over It” and stop trying to convince me otherwise. Again, I wish people would read more fact than fiction, try 'The God Delusion', to me it was like preaching to the converted but to you it might be a revelation.

 

 

 

Atheists do not cause wars, we do not start wars in the name of err... 'sorry, no God here just science and enquiry' and certainly we don't bring barbaric antiquated practices straight out of a work of fable, of fiction, of storytelling to the table. Now some might say “what about Hitler and Stalin?” Hmm.. I reckon they went with other skewed ideologies, like those of pure race based thinking in the case of Hitler and skewed them further for their own ends. Now I like a bit of Friedrich Nietzsche now and again but that doesn't mean I simply subscribe to the superhuman idea. No, we Atheists leave barbarity to fanatical religious bigots and ideologues, let's look to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the more recent atrocities committed by groups like Al Quaeda and Islamic State.

 

Now, the question of whether religion leads to violence or does violence lead to religion is an interesting one, sort of a chicken or the egg hypothetical. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I guess in a time before organised religion, you know back in the day of the cave dweller there was certainly violence born from simple competition for resources and procreation. I'm pretty sure there was also some form of empathy, cooperation and understanding so religion has no trademark/copyright on these humanist concepts either. There hasn't been much time since then that some religion hasn't proclaimed its word to be the one and only using its sphere of influence over great chunks of the world. So, truly secular humanist/atheist societies haven't come to the fore as yet.

 

However, we are out there and we do not deserve the scorn and mistrust that some folks with faith would have you believe. I happily look to a list of names, a list that contains names like Stephen Fry, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Peter Singer, Ricky Gervais, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris and oh so many more. These are big names in their individual fields now and they are seen to rally for reason. Many more will not put their hands up publicly and 'come out' as atheists, they might say they are agnostics, just simply sceptics or even amongst those who are 'non-practicing' but they are there, even in public office. They may do this out of fear of being socially 'sent to coventry' especially in locations and societies where religion and religious observance is paramount. Nobody wants to be 'the only one in the room' and no man is an island. They may also do it because they simply can't be bothered with all the questioning and silly talk of eating of the body and drinking of the blood. However, let's see how an Atheist would do in Islamic countries where Sharia law prohibits them or even in Jewish orthodox areas of Israel. Not very well, I suspect, we tend to follow the 'when in Rome, do what the Romans do' philosophy just to get by.

 

Even, well may we say, in the 'bible belt' of the good old United States of America where Atheists are mistrusted more than used car salesman and worse. They say an Atheist can't be elected to parliament in places like that despite the cornerstone of democracy and freedom including ideals of separation of church and state. Even reading 'in God we Trust' would be considered rude to an atheist and yet that is what we're subjected to on a regular basis. So, maybe Atheists are among the truly oppressed?! Luckily, here in Australia we have two versions of the citizenship oath, one mentions God and the other doesn't. I know this because my partner did it in her ceremony and I recited an oath too, guess which versions we chose? That oath also solemnly states that we follow the law of the land and respect the culture of this great country. In this era of unease this too has been turned by some to state that 'you either love it or leave!'

 

The relatively recent focus on and probable rise in fundamentalism, the radicalisation of Islam is one example of how an already skewed ideology can be skewed further to violence, hatred and ultimately hypocrisy. For all those who say it's a religion of peace, turn on your televisions, look at the internet, read a newspaper and you will see where in the world peace is and is not. They say that if you dont watch the news then your uninformed but that if you do watch it then you are misinformed, however ignorance might be bliss for the ignorant but for the rest of us its a pain in the rear. Truth sounds like hate to those who hate truth. The truth is that peace won't be in places where this particular religion and strict religious observance is the rule. Now, some critics say that this ideology is skewed because it comes from the words of a warlord turned prophet. Well, having done a quick reading of the history this prophet was not the 'singing kumbaya' type prophet that the Christian faith espouses but we have to look at him in the context of time in history and societal norms back then. Yes, he did engage in certain ancient practices that most of us would now frown upon in the modern world.

 

 

 

Have you ever played 'Chinese whispers'? A strange but revealing game isn't it. When I was in a youth group they played this game and it involved a small group of people passing on a message from one to the other by whispering. Now the message that came full-circle was not the same as what was sent out originally. Is this not a true reflection on religion itself and the stories that might have come from people in caves or people in boats before there was writing on scrolls? How then are those scrolls supposed to be interpreted for a more modern society? These are big questions but religion generally will tell you not even to ask, to just pray and have faith. They'll say the answer comes from on high like the Ten Commandments! Hmm.. perhaps someone was high on certain herbs at the time but I reckon it's yet another cop-out.

 

It has just been reported that a Sydney businessman is setting up an Australian Muslim Party. Now, not only is it bad timing coming just days after the city of Paris was attacked but I think it should be disallowed under our separation of church and state rules. I'm well aware that doesn't stand much of a chance of happening because the major parties and their representatives are always talking about their judaeo-christian beliefs. Somehow they then say they will represent all members of their constituency. How exactly does someone with strong anti-choice beliefs really represent me in parliament? I don't think so!

 

So, I say, let there be representation from the Muslim community just as there is from Indigenous Australians for example or let's say Jews, Buddhists, Hindus. Haven't they all got parties of their own too? No, why not? Oh, that's right folks, there is little or no representation from most of these minorities in Australia at present. Could this Muslim Party be another 'divide and conquer' movement and if elected are they going to press for Sharia Law? How is that representing all of their constituents? If this gets up, the one party I would definitely vote for if and when it forms is 'the Australian Atheist Party'. I will be in the first line to sign up to that one. I didn't know until writing this piece and performing a quick search of the internet that there is a Secular Australia Party, YAY let the party begin. If all of these were represented in parliament, it would sure make for some fiery debates.

 

Recently, during the discussions online about the Paris attacks I have put forward other ideas and re-tweeted much of the commentary I find interesting. Ideas such as the Syrian refugees being trained in Europe and returned to fight Islamic State and save their own homeland. This idea was put forward by a Minister in the Polish government recently. We saw this in Poland just before it was overrun by Germany and Russia on the brink of WWII, they continued to fight a resistance war and have come out the other side with much respect. Certainly, it took a long time and there were many lives lost. There are other lessons we can learn from WWII like what did America do to short-cut what they saw as a protracted battle with a fanatical enemy ie the Japanese? They went Nuclear, dropping two Atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This action lead to the surrender of the fanatical Japanese at the time and Victory in the Pacific. Of course, it also brought us to the brink of extinction during the Cold War and its arms race.

 

Now, what does modern medical science do to treat/beat different types of Cancer? They call it 'targeted radiation therapy' along with drastic surgery. You can't just negotiate with any form of cancer. All this being said, as an Atheist I think of just about all religion as some sort of cult following, which can sometimes turn deadly think David Koresh in Waco, Texas or Jim Jones at Jonestown. To me this is something akin to a cancer but I don't hate people with cancer unless they're also rabid righteous fundamentalists. Well, what is Islamic State? Put simply, it is another form of Cancer that is trying to spread itself all over the known world by brutal means. What should we do to beat back this particular cancer given that it is not a nation state with sovereign borders but is now in control of certain areas especially some oil-rich areas? Well, I think the answer is pretty clear. Of course, any form of violence is a slippery slope and this type of action would be very hard to swallow by and large.

 

I also look to the fact that if we had an effective United Nations that was not restricted by the veto powers of a few special-interest stakeholders then we could really bring change. If only it had a standing, well equipped fighting force with rules not only to observe but engage then we could rid the world of nasty dictators, certain corruption and perhaps some of these groups and their skewed ideologies. We wouldn't have to go down such a horrendous path of targeted nuclear strikes if the UN was seen to be tougher and more willing to fight fire with fire. Just take a moment to imagine that. Unfortunately, this is not reality when it comes to the UN and so nation states like the USA and its allies sometimes see themselves as doing the heavy lifting. Of course, who benefits from all this war talk and use of weapons? Ultimately, the arms dealers and manufacturers, that's who!! That's who loves these dirty wars and would sure love this type of dirty war in particular. I'm sure their PR firms are working overtime whipping up a frenzy in the media.

 

Every time someone talks about the terrorist threat and its link with a particular religion and how that might be problematic for this country and this society, people start calling each other 'racist', 'xenophobic' or 'islamophobic', again differentiating others and labelling them. Where were the 'anti-racists' when Muslims were protesting about some film or cartoon mocking their prophet and holding up signs saying 'behead those who insult the prophet'?? Yet they were out in force when the Reclaim Australia group marched?? Makes perfect sense to me, NOT!! There are those who will have extreme views on all sides and in all places around the world. If they call me a racist or a bigot, I will say who am I discriminating against? Yes, I am a proud Australian, born and raised in this country but I have never gone around draping myself in the Aussie flag and beating up on people who look different. In fact, I think of all skewed ideologies and rabid extremists as scary, not something to be taken lightly. Lets list them all shall we, it's going to be a long list. So, maybe it's more of a case of who am I not discriminating against? First of all, having a religion is not a racial group. People with the same faith tend to come from various racial groups, so in talking about religion in general or a particular religion and its divisiveness can not truly be called 'racism'. If anything, I suppose it could be considered 'religiousist' and that's not even a word.

 

 

 

Anyway, I know that this piece is not going to convert anyone over to my POV (Point Of View) I just felt the need to get it out there. I guess it will be seen as a rant by some of those who do read it, those who have their own take on these issues and they will probably shake their heads or even waggle their fingers at me. The sad but true fact is, my partner probably won't even read this let alone take notice of it, she is well aware of my views on religion anyway, so why would anyone else. I hasten to add that my other half/better half is from the Philippines and from a region there that has trouble with Islamic extremists, those who want their own sphere of influence in a majority Christian country. She has had family members killed at the hands of those who call themselves Muslims.

 

I have witnessed death too, the death of my mum not at the hands of others though but by a dreadful disease. A disease with which she fought a long battle with help not from some deity but from modern medical science. My mum was also once a Catholic but later called herself an Atheist, though I began to think of her as more on the Agnostic spectrum. The reason for this is that she believed JC (Jesus Christ) was a man but not necessarily the son of a deity. To think that a man in those times would be idolised for his early death and judicious treatment yet would now be so central to a long-established and rich land-owning cult is either truly amazing or truly frightening. The truth is even good old Christianity has changed its views on a lot of issues over time and continues to evolve. I would really like more Atheists to stand up and be counted, heck lets form that party and bring some reality back to politics not only in this country, hopefully it would, could and should be a world wide phenomenon. Imagine all the people.... oh why oh why am I singing like John Lennon??

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Latest comments

10.03 | 19:15

I have stood by and watched a with concern and love. I admire the way you have handled yourself and the situation. My love with you. In admiration. Fly

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10.03 | 14:07

Well, come back the TOG you old git. We will love you unconditionally there.

Seriously though, this is a good post. I am sorry for your pain mate.

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10.03 | 12:26

Spread your wings you dodo, you might be able to fly.

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24.06 | 14:03

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