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Life: A project (2)--The Failure of ReligionDaniel Johnson Salem-News.com
"If the history of the human race teaches any plain lessons,” said philosopher Lewis Mumford, ”this is one of them: Man cannot be trusted with absolutes."
(CALGARY, Alberta) - The meaning of life, for many, probably most, Americans, resides in a jingoist and chauvinistic attachment to flag and country. The Pledge of Allegiance was originally written in 1892 and has since been modified four times. It was officially recognized as the national pledge in 1942. The words “under God” were added in 1954 (at the height of the national paranoia called McCarthyism); those two words are the primary source of the bulk of America’s problems today.
To suggest that there is a separation of church and state in America is egregiously bogus, but again, many, probably most, Americans, don’t know the difference. With that in mind, I will here examine this alleged “god” and, in so doing, concomitantly examine the American “national character”.
Working on a tribute to American values, Sarah Palin has a new book scheduled for next fall titled: America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said that “no child under the age of fifteen should receive instruction in subjects which may possibly be the vehicle of serious error, such as philosophy or religion, for wrong notions imbibed early can seldom be rooted out, and of all the intellectual faculties, judgment is the last to arrive at maturity.”
Those most likely to recite the Pledge every day, are small children in schools, who cannot really give their consent or even completely understand the Pledge they are taking. They are further brainwashed in Sunday Schools.
It’s this psychological need to brainwash that is behind the insistence by authority figures—political and religious—to ensure beliefs are ingrained as early as possible. As the Jesuits are alleged to have said: Give me a child at six and I will have him for life. Whether any Jesuit actually said that is moot because it is true.
Coincident with the presidency of Ronald Reagan was the rise of the so-called Moral Majority led by Jerry Falwell who summed up the American religious orthodoxy by saying, among other things:
Billy Graham has been a spiritual adviser to American presidents starting with Harry Truman and, in that position, has wielded immense influence over the American religious character.
In 1946 the Canadian evangelist Charles Templeton and Torrey Johnson founded Youth [remember Schopenhauer] For Christ International. Johnson became its first president and Billy Graham was hired as the first full-time evangelist. After that, Graham and Templeton began evangelistic tours, team-preaching to huge crowds across Europe and North America.
At a 1954 Los Angeles revival, a fellow evangelist accused Graham of setting religion back 100 years, to which Graham replied, "I did indeed want to set religion back, not just 100 years but 1,900 years, to the Book of Acts, when first century followers of Christ were accused of turning the Roman Empire upside down."
By 1957 Templeton had lost his evangelical beliefs and declared himself an agnostic. He later outlined his religious background in a memoir, Farewell to God where he describes the Genesis creator as totally unlike the omniscient and loving god of Christian theology. He is inept; lacks foresight; is unjust, vindictive, gender biased, not omniscient and subject to fatigue (which is why he had to rest on the seventh day).
“The God of the Old Testament is utterly unlike the God believed in by most practicing Christians. He is an all-too-human deity with the human failings, weaknesses, and passions of men—but on a grand scale. His justice is often, by modern standards, outrageous, and his prejudices are deep-seated and inflexible. He is biased, querulous, vindictive, and jealous of his prerogatives.”
He is not a god of “love”: “ Behold: I am He and there is no God beside me. It is I who kills and makes alive. I wound and I heal. When I have whetted my glittering sword, I will have vengeance on my adversaries. I will make my arrows drunk with blood. My sword shall feed on flesh, on the blood of the wounded and the captives...”
After the conquest of Canaan the psalmist says: “Happy be he who takes their little ones and dashes them against a rock. God will shatter the heads of his enemies so that you may bathe your feet in blood and the tongues of your dogs lap their share of the enemy.”
“Is there in history a bloodier tale?” Templeton asks. “Who can begin to measure the horror? The hand-to-hand fighting of that time was horrible. Few were killed with a single slash of the sword or thrust of the spear. Death often did not come quickly, as it so often does in modern war with the deadly impact of bullets and shells and bombs. And after each battle there would be hundreds of wounded to be dispatched. The order from Yahweh was that none were to be left alive. Can the reader believe for a moment that, if there is a God, he is like this?”
Templeton summarizes: “In the Middle Ages, in particular, the Christian church approximated a terrorist organization… In France and, later, in other parts of Europe, beginning in the fourteenth century and peaking in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, tens of thousands of innocent men and women—even children—were persecuted, arrested, imprisoned, tried in secret, tortured, flayed, hanged, or burned at the stake in a protracted obsession with heretics, witches, sorcerers, black magic and demon-possession”.
The Cathars of the 13th century rejected Catholicism, believing that the world had been created by a force of darkness, and that all earthly activity was tainted and sinful (God had only created Heaven). Aspiring to the purity of early Christianity, they were appalled by the worldliness of the medieval papacy and its debauched clerics (not terribly different from today).
Almost exactly eight hundred years ago they established themselves in fortress redoubts in south western France. Pope Innocent III was distressed by their growing popularity and in 1208 declared a crusade to eliminate them as a theological threat.
Crusaders from northern France and Germany obeyed the Pope’s call, and laid siege to the Cathar strongholds, slaughtering the heretics and pillaging their lands with a savagery that was extreme even by the standards of the Middle Ages. In Béziers, over 15,000 men, women and children—the entire population of the town as well as hordes of innocent refugees—were slaughtered. It was here that the crusader monk Armond Amaury famously told his troops, when asked whom to spare: “Kill them all, God will know his own.”
The Cathars spent 1209 heroically fending off the onslaught. Simon de Montfort, a certified sadist, resorted to psychological warfare. He ordered his men to gouge out the eyes of 100 prisoners, cut off their noses and lips, then sent them back to the Cathar towers led by a prisoner with one remaining eye.
They held out until 1211, before capitulating. One by one, the Cathar towns and strongholds fell and by 1229 the heresy was crushed.
The Thirty Years War 1618-1648
The Thirty Years' War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history. Initially fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, it was fought primarily (though not entirely) in what is now Germany and at different times involved most of the countries of Europe. It eventually went beyond religion, as disputes over the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire grew to play a significant role. During those three decades 40% of the European population perished—battle, disease and starvation.
Philosopher Richard Watson describes Christianity:
“Jesus started a religion one of whose most distinguishing characteristics is the presentation of women, marriage and human sexuality as evil, and in whose name hundreds of millions of people have been slaughtered, yet Christianity is revered as a religion of love.”
This is the religion of America and contributes much to understanding why the nation is so internally violent and outwardly belligerent to other nations. The United States is a de facto theocracy for all that Americans pretend to believe they are the "freest" in the world. There are none so blind as those who will not see.
How the United States arrived at this sorry state of affairs is the subject of the second part of my review of Susan Jaboby’s book The Age of American Unreason.
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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