What is it with medieval maniacs beheading people? Here we are again, with Taliban lunatics cutting the heads off people for attending a party.
What’s that about? What is wrong with those who use religion to impose a miserable, life-hating point of view on normal people?
I think it has nothing to do with the particular religious ideology they claim to follow, and everything to do with a sort of societal insanity.
Right now, the focus is on Muslim lunatics, thanks to GW Bush’s War on Tourism, although anyone looking at the United States would wonder which is the more extreme religious fundamentalism, Islam or American Christianity. After all, while extreme Islam has been responsible for murdering three thousand people in New York, you might argue that extreme Christianity has killed many times that number, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let’s remember, Saddam Hussein had nothing whatever to do with the 9-11 attacks, and yet a big lie was sold to the American public by the likes of Cheney — an insinuation that the Iraqis had somehow attacked the United States. This was a doubly-ironic lie, since most of the attackers were Saudi and represented the views of the most vile, hypocritical and extreme Islamic ideology on the face of the planet.
Irony upon irony. Hypocrisy piled on top of hypocrisy. It didn’t suit GW Bush’s media machine to acknowledge that he and the Saudis were tightly bound up with each other in business, just as his Vice-President was. And it didn’t suit the Saudi royal family to admit that they have no interest whatsoever in religion, and that, once they arrive in the West, they drink and whore just like any other Middle-Eastern billionaire.
A scapegoat had to be found and that scapegoat might easily have been trained in Despot Central Casting. Saddam Hussein ticked all the boxes of the Vile Dictator test, apart from one: he was not religious. In Saddam’s Iraq, you were free to follow any religion you wanted. You were free to be an atheist if you so chose. It was no handicap to be a woman: you could follow any career you wanted, regardless of your gender, much like you could in Bashar al-Assad’s present-day Syria, as long as you didn’t oppose the government.
And yet, in insular America, Saddam was portrayed as an Islamic extremist terrorist. On that basis, every redneck in the States saluted the flag and got behind Our Heroic Boys as they marched on those bad guys who attacked New York, even though those bad guys had nothing whatsoever to do with the events of September 11. Thus we had an army of young men defending the United States from an enemy who had never attacked it in the first place.
It was I Am Legend made large. An entire nation failed to understand that it was the bad guy. And back home, the Baptist congregations continued to Praise the Lawd, while remaining completely oblivious to the fact that they and the orthodox Muslims they hate are exactly the same. Does it just come down to a difference in presentation? If you machine-gun civilians from an Apache while playing the Killers, is that somehow better than setting off a suicide bomb while reciting the Koran?
Religion and State are separated by constitutional guarantee in the United States, and yet there’s no chance of being elected President if you happen to be an atheist, or gay, or even unmarried. Why is that? If that restriction existed in the Middle East, what would we call it?
I have no time for religion. I think it’s a form of mental illness, and in saying that I include Islam, Christianity, Shinto, Judaism, Buddhism and all the other disorders. But at the same time it’s true that religions go through cyclical changes. In the 21st century, certain Islamic factions are engaged in murder, as are certain Christian sects, including those who currently hold power in the United States. In Palestine, the homicidal and insane Hamas is in power, giving the Israeli army an excuse to crush the ordinary Palestinians in the world’s biggest concentration camp. In the 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, as he came to be known, saw no difficulty with slaughtering Muslims in the Middle-East, yet despite that, he earned the respect and honour of all Europe. More recently, on our doorstep, we saw the Croatian Ustasha, one of the most evil regimes of the 20th century inflict genocide on their fellow Christians, the Serbs, and on the Jews, during the second world war. And of course, we witnessed the German extermination of the European Jews, a monumental crime with few parallels.
I’m appalled at the behaviour of the medieval Taliban beheading people in Afghanistan. But I’m also appalled at the behaviour of the US armed forces destroying Iraq, a country that never attacked them. And I’m appalled at what the Nazis did to the European Jews. I’m appalled at the Turkish genocide of the Armenians. I’m appalled at what the Hutus did to the Tutsis in Rwanda. I’m appalled at what the Israelis did to Gaza. I’m appalled at the ignorant Islamic idiots who who reacted as they did to the Jyllands-Posten article. And I’m appalled at the sectarian murders on both sides of the conflict on this island, carried out by people who were either evil or ignorant.
Sometimes I lose patience with people who make comments on this site, as one did recently, reminding me that Muslims wouldn’t put up with my attitudes the same way Catholics do. It’s usually accompanied by a reminder that Catholics don’t kill their critics these days. This is an extraordinarily uninformed comment, combining a slur against Muslims with a physical threat against me.
Here’s what I think about religion. It’s insane. It caters to people’s need for a little bit of magic in their lives, but it doesn’t mean anyone needs to be a murderer. Most people, whether they happen to be Christian, Muslim or atheist, just want to lead a quiet, peaceful life without lunatics stirring things up.