Thursday, 8 January 2015

Perverted Religion and Hypocrisy

As once again we find the basic bourgeois freedom of free expression under threat from vile reactionaries, the response of some has once again been to try to provide excuses for the mediaevalist, murdering scum responsible. Some of that response, by those who have allied with political Islam, is of the noxious, opportunist type we have seen in the past, of blaming imperialism, for its intervention in the Middle East. It seems incapable of putting forward a positive socialist opposition to that imperialist intervention, without simultaneously putting itself on the same side as the even more reactionary forces of political Islam. It is the same kind of “Third Campism” that, as Trotsky predicted, was unable to put forward a positive socialist opposition to Stalinism, without simultaneously putting itself on the same side as imperialism. But, the response has also been the usual one of blaming these murderous acts on “fanatics”, people who act against the true peaceful nature of Islam, a nature it shares with all other religions. In doing so, it fails to tackle the root cause of such acts.

The root cause of those acts is not imperialist intervention, nor is it the conditions of poverty in which people live in parts of France, and elsewhere, nor is it a sense of alienation from the host society, a failure to integrate and so on. All of those things may contribute to providing the foot soldiers, the human material for carrying out such barbarism, but the root cause lies with religion itself. Not just with Islam as a religion, but with all religion. When assorted representatives of liberalism, whether they call themselves conservatives, liberals or even socialists, try to write these acts off as being a perverted form of religion, the acts of people who are acting contrary to the principles of the religion they claim to adhere to, therefore, they are simply apologising for their failure to tackle the root cause itself, and they are ensuring that these events will continue to occur. Religion is the swamp within which these ideas are allowed to be fermented, and out of which they crawl to infest the rest of society. If we want to stop these actions occurring in future, the time has come to drain the religious swamp.

That doesn't mean some kind of Stalinist, bureaucratic prohibition of religion. That would simply be to send it underground, and make it even more poisonous. It would also be to use the same kind of censorious approach of religion itself. But, for too long secularists, and secular society have been prepared to live in a state of peaceful co-existence with religion. In fact, as some have pointed out, where such a state of co-existence with Judaeo-Christian religion has existed for some time, not even that has existed with Islam, which has been granted a special role, apparently out of fear, compared to other faiths. For example, the mainstream media refused to publish the Danish cartoons, several years ago, and when the Jesus and Mo cartoons were replicated, the image of Mohammed was blurred out, but not that of Jesus.

The basis of the condition of peaceful co-existence, has been a tacit agreement, that secular society would leave the religionists to wallow in their own God delusions, provided the believers agreed to be thoroughly hypocritical in their faith, and did not try to pursue it consistently. In much of Europe, religion became not an article of faith, but simply a tradition. The only time people went to Church was to get married, baptised, or buried. When some of the priests, who thought that this was hypocritical, spoke out, and even began to refuse to marry people who had never been to Church, they were quickly slapped down by their own organisation, that was desperate to get customers on any basis.

What this liberal secular society is finding it hard to get to grips with is not that the religious fundamentalists are acting out some kind of perverted form of religion, but that, on the contrary, they refuse to be part of this hypocritical entente. The real problem liberal secular society has is that the fundamentalists, of whichever religion, are in fact carrying their religion to its rational conclusion, and acting consistently in its defence.

An example, of the hypocrisy is in relation to this repeated claim that those who act violently in the name of their religion are acting against the true nature of the religion. All religions, we are told, are innately moral, and peaceful in nature. But, this flowery presentation of “God Is Love”, is completely at odds with reality, and it is no wonder that anyone who has been schooled assiduously from childhood in any of the world's faiths, should conclude that there is only one true religion, and often only one true God, that must be defended against His enemies, gun in hand if necessary.

And, indeed that same liberal secular state has often relied on such belief as a foundation of its own defence. When British soldiers went into battle around the globe to establish its Empire, and cast millions into slavery, they did so having been told by the representatives of the Christian Church in Britain, that they belonged to God's chosen country, and that in slaughtering millions they were doing God's work. In just the same way that its said that the job of an accountant is to go in and count up the dead after the battle is over, and the job of an auditor is to bayonet the wounded, so after British soldiers had imposed its rule, the job of the Christian Missionaries was to follow behind them, and convert the heathens, at the point of a bayonet. When British soldiers went into battle in WWI and WWII, they were told the same thing, even though the German soldiers they were killing, had been told by their own Christian religious leaders that they too were fighting in the interest of that same Christian God!

And, the fact is that anyone who had been consistently indoctrinated in the Christian faith from childhood, would find nothing odd with such violent acts, whereby the notion of “Love Your Enemy” is nowhere to be seen. The Judaeo-Christian religion is based upon both the Old and the New Testament. Whenever I have read the Old Testament the last thing that I see is a God of Love. Rather it reads like an epic novel, not of War and Peace, but of perpetual total war, whose fundamental basis is the idea that “My God is more powerful and more vicious than your God, and will help me to smite all of his enemies”.

But, the idea that the Christian religion is any better on the basis of the New Testament is also totally false. The New Testament is the work of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who in the fourth century A.D. had selected manuscripts collated into it. That is why various accounts of the life of Jesus from his contemporaries, including Mary Magdalene, were excluded, and hidden away. It formed a religious basis for the extension of the Holy Roman Empire across the globe, an Empire that was also not renowned for its peace loving ways.

We have, for example, the Borgias. A Pope renowned for political intrigue, as a means of spreading the family power across Europe, by spreading the power of the Catholic Church, renowned for hosting orgies in the Vatican, for fathering a child with his daughter and so on. We have one of his children, Lucrezia a renowned political intriguer, and poisoner, and a son, Cesare, who was the employer of, and model for Niccolo Machiavelli. The name “Old Nick”, as a pseudonym for the devil, is derived from Niccolo Machiavelli, but in reality, his work “The Prince”, is considered by many scholars to be a satire on the life and methods of Cesare Borgia.

But, similarly, we have the example of The Spanish Inquisition. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, but would those who claim that Christianity is all about peace and love, and that those who act violently in its name, have us believe that the Spanish Inquisition were not officially sanctioned by the Church?

My father remembered that in his youth, less than a hundred years ago, Catholics and Protestants, in Stoke, were organised in rival gangs. The same thing persists today in Glasgow, and other parts of Scotland, as well as in Liverpool, and most notably in the North of Ireland. And that is just a schism between two branches of the same Christian faith, let alone violent antagonism between the supporters of opposing Gods!

In the 1960's, the Christian Church in Britain was still powerful enough to have people locked up for blasphemy; to censor books, films, and magazines for outraging its morals, and so on. Mary Whitehouse even found justification for complaining about Noddy, and not Noddy Holder either. A couple of weeks ago I was watching a documentary about the wonderful Dave Allen who did so much during the 1960's and 70's to satirise the hypocrisy and nonsense of religion. But, it was also set out on that programme that his actions not only got his programmes banned in Ireland, but he also received death threats himself from the adherents of that Catholic faith, including the Official and Provisional IRA.

Some years ago, when I was lecturing, I had to teach a group of young mechanics, about half a dozen of whom were members of the local Pentecostal Church. I'd come across older people before with such fundamentalist beliefs, but to come across such young people who had grown up at a time of TV, of science education, and so on was still something of a surprise. But, education is a clear example of this hypocrisy. On the one hand, we have kids being taught science, on the other we have compulsory religious instruction! In a discussion I had with some of my old school teachers, after I'd become a teacher myself, having expressed the idea that religion had no place in school, their response was, “What would we do for several weeks before Christmas?”

In the US, we have had Christian fundamentalists blowing up abortion clinics, and using high powered rifles to shoot doctors and nurses for having the temerity to legally carry out abortions. We have some of the same lunatics now picketing abortion clinics in Britain, and applying pressure on those going into the clinics.

The Ku Klux Klan has also been associated with Protestant Christianity. It was militant Christians who objected to Jerry Springer The Opera, and tried to get it banned, no doubt finding their own inspiration once more given the cowardly response of the British media to the outrage over the Danish cartoons. We have also seen the banning of the play Beshti, as a result of similar violent opposition by Sikhs. Instead of tackling this religious intolerance, the British government introduced its own censorship, to provide religion with special protection against criticism.

If the response to the shootings in Paris is to find justifications for such acts, or to present those responsible as in some way just mavericks, acting against the true nature of essentially peaceful religions, secularists will have failed, and society will be setting itself up for further such attacks, encouraging other religious bigots to demand similar special treatment, and exemption from criticism and satire. Rather than going on to the defensive, secularists and socialists should go on the offensive against all such obscurantism.

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