Saturday, June 11, 2016

ISIS, atheists, and others

There's always more,
 perhaps infinitely
 more ...
It never occurred to me as a kid that the world might be limited to the size of my understanding. We always knew there was more. Perhaps our father taught us that.

Later in life, when I encountered angry atheists, and similarly angry religious folks, I didn't understand the anger. If we think differently, must we be mad about it?

Then I saw that anger tends to spring up and perhaps violence as well between any groups that disagree about anything.  Are we supposed to hate those who are working from some different starting point than we?  Brawling soccer fans come to mind.
A quick look at ideological violence (from a somewhat objective distance):

ISIS (and Al Qaeda before them) have horrified the world with their violent extremes.  The public face of Islam they offer (their extremist version) is inhumanly brutal, and murderous.  It's minimally related to religion and is more decipherable as a narrowed response to the diversity and ambiguity of the world's cultures.  It's much like the Crusades a thousand years ago.  In fact, it's virtually identical, but more about that in a moment.

I spent a couple of years corresponding with ex-Christians.  Most were furiously anti-church, anti-religion, anti-bible, etc.  Each, it appeared, had been badly treated by fundamentalist religion. Demanding and judgemental, criticism and condemnation, and destructive exclusion, these were common in their various personal stories.  They had been expected to listen and agree and comply with the teachings without question.  Christianity makes no provision for such practice.  Of course.

The question for us all, are we supposed to hate each other if we don't agree?  Do we have a choice in the matter of how we respond?

We could just continue killing and hating and justifying it, I suppose.   Did you know that killing someone* is morally neutral, as long as your intentions are good?  Not true, of course, but that was the published and accepted rationale in the early years of so called 'Christian warfare'.
  • 400 A.D.  Augustine gave us a narrow definition for a 'just war'.  Later, Thomas Aquinas further explained, it must be a war with good intent, expressing the love of God, and without desire for gain.  Despite their attempts at reason and restraint ...
The definition of holy war went downhill.  Leadership of 'the church' became national authority and corrupt, indistinguishable from secular government and empire.  A couple of interesting doctrinal changes they made:
  • 1) Violence in holy war is morally neutral rather than evil, leaders decided. The offered analogy is to a surgeon, who cuts into the body, thus injuring it, in order to make it better and healthier.
  • 2) Christ is concerned with the political order of man, and intends for his agents on earth, kings, popes, bishops, to establish on earth a Christian Republic that is a 'single, universal, transcendental state’ ruled by Christ through the magistrates he endowed with authority.**  That was the offered propaganda.
Defending that Christian Republic against God’s enemies, whether foreign infidel or domestic heretics and Jews became a moral imperative.  A Crusade became a holy war fought for the recovery of Christian property or defense of the Church or the Christian people. It could be waged against Turks in Palestine, Muslims in Spain, pagan Slavs in the Baltic, or heretics in southern France, all of whom were enemies or rebels against God.
Christianity makes no provision for such behavior, just the corrupted, propagandized version.
  • So, in 1099 A.D.   The First Crusade deploys around 20,000 combatants and captures Jerusalem, massacring its inhabitants, Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. The Crusaders divide up their new territories, and Godfrey of Bouillon is named “defender of the Holy Sepulcher” and ruler of Jerusalem.
And that brings us to ISIS today.  And to polarized politics, polarized religion and anti-religion, and to conflict in modern life.  From mild to vicious and deadly, conflict persists today for reasonless reasons, killing and hating and justifying it.  It is perhaps the easy response to fear and perceived threat.***

Might God have a different opinion on the subject, and can we understand?  If we have any choice in the matter, that would be information worth pursuing, even if it took a lifetime ... or we can just exist, crippled by fear and anger and hatred as so many apparently do.

Beyond ourselves, we must introduce our children to the good path since they'll face the same world every day.  If we don't teach them well, they'll spend a lifetime fighting their own way out, won't they.  :)

If you have other thoughts on any of this, feel free to offer a critique.
*** Here is some info on why conflict happens and how it works.
**   The Crusades: a history by Jonathan Riley-Smith, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Cambridge
*     Thanks and a hat tip to Dr. Richard Abels, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis.

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