If interested in The Match!, the magazine in which this piece appeared, write to the publication at: The Match!, PO Box 3012, Tucson, AZ 85702 It is not and will probably never be available on the Internet. Subscriptions are technically free but I heavily encourage you to donate money if you're interested. Thanks to J. for help with this. In case you've forgotten what a byline is: These are Woodworth's opinions, not mine. - B.
Religion scores another hitby Fred Woodworth
(from The Match!, No. 97, Winter 2001-2002)
Religion scores another hit. In the sad history of the human race, god delusions have been responsible for more death and suffering than anything else except, possibly, disease. Now crazy fanatics have again lit the fire that has destroyed and mangled thousands of lives, and before it subsides (temporarily) once more some other unthinkable number of persons will be blasted out of existence, or poisoned, or shot, infected with ghastly, fatal diseases, and removed from this world - the only world there is.
Ideas drive the behavior of mankind, and flawed or insane ideas lead without fail to actions ranging from unfortunate to monstrous. This is precisely why we have to utter a groan of horror every day now.
First a terrorist holocaust, driven by the insane ideas of the world's most authoritarian religion, wipes out six thousand people in a moment. Then, instead of realizing that if any "god" (that is any all-knowing, all-powerful being) existed, he or it would have been uniquely positioned to stop this tragedy, the country of the persons who were eradicated plunges into an exact mirror-image of the moronic delusion that animated the terrorists themselves: it sings hymns to the god, it prays to the god. It thanks the god! It promises to root out the evil maniacs, and those are defined as anybody who even knew about the terrorist plots, yet it excuses and worhsips the one entity which, by all operating definitions, certainly had to know if anybody ever knew.
Rather than draw the simple, plain conclusion that there is no such thing as any "god," people rush to behave just like the madmen who've been hypnotized into mental illness by their own so-called holy book. Government and Church fuse together once more, thus uniting again into a potentially repressive force several times worse than either of them separately, willfully overlooking the horrific Islamic model of such unification that set the current world bonfire blazing. At religious "services" the entire federal horde, seemingly, sat in over-dressed and nervous subjection to preaching god-men straight out of the 1400s, just like Mohammed-rabid Allah-ululators who are actually still living in their own 1400s - a so significant fact that no one seems to notice.
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The essential bankruptcy of religious advocates is revealed in their responses to a recent question posed to various church ministers here. The basic query was Why would God let this happen? Of course, you can see what is wrong with that question; it still has built into it the supposition that there is a "god," and it crawls around the real question, which is better stated as Does the fact that this happened indicate to you that there is no god, or are you able to still believe that god exists, but that he just didn't feel like doing a couple of extremely minor things to ward it off?
All the religionists who were asked skirted the question in what looked like desperation, and would have been remarked on by reporters had it been some political figure writhing to get out of an inquiry by trying to hedge that
"it depends on what the definition of is is." One said: "God gives us free will." (That wasn't the question, was it?) Another responded: "We have to remember that God's original purpose did not include violence of any kind. The problem is sin." Not the question.
Another: "God does care about what happens to us; however, his allowing humans to suffer trials and tribulations over the many years has a purpose: to determine whether humans can rule themselves independent from God, or whether rule by God is necessary." (Considering that people have lived on the planet for tens of thousands of years, how long is this idiot "God" going to take to make this determination, particularly when he isn't a god at all if he does not know the future?)
Another: "I actually don't believe that God allows these kinds of things... I think that God weeps with us in the midst of a horrible tragedy like this." (Still didn't answer the question! But raises another: if he didn't allow it, was he powerless to prevent it?)
Another: "The larger question, of course, is why God permits any human evil to exist." (Thanks a lot; by shifting off to this "larger question," you didn't respond to either one, large or "small.")
Another: "God's work in the world is redemptive, to rebuild the disasters and the chaos that we create." (Pretty good; you weasel out of answering the question, but still manage to rig the game so "god" gets credit for anything good, but never for anything bad.)
Another: 'If he has allowed it to happen, it presents us a graphic demonstration of our need to better unify the world." (The question! How about answering the question?)
Yet another religious "leader" meandered around an answer that was basically "I don't know": "I really don't believe this is of God. I truly believe this is about hate. To me, God is not of hate, God is of love. Why would God have this happen? That is a good question."
The truth is, religion doesn't have any cogent answers to anything, and particularly to basic questions such as "Why does religion exist at all? Why should we pray to a being who never answers? Why thank him for some events, but others arbitrarily proclaim he must have had nothing to do with?
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Whatever the results of Sept. 11, it's time to realize that religion is the enemy of mankind. The start may be here of World War III, or the conflagration may die back if those who deserve to be executed actually receive, for once, the "justice" which governments so constantly promise but only seem to deliver accidentally and sporadically. But let's be clear that Islam is not some noble ideal that has been perverted by a few foul mullahs and weird rich or suicidal fanatics. They haven't warped or misconstrued the religion; they have it right - death by fire to the infidels and unbelievers is precisely what their "holy book" dictates. For a look at this brutal "Koran," see our review of it elsewhere in this issue. Lately there's a lot of pious talk about how "Islam is really a religion of peace." Well, it isn't. The fact is that Islam is worse than any other of the widespread mental illnesses. Religions are all fundamentally life-denying, freedom-hating, garbled, contradictory relics of days when schizophrenia wasn't recognized as an illness. Today, the only people who really work at incorporating all of any holy book's mad tenets into their own lives are those who are isolated and undereducated. For them repeated re-reading and chanting and dwelling on such texts contributes to a form of brainwashing or hypnotic dazing. Many kinds of religious madmen have plunged off this deep end and turned into vicious murderers: Catholic Inquisitors, for instance, witch-trial hysterics; and this is definitely the case with Islamic "fundamentalists" (which is to say, those who really profess to believe in the religion at all, as opposed to ignoring three-fourths of it but still keeping the label).
Christianity is brutal too, but it has had more years to mellow, to get over the flaring-up of its own deadliest infections, to some degree. It passed through its Dark Ages, through its rabidly inquisitorial and murderous periods, its persecutions of women, its stonings, its drawing-and-quartering torture-executions. The Drug War is a lasting remnant of this moralistic auhtoritarianism; but to a large degree western civilization has brushed aside the ranting lunatics of biblical religionism and tacitly agreed to go forward with science and medicine and art and literature. Society was still nominally christian but it had antibodies against the worst pustules and gangrenous microbes, so could more or less live with its affliction.
But with the attacks by an even crazier religion, the dormant illness becomes re-energized. For this reason, September 11 is becoming an even worse tragedy.
Freedom cannot exist in an Islamic culture. It exists only sparsely in a nominally Christian one, and with the praying and religious/patriotic rituals going on in every public place now, an atheist and a non-saluter of the flag is clearly unwelcome and maybe in danger, so even the sparse freedom is slipping away.
The essentially religious war now under way is going to set the values of this once very feebly secular society back many years. Islam is not going to win; it has shamed itself and to normal people in the rest of the world it appears as a decidely unclean phenomenon. (Mohammed declared all of us "infidels" and "unbelievers" to be unclean, so the least we can do is reciprocate. I bet atheists bathe more often than he did.) But even if Islam has largely ruined its own secularists' hopes of transforming it by selective overlooking into a "civilized" religion, it will launch a lot of poison and death into the world before it gives up to go skulk around and resume stoning women and gay people. In its frenzied launchings of suicide bombs, anthrax infections, poisonous mail packages, etc., it will have a massive impact on such previous tottering relics as nationalism, patriotism, enforced symbolic conformism, and so on. The kid who won't say the pledge of allegiance in school will again face a harsh extra-legal penalty, and the employee who overtly refuses to put on a flag pin may well be fired ( for "other" reasons, of course).
Atheists and ethical Anarchists can only draw back from this incredible 21st century religious war.
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Like a snowfall that temporarily covers all that is around you, and obscures actual features so that for the time being even a field of litter and junked car parts looks beautiful, the recent events make cops look heroic and officials look knowledgeable and competent. This is an illusion. We haven't forgotten what the ground really looks like, and articles in this issue show it as it is and will soon appear again.