Humanism and the quest for good in social constructs...
Why Religions are instruments of Fascism
By Gus Leonisky, From the Leonisky Institute of Gentle Humanistic Transformation (LIGHT)
“Moral relativism” is the great rallying cry of Christians who fear an erosion of moral certainty in the secular age. If God is taken out of the picture, where do we anchor our sense of right and wrong?
Pope Benedict XVI preached against the “dictatorship of relativism” that he believed infects life in the west. The new pope is not so adamant.
Gus Leonisky deconstructs/reconstructs/reverses John Milbank’s words in response to:
ABC Religion and Ethics -- 14 Mar 2017
7 April 2017 -- Gus Leonisky
In our world today, religion unfortunately is still a hot topic of public contestation for many good reasons.
Religions should have rightfully faded away from our social constructs. Religions should be regarded as antiquated fanciful source of motivation to social action and virtue, though the toleration of different private beliefs should not impact on the more important human liberty of relativism so despised by the former Pope.
Some people like John Milbank are still supporting the idea that religions, especially his own, are necessary and true in the social environment. In fact, organised religions, in whatever format they come, are the gateways to fascism.
Despite some mitigating factors such as personal devotion, compassion, and to some extend the concept of “universal love” which is quite new in the Christian religion, replacing the brimstone that was so promoted till the 18th century, religions are designed to make people submit, feel guilty and stop being curious about the world. This dissertation is thus dedicated to show that sciences -- which have greatly improved our human condition recently -- can help our social constructs far better than the religious hubris which has been sputtering for the last 4000 years.
Religions are fake news by definition -- dogmas without investigations. Religions have been used by internal and geopolitical forces as a base frame in the management of patriotic glory and to maintain a vague unity and ignorance in people. “God Bless America”. If you don’t subscribe to this idea, you must be a socialist.
Today, religion, as it has been in the past, is a pernicious invention with deleterious psychological, territorial and social consequences. It needs to be caged inside people’s heads but unfortunately, the men in power, have used it to control the uneducated people and kept them at their slaving station for exclusive benefit to the rich, not for the general social benefit. Public manifestations of religions, whether as to clothing, ritual, civic invocations and ingrained sexism, should not be acceptable. Please don’t buy Milbank’s argument that religions “have a long history of uncontested practice”. He should know better than mentioning history: it is a very poor frame of reference in this sad case. Religions HAVE BEEN contested since their inception, whether it was the Jews in search of their Promised Land, the Jews fighting the Philistines or any other pagan tribes, or Islam invading Europe in the 7-8th century and the bloody renaissance wars of religions. Religions have contested each others and despised the non-religious who were often put to death as witches or demons.
Religions are not the pretty little thing that Milbank tries to make us swallow. Religions are fascist hierachical structures and are the present facilitators of “Big Brother” inside the more of “liberal” societies, rendering people more docile to psychological manipulations of the state. The only way religions have survived so far has been by the use of violence to eliminate the opposition, including the removal of non-believers and “pagans” -- by exploiting the goodness in all of us and by sleeping snugly with the authorities.
Unfortunately, religious identity is subject to legal protection at the UN, even if these religious structures betray the rights of women or others, including the rights of non-believers. A case in point is Wahhabism. Expressions of free speech in relation to this ugly religion can only be regarded as fighting the persecution of said-rights, which this religion does impinge with dangerous decrees and deadly gobbledegook...
Protection of religious identity is perverse. As mentioned, Wahhabism is bound up with a national culture with suppression of other creeds and of atheism altogether. It’s not pretty. In the West we tend to accept other religious identity because, despite early opposition from the Christian religion, we have come to accept, with some religiously screaming, huffing and puffing, the SECULAR concept of identity -- and its generous acceptance of others. Nothing else. The concept of Secular identity is the most important factor in modern societies and should prevail over any religious protection.
In Germany for example today, most “moderate” Muslim Imams preach the rejection of German values to their flocks and are encouraging the construct of parallel societies within Germany. This is bound to incite more resentments and divides.
For the last few years, extreme religious militants from the Middle East have taken intolerance to a greater and murderous extreme. This intolerance was also the case during the wars of religions in Europe about 500 years ago, between the Catholics and the Protestants.
The present confrontation of religions in the West has now provoked a deserved secular backlash, not to be confused with “religious fear” in which hatred of “other” specific religious infiltration can becomes the focus. The secular position somehow calls for restrictions on the interference of any religion in public, and in private organisations such as schools, in which religions are designed to reinforce prejudicial constructed fake news at education level.
We should not take religious toleration, including the need of irreligion, at face value. Previously, in the West, the Christian religion was the main indoctrination and brainwashing venue, secured from the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century AD till the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries when scientific observations came along. Sciences challenged the religious hubris over its self-importance that religion had to be the only foundation of efficiently regulated societies.
So, why should secularity be once more under threat in the West? The ever-present human capacity to lapse back into the darkness of religious hubris is mind-boggling but understandable. It’s much easier to say “global warming is crap” than to study the complexity of why it’s not crap and scientifically understand that global warming is a threat to the future of this planet.
Secularity, scientific humanism and atheism are hard work and demand dedication in a social context, especially when they are fought day in and day out by the fake information of religions whichever they are. It’s much easier to believe in a super-creator that will look after us forever with fairy-dusted morality. This is the real summit of fake news, but it has a strong acceptance level with those who don’t want to think beyond the prejudiced front door.
Religions are prostitutes. Being the oldest profession in the world, we should have no problem in tolerating their existence, except for kings, despots and governments being their pimps. This is the major problem of our social context, worldwide, and the present media is not exclusively “occluding religion” per se. Most of the media, under the influence of politics and economic pressures will do its darndest to eliminate the philosophy of sciences that demands social humanism and scepticsm at the forefront and asks some hard questions. Most of the media is actually discreetly batting for the religious side. Western editorials, pictures, articles are more inclined to support the status quo which is anti-socialist, anti-humanist and anti-science. In Australia, women’s magazines are full of stories about princes, princesses and their glorious “charitable” life in full colour. This is all part of the con to make sure the succession to the deist Royal throne is assured, against a more honest secular social order -- namely a republic, or a real enlightened democracy.
USSR Communism imploded because of its need to constantly protect itself from thieves, and it became structurally unsound and stiff with too many levels of “controls” under the command of ruthless despots. In China by contrast, despite what fake news we throw at it, communism is far more robust because it offers a certain amount of personal flexibility and successful relative advantages for nearly a quarter of the human population on earth.
China is of course quite intolerant of religious hubris, especially that of the Christian and Muslim varieties, which it sees as it should be -- an unnecessary contrary burden toward proper happiness in a successful surviving and evolving atheistic social structure. In fact, we in the West have long considered “the China” as a slave territory to manufacture our cheap goods. But guess what? We have managed to enrich the Chinese to the point we seriously are now in debt. Why do you think the government lets its multi-millionaires flourish within China? I’ll give you a calculator if you don’t have one. When you are in debt, you need to sell the furniture and who’s going to buy your assets? The Chinese. This is the long game. This is why there are new laws in Australia to prevent pseudo-government firms buy private real estate in Australia. Only “genuine” private Chinese buyers can enter this market. But, when it comes to property like Darwin Harbour, the government of China can buy directly. Is this a stupid mismanagement of our assets or what?
From the maintenance of Eastern Orthodoxy in contemporary Russia, to the religious bogots in the United States and the Christianity in Latin America and Africa, there is an continuum of decided delusion for the status quo of political control. The head-pimp needs its prostitutes to make cash and have repeat custom from the devotees. When socialism took hold of some South American countries, the US empire made sure that it would not survive. These imperial thieves will rob you while making sure you don’t die, so they can rob you again and again of your bananas and oil. Invading you directly would be uncouth, though it has happened a few times, including in Iraq.
The rise of religion in education and in the political outlooks in Western Europe is more subdued because the battles between secularity and religious control have been fiercely fought and were “won” by the beginning of last century. Secularity is socially valued in Europe as it should, though it is still a bit unsteady, as Wahhabism is now wedging its dangerous fare from within.
Religion never stopped being a threat to social reality. Beliefs in god should be tolerated as an individual choice as long as it does not segregate genders and races, but organised religions should not be accepted at social structures level.
The illusory rise of religious hubris
The coincidence of present Christian revival say in the USA, while there is a noticeable decline in its religious practice and participation is somewhat paradoxical. Though the religious impact upon many aspects of daily life seems to be vanishing, sneaky governments need to maintain the religious bait in its constructs. The Donald got the vote of the religious right and this got him across the line (not the “Russians interference”). He also got the not so surprising vote of some of the younger generations in want of a “change” and who saw the “establishment” as an outdated self-serving structure, inertly planted in the way to more freedom and being a yoke on employment. Trump also got the vote of many women who see their role as “subservience with benefit”. That Trump delivers better government is debatable -- as his administration is loaded with rich rat bags, is scientifically illiterate and is self-serving.
There is no such paradox in countries where religion is the official ruledom. This is the case of many Muslim countries. Any thinker outside this strict government/religious framework is a traitor to the country and shall be “reformed” or killed.
Contrary to what Milbank claims, Liberalism has not given up on collective political projects. What has happened is that political projects like the EPA or trying to save the planet from global warming have been distracted from their purpose, targeted to fail by the well-structured religious-like powerful fossil fuel industries. The debasing tactic has been to cleverly promote individual choices by manipulating the marketplace (the cost of green electricity while giving subsidies to the coal industry) and through disinformation (pure mediatic lies).
Secularity is not a quasi-religious structure. It can’t be. It does not sell anything. Religions sell the impossible after-death future for tax-free cash, while massaging our fear of death. Religions are dogmatic, secularity is relative. In Western politics, proper republicanism, socialism, and radical Feminism STILL try to properly influence the public sphere through secularity and have not vanished from the scene -- some of them strongly hogging the social media debate though some are a bit amateurish in their push. But one has to admit that our Mediocre Mass Media de Mierda (MMMM) has given up on fairness and positivism by trying to give the most stupid greedy government of the day the benefit of the doubt, in various deceitful way including letting subterranean religious hubris infect the debate.
The churches behave as if Christianity was responsible for the original declaration of the “Rights of Man” [women don’t “exist” in most religious beliefs -- they are no more than subservient second class entities]. That appropriation of the origin of rights is codswallop. The Old Testament is full of bullshit that has nothing to do with human rights -- as it lodes slaves, harems, wars and concubines. This religious appropriation of rights, which tries to control the neo-liberalism of the right and the sought-after equality of the left while fostering an emerging nationalistic dogma, is a grand con-job designed to continue the brainwashing of people in a pseudo-comfort zone that has nothing to do with being naturally human.
Ethnic and cultural identity, like religion, are something that the universalism of human rights has to manage for better justice, but it can only do so much with these, due to cultural sensitivity and relativity of developments.
The present unfair distribution of individual rewards (the poor versus the rich) stems from most of the religious beliefs imbedded in governments which give the greedy rich a ten-paces start-up by stating divine rule while the poor are left behind to enjoy the struggle -- in the religious delusion that their time will come in the “other” world. Rather than being invited to share the pie, most poor have to survive by being given charity, a process that hypocritically inflates the compassion side of religion while maintaining the disparity. A con job!
It is a mathematical exponential equation that when you are near the zero level in status, the rich who climb up, increase their status in stratospheric proportion. In the older days, Kings and their courts were the only entities accessing such privileged richness by robbing someone, mostly the poor, while now in a democratic system, everyone “can” make it, though the rich will make sure, they get most of the loot and the poor inherit the debts. Religion at government level is used in this framework to make sure the rich prosper much better while the poor are robbed constantly and being fed the bull-ethics that they should work harder.
The pseudo-religious atavisms of blood and soil, and of economic class struggle, have been somewhat displaced by shifting the work overseas to countries like China and Bangladesh. This has inforced a new focus in Western employment -- mainly in entertainment and service industries. A new massaging of purpose has become paramount for maintaining social order -- including for stand-up comics, still too shy to take the piss out of religion because religions are a human right “protected area” and detractors could be sued. For many years, from about 400 AD to after the middle ages, the Catholic Church forbade some forms of secular “entertainment” in the same way as the Muslim Taliban forbids entertainment such as music, theatre and arts, in Afghanistan.
The resurgence of cultural nationalism -- which would have to accept fakery if such nationalism relied on its religious past -- is mostly reactionary to the acidic penetrating influence of globalisation, which is a euphemism for American imperialistic tendencies. This influence translates as a relentless invasion of commercial products with defined tastes, including MacDonald and Coca-Cola, and linguistic modifications and thought patterns in which bigoted religion is ever-present in the background. In the case of Europe, this US sub-invasion has been trying hard to make sure Europe does not fully succeed in its unity, for it could challenge the monopoly of the US economics and its controlling influences.
Russia has been fighting far more successfully the US invasion than Europe, but it still needs to be vigilant and give back as much as it gets, which of course annoys the Yankee doodle and its poodles. This is why its news network of Sputnik and RT are so successful -- and necessary to cut through the cultivated US bullshit, which whether it comes with good intentions or not, is still bullshit. For example, the US alliance with the most despotic -- and biggest sponsor of terror by far -- country on the planet, Saudi Arabia, is a disgrace.
The current British plight is misunderstood by its own people and by others. The nationalist appeal which was so derided in the Yes Minister comedy series with the English sausage, has nothing to do with the xenophobic debasement of religion, but with people being fed up with losing their sense of national destiny, under the invasion of refugees, migration and stupid dictums from the “Europeans”. In reality, the British government played a double game for too long, trying to serve two masters, the US and themselves, while giving mostly lip service to the EU. Keeping appearances have had no other better example than Mrs “Bouquet” (Bucket) now being outstaged by Theresa May, herself a religious devotee.
Nationalism tends to manipulate the religious power embedded with the imperial forces and give the individual more power, even with religious overtones, to counter a different local social humanist construct, even if its youth is enslaved by imperial twitters.
Contrary to what Milbank assures, religions have not always been global phenomena -- some were only local systems of control, but some reached further indeed -- sordidly allied with imperial ventures when conquering new lands. In various epochs, globalisation readily augmented religious identity and enhance the reach of religious influence under the radar, such as during conquests and colonialism. It was called missionary work. This is one of the many reasons why globalisation is somewhat rejected and nationalism comes in, when the shoe is on the other foot.
Modern transport and communications unfortunately permit the crap from religious vandalism to reconstitute itself as fake hope in the heart of those who suffer the most, the poor and the sick in the midst of their alienation and hardship from the rich, when they should be fully protected by a humanistic secularity and a scientifically crafted compassion.
The hypocrisy of religious freedom
Dubious political motivations and the rise of globalisation have unfortunately encouraged the return of some religious influence. Just how much does this return relate to a seeming decline in religious and general freedom?
An ethical secularisation has somewhat characterised the West since the 1960s. Up to that point, Christians, agnostics and atheists alike, where still living in a pseudo-legacy of Christian belief in decline -- if one dismisses nineteenth and twentieth-century arguments over slavery, women’s rights, divorce, homosexuality and sexual consent as issues disturbing this status, especially given the division of religious bodies themselves over these matters. Since the mid-nineteenth century, sciences have made an inroad into reshaping the understanding of social behaviour, through disciplines such as psychoanalysis and evolutionary genetics. Christian and traditionally metaphysical attitudes to explain life, death and consciousness, could not survive secular scientific examination, but for using various simplistic deceptions of the gullible.
The symbolic presence of Christianity has strongly interwoven its traditional tentacular illusions into civic life, such as the ringing of church bells, the formation of street processions and the punctuation of the passing seasons. This was grand rigmarole with traditional deceit that has no place in the scientific understanding of the evolution of the monkey. The rights of Christians to proselytise, whether on street corners or in the workplace, to wear symbols of their faith or to introduce such symbols into scientific secular places is appalling. This has lead to secular extra-annoying dictums, such as banning the burqa in France, as well as banning all religious symbols in public places to minimise the need for no-pig areas.
The cries of Christians in public office, according to religious beliefs, rather than promote the expected secular norms with questions of birth, sexuality, gender and death are getting increasingly desperate and are infringing on the rights of others.
Religious freedom was never the origin of all freedoms, only that to believe in the religious hubris, often under duress. The human rights to think freely should not maintain the organised religious privileges. Liberty was never a God-given right but a relative expression of our human relationships when we did not know better. As the illusive divine foundation collapses, the new purpose is to secure better subjective rights with a rigourous scientific/moral investigation of what really being human means, in relation to its comparative natural origins in evolution.
Modern law accepts that one’s religion is what an individual decides it to be. Fair enough. But organised religions are to be singled out when human rights are breached or restricted by such religions in greater secular social networks.
For example, Milbank mentions the rights of people to place religious symbols in a public cemetery in Florida would be a fair approach as long as the said people accepts the greater equal liberty of other people to place pagan or atheistic symbols, as well. This is often deemed unacceptable by the religious mobs and could create a chaos of signage in a place designed to honour the dead in peace. The mention of religion would require the secular State to decide on the bounds of the generally shared, which religion is taken to be in contradiction to its assumption that religion is self-defined by the individual believer and not by a corporate body, religious or political.
A more general right of freedom of expression and practice, is not to mention religion at all. This could involve an indifference to religious expression that would benefit both religious liberty and the freedom of all to criticise religion -- a position that is curtailed by laws against “giving offence,” in a secular decree that is too generously well-defined to protect antiquated religious belief.
The general secular approach is now designed to curtail the proselytising of religious bodies in public places. One may allow some religious group rights up to a point, but in the end, individual rights must prevail. The rules of a religious body must not be allowed to override the political rights, even if a majority of the members of a religious body wished to overturn those rules, despite their religious masters. The “majority” in many cases is only a small minority with bigger megaphones. If secularity chooses not to allow religious symbols in the public cemetery, beyond symbols on graves, so be it.
Progressive secular logic needs to minimise the influence of religion through laws. Religious bodies, as opposed to individuals, sustain themselves in ways whereby they often publicly interfere. In secularism, only the language of rights counts, requiring a necessary legal base to disallow any traditional religion committed to a public influence, for the future of the greater good.
It is illegitimate for any religious body to seek a democratic dispensation from certain enforceable laws, based upon its own norms. Depending on the religious beliefs, some people would get their hands chopped off, despite the secular laws being against it. This secular outlook disallows any moral belief to be above formal and utilitarian decisions.
Natural sciences studies and social statistical collections of more liberal (progressive) views present more acceptable and accurate behavioural opinions, obviously in blatant opposition to some people’s immature and erroneous religious ideas that are fuelling a strong reaction, which isn’t populism, but a better clarity of the atheistic mind. But like in everything, there are various degrees at which people understand the full value of humanistic clarity. There will be mixes of various religious influences in the secular outcome as we progress towards a better system of relationships -- individual and social.
Populism is fuelled by conflicting feelings, including the religious beliefs under siege and the fear of new religious/cultural invasion, incoming from our general generosity -- itself fueled by guilt of our past destruction of some cultures through colonialism.
Traditional religions now fall foul of the discourse of rights but are also contradicted by proper sciences which, in accordance with scientific protocols, do not claim more than they can possibly know (unlike religions), never show a-priori inferences, only express theories by experimentation and verification, in order to be establishing a greater knowledge and a better understanding of matter, space, energy and time, as our evolved human self-creating purpose on a small planet.
The Islamic conundrum
The present world expansion and incursion into the West by mostly Sunni Islam has vastly exacerbated many factors between religious beliefs and secularity of rights. Even in the “moderates”, Islam, especially Wahhabism, only cares about itself and loathes non-Islamic ideals, especially the secular concept. Pushed to the extreme, it encourages barbaric practices including terrorism, with a hypocritical whimper from the said “moderates” who nonetheless value and practice the “eye for an eye” justice.
Islam’s attitudes are viewed as antiquated by the West, mostly because similar practice also became the norm in the unfortunate development of Christianity for a while, culminating in the inquisition, the expulsion of the Jews and Arabs from Spain -- and the Conquistadors. These attitudes encourage many to doubt Islam sincerity (we have already been there). The extreme right-wing of the Western political sphere, mostly descendants of the ultra-nationalists Christians (Nazi) rightly accuse Islam of being nasty, retrograde and incompatible with the Western new sense of freedom which they (the Nazi) themselves bastardise. In regard to abuses by Islam, the destruction of Charlie Hebdo, 9/11, the fatwa on Salmam Rushdie and other occurrences including the latest bombing of a metro train in St Petersburg, Russia, are but a few sample of the contempt some elements of Islam hold for the West.
But the West has not helped itself either in this clash of beliefs. Creating turmoils with the bombing of some Islamic countries tend to harden the Islamic resolve of equal revenge (an eye for an eye), in which the religiously fanatics and the equally soldierised do not fear to die. It’s a modern war of religious proportion, secretly run for a wad of Western economic profits, in which the Western secular ideals are being dragged in and forced to take sides with refugees of totally different values to the system. This is complex and confusing for all, including for the poor refugees who have no idea about anything else but immediate survival. Their numbers is now comparable to those displaced by World War II. The mix of cultures is difficult to adjust to and creates more clashes. The combat between two forms of Islam does not help either, as our Western leaders have taken the Saudi side in the conflict. The choice of side is also complicated by history, including the cold war with former communist USSR, now Russia, which has taken the other side opposed to Saudi Wahhabism, the Iranian version of Islam, Shia. Where to from here?
Both versions of Islam are inflexible in their political control, while poised to take advantage of globalisation and get under our skin. They are peculiarly impervious to the secular discourse about rights, since they are, socially and politically, as well as individually, the proclaimed law of god as the only human behaviour allowed. Islam like all religion is cultivating a pseudo-rightfulness through deceit.
Thus, in the face of a conflicted Western political generosity, the Islamic versions have offered a nefariously strict religious structure, while it struggles to enter social modernity like Christianity is struggling to enter scientific modernity. Islam would not have survived, or would be in similar doldrums as classical Christianity but for the Arab (Sunni and Shia) oil reserves which provided a platform for Islam’s growing world influence, economically.
In order to weaken the hold of Islamic nations on the price of oil, devious devilish “economic” factors and many wars were devised by the West, from World War I onwards, including the exclusion of Bahrain in 1927 from its original greater ruler. By 1979, the West was dismayed that Iran reverted to its original religious identity, after having been under the control of a fake King (the Shah) imposed by the West since 1959. I still remember the Shah fabulous wedding to a “princess” called Farah Diba, which adorned the gawking Western MMMM, also praising the “modernisation” of Iran. In the 1980s, it was the war between Iraq and Iran (both supported and spurred-on by the West, with 2 million men killed), the war of the Taliban (supported by the West) against socialism in Afghanistan, The war against Iraq in 1990 (to maintain dominion over the oil fields of Bahrain), the still-going on war against Afghanistan started in 2001 as a “revenge”, to stop the spread of extremism Islam and to Westernise this country’s resources, the war against Iraq in 2003 (for the West to regain control of the oil fields, as Saddam was selling the oil in roubles), the war against Libya, which for all intent and purposes was a stable gem in Africa and was leading an economic independence seen as a threat to Western interests (especially Hillary Clinton’s) in the region. And now, the war against Syria’s leader Assad, who refused to let a Saudi pipeline through “his” country because this would damage his relationship with Russia. As well the strange war against Daesh is muddled by Daesh being a Wahhabi (Saudi) supported terrorist organisation. The list of other secret manipulative wars is extensive, including one being fought between Houthis, the poor of the poorest people, and Saudi-aligned in Yemen (The West -- the US -- is sponsoring the Saudis, while trying to stop Al Qaeda terrorist groups that are sponsored by the Saudis nonetheless). Haven’t we made a great mess in the name of the Oil religion? Where to from here? Which will be our next target, or is there enough Muslim refugees in Europe to say enough is enough?
Christian religions have scarcely been able to remain invisible with many bigoted Churches bigger than the Pantheon, in the USA. With its strict requirements as to prayer-times, fasting, food-preparation, segregation of men and women, restrictions of dress code and aspirations to build mosques and publicly audible calls to prayer, Islam can become more obvious and possibly more annoying than most.
In the West, these new influences invite a secular reaction to an excessive public influence that is intimidating. Islam exercises extreme control over its adherents, as disallowing apostasy or the attempted conversion of Muslims and not allowing any other religious activities within Islamic countries themselves. Islam severely punishes atheism.
For most secular liberals, the presence of Islam compounds their annoyance at religion as a whole: Islam is suppressive of individual freedoms, within and outside the strict framework of Islam. It’s not acceptable as a Western cultural building block in the same way Christianity was rightly rejected from government by the end of the nineteenth century in Europe. But not quite. “Christian democrats” still rule over Germany, in order to maintain an illusion of anti-socialism.
In regard to Islam, the Western generosity acquire from the Christian guilt can stretch so much, but the various threads are confusing.
Due to religious equalisation in different Western countries, the traditional crucifixes in Bavarian or Italian schools may have to be removed, or the crib-scene in the remote Languedoc railway-station, while the Muslim are also forbidden to express their faith in public. The wearing of Islamic headscarves by policewomen might have been sanctioned in Scotland, but other Christian religious activities are accepted there as well. This has to be considered a stupid behaviour from a scientific secular humanists, but there is little one can do to stop this religious contradictory adoptive process.
The growth of a discreet push in Shari’a law within European cities is somewhat regarded with alarm, and this is why -- not so much from a secular point of view that regards all religions as nonsense -- but from a religious development, many countries are now developing “nationalistic” counter-currents, confusing religious and secular movements alike.
This can go in many confusing directions -- such as the disallowance of female head-covering of various kinds in certain locations and insistence on not fully dressed female bathing. More concerns are actually shown by secularists, feminists and humanists over the inequalities suffered within Islam by Muslim women.
The tolerance of a priority in the case of Islam is not an ironically confirmation of liberalism, but a weak-kneed reaction by local Christians in charge of secularism. They have been geared to be generous to a fault, and guilty enough for having sowed this “new” problem by invading the Arabic countries in the first place. The defeated/victorious spirit of the crusades is still lurking.
Western civilisation managed to grow recently -- despite the “uniqueness of Greece” (where true philosophy was born in the West, while another true philosophy thrived in China), the “irreplaceability” (Hello?) of Israel, the “exemplarity of Rome” (that ransacked most of Europe for the glory of the Emperor, until Romans became too lazy to fight against the hordes of vandals) and despite the “truth” (relative bullshit) of Christianity. The words in quotes are those of Milbank, the words in parenthesis are those of Gus.
The reality is that sciences, and their adaptation through technologies, have been the proper generator of Western civilisation as it stands now, in 2017, not the religious incantations. Western civilisation despite the shift of style from the crappy middle-dark-ages to the flamboyance of the Renaissance could not have progressed without sciences any further than hand-sown breeches and ruffs. But sciences so far have not been allowed to give us a greater moral compass which sciences could, by deductions from our animalistic origins and a mix of imaginative scientific effective compassion and a better relative sense of love, as we still favour the domain of hocus-pocus, when relationships are concerned.
As well, the Western aspects of empire has been established to allow only one foreign element (the USA -- It’s a one way street, if you don’t like it, you’re dead meat) to control the most of the estates, creating an alien conflicting invasion of culture (Some people don’t like being invaded for whatever reason).
Thus in the case of Islam, seemingly coming from behind, especially given the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism in low-base social secular construct, but not in the rights of individuals, more religious influence on the social public structure of laws and justice has to be strongly opposed by the secular culture of rights.
Can compassion become a function of sciences? Can our imagination be measured in credits? Can our generosity become a sum total of our scientific experimentation? A lot these already are functions of our temporal consciousness, but we don’t accept this yet. We measure our compassion and our generosity against our fear of rejection and being aggressed. Science can provide better clues to the management of who we are, but we prefer the goody-goody.
It is important to note the distinctions between Church law and theology, between law and politics and between Church and civil law. This subtle discernment of different levels of jurisdiction and the necessary refusal to secularly absolutise freedom from a mysteriously transcendent god that gave a unique role for the individual person is at the complex intersection of these conflicting laws. This is why confessors were not allowed to report confessed sexual abuse by clergy to the authorities. This is one of the major problem in which secularity, especially a Royal Commission in Australia, has a job to do by unfortunately fossicking through the grief of the abused, but have often met a brick wall from the clergy, possibly protecting each others and their own abuse from religious “mentors”. As well, for example, in Newcastle, Australia, sexually abusing clergy were a protected species by some of the police, themselves under the spell of religious beliefs.
Were we to understand this better, our own religious legacy, and how it still resonates today, as shallower than scientific enlightenment, then maybe we could have more truthful discussion about civic matters with Islam.
Much misery has been caused by trying to force Islam into a secular straitjacket either abroad or at home. Perhaps we should seek instead to relate its inherent intransigeance to that of the Christian and post-Christian legacy -- not without precedent, in the insidious and tragic French and British imperial experiences.
Developed from opposing an unfortunate Christian past, the secular liberal ideal espouses a necessary wish to remove Islam’s influence from public decision making, which has to be secular for all, while removing all religious “aspirations” to use their “own” laws, justice and punishment. The secular system of social construct with the help of sciences can provide better inventions of management, less fear of the unknown and more happiness, including provide serious human compassion.
Accepting that some people don’t want to let go of the idea of god or Allah, evolution of Shari’a in the West, under the influence of a stronger impost from a secular political order itself rooted in scientific justice, may need to be considered. From this evolution, “European” Islam could prove to become a nursery for the development of more tolerant Islamic communities in Islamic countries, but I would not bet on this.
As part and parcel of the Western tolerance of Islam must go along with a requirement for a reciprocal, and full toleration of other faiths, including atheism (not a faith), within Islamic countries. This won’t happen because Islam sees this as a “weakening”, and we need the oil and Islamic support against “socialism” which is viewed by the West as being far more devilish than Daesh.
Hopefully, secularisation will win against all religious fascism. But too often we loose the battle to win the war or we loose the conversation when opponents use unreasonable and untrue statements with fierce conviction that we cannot match relatively while we’re ultimately winning the argument.
Religious toleration or religious rights?
Proper secular liberalism espouse the necessity to ignore religion and this amounts to removing religion’s substantive interventionism in government, in education and in social welfare. Here we face the question of whether or not the toleration of religion is needed. Or should toleration be necessarily biased so it cannot offer a toleration of organised religions or their rights to exist?
These two stances correspond to two justifications for reducing religious freedom in the Western public sector. I would suggest that our problem today is that we do not know which to choose because we are bamboozled by traditions, media, and the deceit of many governments that still use religion as a way to pacify the masses. Karl Marx was correct. Religion is the opium of the people. I quote:
“The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”
In the days of Karl Marx, science was still embryonic in the methods of analysis in the consciousness of humans. He knew the indecent role of religion in societies, but did not have at his disposal the scientifically-inspired humanist system that can now provide the flexibility of inter-relationships, with greater prospects of social improvements. Marx went for the next best thing, communism. Presently, we think we know better. Scientifically-inspired humanism works at the technological level and by all means, studies of organisms, social and not, big and small, demonstrate the possibility of stylistic sharing constructs that will maintain freedom, knowledge, imagination, compassion and “love” in secular relationships, without the cumbersome elephant walk of communism, nor the deceit of religion. Flexibility is the important key as well as the minimisation of capitalistic greed. Here, we cannot escape the fact that languages are tools to unite people. Languages contain the philosophy of a country, itself honed from many changes in character and historical context. Location in isolation or opposition is affirming the linguistic roots. Religions use the language of fear of death as a tool to break-in the windows of our personal spaces.
It has to be said that the human is an imperfect animal that has not achieved its maximum natural potential, and by a twist of evolutionary development from about 3 million years ago, we are now collectively and individually in charge of maximising this potential. Religious hubris and deceit are in the way towards this relative development in which our better feathers can become our ultimate nature. The relativity of the universe is our limit.
Meanwhile, death is imprinted in our DNA. It’s not a sin, but a termination of our special individual life, and this is acceptable. Meanwhile we can try to improve our longevity beyond natural boundaries and defie the nonsense of “god’s will”. And this is okay.
These days, Gus goes to more funerals than should be allowed in a lifetime. But the disparity between choices made by the subjects in life is quite eye opening. A friend was a dedicated communist, with a heart of gold. Another friend was a dedicated anglican with a heart of gold. Both got great send off. One into a well-deserved black-hole of oblivion and the other into the illusionary heaven. Meanwhile other dead people, mostly Muslims, in bombing zones get nothing else but a shared hole in the ground, often under rubble. Their life is not even remembered, except by their family that have no clue the price of petrol is at the origin of their grief. They will pray god for mercy in their desperate ways.
Tolerance of religions has been a multiple prong activity, including something between religions of the same sauce.
In Germany church buildings were sometimes shared by different confessions with efforts towards a more “comprehensive” Church and faith being pursued. The English Toleration Act of 1689 was initially regarded as an attempt to understand Presbyterians within Anglicanism, with other Protestant dissenters being merely indulged. Why so many dissenters?
Christendom had not lost sight of, even in the eighteenth century, that locally severe religious conflicts persisted. Local practices of tolerance remained both pragmatic and religious, rather than being, on the whole, grounded in the liberalism of a greater understanding. Both the American and the French revolutions involved strong and crucial elements of anti-Catholicism and in the case of the French bloomed a wholesale curtailing of Catholic practice in the social and economic influence through secular autonomy. In America, it became freedom of religion for all, unknowing of the present Islamic rise.
The old religious wars themselves, partially driven by the new acrimony of confession and indulgences, were also driven by the search of the newly powerful sovereign nation-state for control and uniformity in every sphere, including the religious imposition of a fascist ideal. This is where our modern troubles started.
The downside of religious tolerance between religions involves a necessary limit to toleration when one’s own illusions ar being contradicted, or when it is thought that by failing to coerce the recalcitrant one into converting, is leaving them at the mercy of their own or of others’ sins. With Secularity, sins does not exists. Trespass does not exists -- only the breach of individual or social rights. It’s clearer and better suited to evolving modernity.
This limit concerns the questions of how far to tolerate the intolerant thereby imposing a standard of inflexible rigour that can be damaging to social cohesion.
A strict division between reason and faith is called for and limits the merely imbecilic fascist religious influences. The possibility of the moral atheist has to be defended and here we need a clear separation between morality and religion.
Secularisation requires a translation into terms of the pragmatic rules for open and unconstrained human discourse. Substantive religious content has to be excluded from these norms and common “morality” consists of formal norms of mutual respect and rights to speak and act that can be reciprocally negotiated between any given partners, and can be fully shared without reserve between them.
The problem with “religious rights” approach, is that it tends to mask the recognition that religions bring fascist influences on governments. Religions denature themselves and need to be reduced to a purely private sentiment. Both modern Christianity and secular liberalism are likely to reject any religious justification for cruelty to animals, women or children. Our feelings of revulsion at violations of human and animal rights, and not merely distaste for the causing of suffering or the inhibition of freedom, need to be considered fully.
Religious liberalism does not offer an advantage of latitude in regard to religious toleration, for one cannot tolerate traditional religious beliefs and practices, including those of Catholicism, which certainly cannot accept any religious morality separated from ethical human rights.
A minimum peace for this religious infected world, would enable us to get by without consensus, common aim and shared social ideals. This is what can be improved with secularity and scientific humanism.
Unfortunately, the nineteenth-century American government, at least before the Blaine amendment of 1875, gave much funding to religious bodies which largely took the responsibility for education, welfare and medicine. Such largess were part of the State rather than the Federal concerns but they were outlawed in 1940.
In France prior to the laicite law of 1907, the Catholic character of the civil sphere remained taken for granted.
In Australia, the government funding of the religious schooling system still rages as public education gets massively short-changed. The Gonski scheme was a step towards rectifying this problem, but the Liberal (KONservtive religious right) government managed to stay in power by making deceitful promises they could not keep and sunk all hope of better secular education for the moment. Underlying sneaky fascism rules in Australia.
Humanism and the quest for good
The obvious conclusion about religious freedom would be that toleration -- putting up with something on sufferance -- is probably mean, non-generous, but is the right course nonetheless in order to make a better humanism succeed. The apparent openhandedness and totally non-judgemental secular approach of rights should still see organised religion as a fascist influence on governments, despite some redeeming features.
Now, we must visit the father of anthropology, Sir James George Frazer (1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941), who was influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. He is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern social anthropology. His most famous work, The Golden Bough (1890), documents and details the similarities among magical and religious beliefs across the globe. Frazer postulated that human beliefs progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, in turn replaced by science. This is evolution. This is the unvoidable future -- as painful as it can be for some people considering that sciences become more and more accurate by the day.
Our atheistic humanity can permit a limited religious existence as a surviving oddity. Our treatment of Islam in the West should have a secular restrictive action, treating it in the same way as Christianity was by the end of the nineteenth century, including removing its internal threats of apostasy. We need firm separation of state and religious beliefs, with a purpose to minimise or eradicate the influence of religions upon the social context. But we also need to make amends to the Muslims countries that we have destroyed for the purpose of economic control. We need to give them the chance to modernise, not with tallest buildings or such, but with a more forgiving and accepting nature. Forgiveness is deeply ingrained in the lord’s prayer, but most people don’t understand the origin of this attitude, which extends to forgetting cash being owed to us and cash being owed to them.
Our secular view of what religion consists of has to be the ridiculous imagination of supernatural good and evil, of illogical “original sin” and of unneeded redemption, with silly banquets in the sky. We need to deal with our relationship moral problems of right and wrong, from our real origin -- our natural origin and use our scientifically developed humanism understanding of evolution to give everyone a chance to be whatever they chose, as long as they care about others and about the place we call earth. Religions have become so indefinable in their dogmatic purpose in a loony parallel universe that they will increasingly go undefined and be unrecognisable.
As we improve our humanness, the religious and dogmatic-based approach is as wrongheaded as it is deluded and unrealistic since it was on day one, barely a notch above primitive voodoo. The aspiration to liberalism and modernism of many non-Western cultures in the world today, is only thwarted by religious political control that has tightened the lee-way, even though they exercised tolerance in the past.
If religious influence is unfortunately returning, that is largely because rulers, including those of the West, use religion to control ignorant individuals and infect the social context with easy prejudices. Human beings can act with a better vision. We should strive to achieve a good of a certain kind, which means that we know we live in a relative universe in which good is achievable, in nature and in human relationships. We therefore can act rationally and freely through humanism in which good secular structural intentions can thwart the dogmatic ignorance of religion. Not to trust in humanism would be to accept that good is inherently in opposition to a monster/devil/evil which does not exist. We need to develop a better scientific understanding of a humanity in evolution. We are improving our animality, while minimising the pain.
Milbank suggests that it is arguable that the free and creative pursuit of a remote teleological goal of social and cosmic harmony has been most of all realised in the formation of Western civilization under ancient Jewish, Greek and Roman stimuli. His view is totally arguable. Most of the modern realisation of Western civilisation came from scientific analysis, experimentations and implementation that abandoned the religious quest. Today, in the name of pacifying human rights and continued progressive scientific investigation, a better improved civilisation outcome will eventually prevail.
The scientific relative future
Religious people are afraid that science will reduce spirituality to an equation. Fair enough, but in fact the equation of consciousness is more than a single line of awareness. It is a set of complex matrices with billions of parameters. Why is it that now we cannot avoid the knowledge that our bodies are genetically programmed, but cannot accept that spirituality stems from this programmation? Yet we know that our reactive/active behaviour is strongly dependent of what we learn, accept or reject. We can get “brainwashed” as much by belief as by knowledge. Where should we go from here?
In this lot, there is a certain amount of luck. Here religion is like gambling, voluntarily or not. We can be served a bad ticket. Our DNA can be deficient, we can be attacked by diseases and we can fall victim to a salvo of bombs. Nothing to do with god, including natural disasters that involve earthly motions, from tornadoes to earthquakes.
Animals have consciousness which is strongly geared to survive against the freight train of changing environmental factors. It demands that the animals be at their peak of survival capability and they use various evolved tactics to do so. Compassion in the animal world is limited as there is far too much deception in the relationships between species as to allow too much “generosity”. But some animals are ready to share or work as a team to improve their chances of a catch. This consciousness stems from instincts and adaptability but ultimately it comes from the ability to make choices.
Here we can mention again that humans are one of the most imperfect species that developed from nature. Survival could have gone either way. Humans should have become extinct pretty soon after falling from the tree. Only for a group resilience, also stemming from the natural structure of survivability, that we have managed to come where we are today, using deception and invention as our keys to success. We had to adapt the circumstances to protect ourselves. We have modified our environment as to suit what we need. Some animals do this as well on a smaller scale. They will build shelters, dams, nests in chosen locations where predatory dangers are minimised. Some will ad-hoc adopt the law of numbers in which the group is so large that most will survive from a predatory attack, the rule of the game is to be able to escape or not, with no real rules as being at the centre of the group or on the edges, but chance. This is misnamed “safety in numbers” but it’s only a species survival strategy which evolved as the more numerous one becomes in a one place, the more target the groups offers to predators. It’s a pay-back pay-off situation accidental development of nature, which in the past has led to extinction as well, when adaptation is lacking. Meanwhile others species adapt new strategies of survival such as viruses adaptation to antibiotics. It’s in the DNA script from early in the development of life in which certain alliance with other proteins (proteomes) proved to be beneficial (mitochondrion).
Our consciousness becomes spirituality in imagination, which for all intent and purposes derive from the construct of our brain in which there are billions of firing mechanisms which surface in our consciousness as “what do we do next”. These firing mechanisms have been primed by habits of reflexes and learning to quickly adapt to the new. And everything is new as we invent news ways to deal with our interactions.
Imagination is our ability to compute more situations than we need for survival. We have created stylistic views and systems, in which “spirituality” is one of the devices to “give us something to do”. The invention of a god has had some advantages as well as been very retrograde in our acceptance of responsibility for what we do right or wrong, the result transcribing as pain or contentment, in ourselves and others.
I go to more funerals these days. It could be do to ageing. Oblivion. Imagination of surviving beyond. Life is like mould. It becomes opportunistic though there is no reason for its existence.
The complexity of opportunism for life to survive started more than 4 billion year ago and its main processes got perfected by 2 billion years ago. Since then more decorations, bells and whistles have developed through species variegation . The mechanisms of DNA duplication are complex but fiercely active in inception and self-destruction.
The future depends on humans inventing a better scientific method or a superior intelligence that would be able to firmly guide us socially into the future, without being Big Brother. Is this science fiction? Not really. Many labs are working on this but most of it is hush-hush because of the “moral” and “ethical” problems raised not by such development but by making religions and their doodahs totally obsolete. They would wriggle like earth worms exposed to daylight, now in danger of being attacked by ants.
Science can be more theatrical, more secular, less fascist, more exciting and provide far more truth than any religious beliefs.
Gus Leonisky is a nom-de-plume used by an old bloke on the Australian scrap heap who sometimes paints pictures and does cartoons -- more than 4,888 of them already published on yourdemocracy.net.au. Gus did his first cartoons in 1951. Born in Europe, Gus has an extensive knowledge of political bullshit and religious hubris, recent and throughout history. He has studied spying agencies in depth and various scientific information by reading them upside down. Versed in climatology, Gus is also proficient in the nuclear industry and quantum mechanics. Gus also writes on other subjects including technology, social behaviour and the future -- whatever that is.