So Say the Gods
22 MARCH 2016
ISIS has taken credit for the recent atrocity in Belgium. They’re begging for war and the USA (with perhaps a handful of others) is very probably going to give it to them.
Personally, I’m more concerned with the deeper problem of why ISIS wants this conflict than I am with the dubious merits of the war itself. On the surface they clearly hope to consolidate their power within an Arab Muslim world that’s united behind an all-out holy war with the West. But that power is not desired as an end to itself. It’s power for a purpose.
They wish to establish a world-wide Islamic Caliphate. They have already said as much.
And here is, I think, the key to understanding all of this. They see creating this scripturally directed organization as part of bringing about the End Times, and then eventually harmony and paradise for all mankind.
In other words, they’re ultimately good-intentioned. Imagine that.
This cuts to the very heart of what’s wrong here. Call it the problem behind the problem. The literalist bibliolaters of the world have perverted the very concept of goodness, rendering it only in terms of duty to the God of scripture. Why should this latest bombing in Brussels surprise any person with fundamentalist Jewish or Christian beliefs? After all, they too measure good ultimately by its accordance with a book in which a monster God murders the entire population of the earth (but for an incestuous handful), drowning pregnant mothers and little children and babes in arms.
Religiously motivated attacks and provocations, like mass beheadings and immolations, are in effect just copycat murders. God kills those who do not worship and obey Him. The Book tells us so.
Why shouldn’t we do the same?
The Torah, the Bible, the Qur’an contain marvelously descriptive mythology, rich in deep human truths. But they are not and never were the final arbiter of our moral truths. Until we recognize and respect that fact, we will continue to see this deplorable religious violence. Because the text-based religions in particular have within them no mechanism for the resolution of extra-textual disagreements.
If you and I disagree over the weight of a gold coin I’m offering in payment for a cow, we have a simple solution to our conflict. We weigh the coin. We submit to the genuine authority of empirical evidence. There is no comparable solution available when opposing scriptures come into conflict. There is only one way completely to settle matters.
Yes, parties can agree to disagree, and they do. For a while. But the irritating conflict remains there between them. Unresolved, it continues to rub until it blisters. And then sooner or later that blister bursts into bloodshed. For this reason violence is inherent to all faith-based systems grounded in holy books. When you divorce truth from evidence and claim your own particular text as the ultimate epistemic authority, you’ve left no other path open to settle matters with unbelievers.
So they must be cast out or killed, these unbelievers, lest their doubt lead to social turmoil and poison the well of faith. And all of us, every single one of us, is from some religious perspective an unbeliever. Thus we all deserve to die.
So say the books. So say the gods.
And all who listen to them.