A wakeup call for non-violent
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A personal statement about religion in politics
by Jerry Russell
I do not claim to know why the universe is here, or why there is something (rather than nothingness.) I believe I understand why people are interested in meditation and personal experience of transcendental feelings.
Furthermore, I do not believe that psychological science has yet explained the nature of consciousness. There are promising developments, and the widely accepted theories of neural computation appear to be sufficient to explain many aspects of human behavior. If these theories are correct, there is no mechanism for extrasensory perception or other parapsychological phenomena; nor is there any possibility of life after death. Yet if the theory of quantum consciousness turns out to be correct, there may yet be room for these possibilities.
This set of beliefs would qualify me as an agnostic. Yet in another sense, I am a true atheist.
I am quite certain that there is no God in the form of a man or woman of some particular ethnic group, looking down and pulling strings from Heaven on behalf of His or Her favored people. And I am deeply convinced that every single one of the revered religious texts handed down from ancient times, is in fact a fraud. The Bible, the Koran, the Torah and Talmud -- all full of tribal myths, racist or ethnic hatred, and superstition, and perhaps even intentional lies on behalf of the king and the ruling class.
In my experience, most modern religious people are better, more open-minded and tolerant than their traditions. They have an open-minded spiritual viewpoint, or they may adopt the religion of their cultural milieu without giving it much attention. These people will desperately try to deny what is written in plain words in their scriptures.
However, I couldn't be more concerned about the fundamentalists and orthodox of all religions, who study their holy texts diligently and yet fail to critique the hate speech they contain; who in fact may integrate the prejudices and hatreds into their worldview.
Some modern terrorist groups (including Al Queda) would fall into this category: they are reactionary ethnocentric nationalist and religious movements which are completely undeserving of any kind of support (aside from basic human rights which apply to all human beings.)
Individuals have every right to pursue their own religious beliefs as they see fit. This is part of the meaning of freedom. However, when those religious beliefs translate into political hatreds, they become subject to critical public appraisal. Everyone should see that maintenance of a clean separation between church and state is a crucial goal -- one which is not even acknowledged as such by states in the Middle East.
As an equal-opportunity debunker, I offer links to criticism of all major religions involved in the developing crisis.