Thursday, 7 May 2009
No, No, No.....My sky pixie is much better than yours
One of the standards in debates over religion and Islam in particular is the connection between dogma and the actions of the acolytes. If religion A extols 'bad things' and then acolytes of A do 'bad things', the relationship is clear enough. Thus the brutally sectarian verses in the Koran are thus intrinsically linked to suicide bombers on London buses or Taliban theocrats throwing acid into the face of Afghan school girls.
Conversely, this argument holds, if religion B extols 'good things' and limits 'bad things' to acts of the deity themselves or via proxy, when acolytes of B who do bad things are in schism or heretical. Thus A is irredeemably foul and B is the source of light in the world.
This is bullshit
I have read this argument trotted out by Christians and especially Catholics to separate their delusion of a great peeping tom in the sky from that of Muslims. Their prophet is not only a great clean cut all round good guy, but the SON OF GOD too. Mohammad was a genocidal paedo-bandit instead and could not possibly have been given any divine wisdom at all, ever. So there.....
Thus their delusion is clean and all suited to the modern world and Islam is inevitably backwards. Again this is bullshit
But what Christians who enter into this argument and their agnostic kulkur loving fellow travellers forget is this. The link between dogma and action is not so reductionist and that 'actual existing' Christianity, by their slight of hand, was for virtual all of its history, heretical.
The butchery of dissenting sects or rivals for the mantle of Imperial monopoly might well have been at odds with the teachings of Christ, but without them, would there be a christian faith? The complicity with wealth and power and the bitter sweet sops to slaves and the hungry might made a mockery of the Messiah's fetish for poverty, but how else might the 'word' be spread. Christianity as a phenomena was spread as much by its willingness to sanctify the politik and meet with elites on their terms as any intrinsic 'transcendence' in its doctrines. And all this compromise was still to be regarded as following that simple carpenter from Galilee
Did the Knights Orders realise their heretical nature as they cleaved infidel flesh from unbelieving bone? Did Inquisitors understand they were not actual Christians as they burn away Jewish sins and trespasses? Did Luther comprehend that he was in schism from Christ when he called for God's vengeance and subsequent agony to fall on humble peasant rebels? Of course not. They believed, they interpreted and they acted. The centre of this was their own agency and the social situation in which they inflicted pain for the Lord. Doctrine gave them enough clauses and leeway to carry out what they considered was right.
It was pressure from a changed society, from the laity and an increasing secularised world that forced, and it was forced, bitching and whining, Christianity to stop excusing such brutality. Still, we continue to find plenty of examples where 'heretics' can hack away for the light of the world. Codreanu or Miroslav Filipović believed they were doing God's work, so did Joseph Kony or Paul Jennings Hill, just as much as al-Zawahiri or Ismail Haniyeh believe they are doing that of Allah. Weather or not they are doctrinally true to their creed is immaterial, literally. It is to engage in the respective merits of delusions. It is to excuse them the responsibility. It is the theological equivalence of ' I was only following orders', weather or not that is true is beside the point and a mockery of meaningful justice.
If the outcome of religion A and B is the same, mass inhumanity at times of social stress, sandwiched between periods of sanctified bigotry, then the fairy tales themselves are a matter for footnotes. If religion B suddenly finds it cannot get away with such outrages due to outside conditions and pressures and cleans up its act, returns to the narrative, redefines itself a bit, then well done. But forgive me if i don't forget what it took to get it here, that this fairy tale still can kill and that one cannot claim moral superiority over such begrudging transformation.