Tag Archives: society

Children dead, media eager for misery, society’s double standard.

15 Dec

So unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard of the new school shooting that happened in America yesterday morning; this time in an elementary school by yet another deranged individual. Every time there is some horrific tragedy like this the American media collectively orgasm in their pants with excitement. They love it when this type of thing happens and they’re fucking sick human beings for it. They need tragedy, they need grief, fear, and human misery to keep you glued to their “coverage.” Clinical psychiatrists have come out time and time again pleading with the media not to cover these stories because they inevitably inspire copy-cat killers and just fuel the ego of the sick individuals who perpetrate these acts. Does the media care what the clinical psychiatrists say? Fuck no. It’s not about stopping these acts, it’s about ratings. Ratings, and consequently the money the earn from those ratings, is more important that human lives and suffering. Fucked up and disgusting, but that’s the truth. The “news anchors’ these pampered, dolled up husks of human beings will describe to you the misery of others with a twinkle in their soulless eyes.

In the rush to be “first” to cover a heartbreaking story, facts don’t matter. The media named the killer Ryan Lanza when it was his older brother Adam. Not only was Ryan suddenly confronted with the horror that his brother just murdered his mother and a bunch of children, but now he was quite possibly in danger for his life as well. Within minutes  there were multiple Facebook groups condemning Ryan to hell.

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The mindless mob then went on the witch hunt for anything remotely connected with the person wrongly accused of the committing the massacre. For example: Ryan “Liked” the video game series Mass Effect, a series I, myself, am very fond of. Well the public, whipped into a frenzy by the media, started to decry the evils of this video game they knew nothing about. (click to enlarge)

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In a nutshell, Mass Effect is a science fiction roleplaying game about saving the galaxy from a race of alien robots. It has nothing to do with anything remotely connected to a school shooting (but since when have facts mattered?).  Before all the information was available, the governor of Connecticut pleaded with the media not to speculate on the number of dead. Wolf Blitzer, of CNN, reported this and then immediately started to speculate about the rumored death toll, all with a straight face and without skipping a beat. FOX news, not to be outdone, even went so far as to try and interview a child about the trauma she just witnessed, a trauma she’s most likely unable to even comprehend.

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How much you want to bet FOX news got a parental release formed signed by Sofia’s parents so they could interview an 8-year old about her classmates being butchered? The victims are not human beings to these people, they are tragedies to be exploited for profit. It’s fucking sick. While reading over a discussion of the media’s reaction to the shooting on Reddit.com, I came across an insightful comment a user made quoting Robert Ebert (a movie critic) talking about his review of the movie “Elephant.”

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

The main focus of this post is on the tragedy that unfolded yesterday in Connecticut  but I would like to point out something else I find interesting, something that is likely to upset a lot of people in a very particular way. I imagine many will react with ‘now is not the time!”, however it is precisely at times like this that the contrast I’m trying to elucidate is so clear. We have a refined sense of selective outrage in this country. There’s a quote from the Joker in the movie “The Dark Knight” that encapsulates this very succinctly. In this scene the Joker is talking to Harvey Dent about plans, chaos, and society:

You know what, you know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gang banger, will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all, part of the plan. But when I say that one, little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!

Even if the plan is horrifying.

We, as a nation, routinely murder innocent civilians, including children like those murdered yesterday in Connecticut. However, when we murder civilians, we do it with flying drones and laser guided missiles in far away lands. We watch them die on little CCTV monitors and go about our day. 98% of the people we murder are not the people we intended to murder, rather, they are collateral damage. Perhaps I was wrong in saying “children like those murdered yesterday in Connecticut.” There are some glaring differences between the children in Connecticut and the children overseas. The children overseas are of a different skin tone, religion, country, and speak a different language. I guess that’s enough to make their lives not matter. Never mind everything they have in common, most importantly of which is being human.

Amelia, over at Imaginary Playgrounds, has a section in a post that I believe sums up why such selective outrage exists.

Within a sick, violent society, all people are taught violence. We are told to look at those who commit violence as role models, so long as that violence takes place within certain relationships where violence is culturally sanctioned. Violence is socially acceptable when authorized by a legitimized authority, and considered unacceptable when performed outside of an authority’s approval. To give an example, a police officer shooting an unarmed person of color is often overlooked, and when it is brought up, excuses are made, and the blame is placed on the victim. Yet, when a person of color defends themselves against police violence and injures a cop in the process, it is viewed as a heinous, irredeemable act of violence. Violence is socially acceptable when performed in service of dominant social ideologies, and unacceptable when it disrupts or subverts dominant social ideologies. A straight, cis man can kill a trans sex worker and get away with it, often being able to use her trans status as a justification, but when a trans woman of color defends herself against a racist, transphobic attacker, she is charged with murder and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

In this case it’s a man killing a group of school children with a gun versus a man killing a group of school children with a rocket fired from a remote controlled plane. In our society, as long as the violence is directed in a direction we’ve been taught is acceptable, irregardless that the end result of the violence is just as horrifying independent of who’s doing it to whom, we have no problem with said violence. It is only when such a heinous act is committed against a group of people we haven’t sanctioned for suffering and death do we cry foul.

Changing my mind

2 Nov

There have a been a few times in my life when I’ve had large shifts in my position on various ideas and ideologies. I remember back in 11th grade AP US history reading about atheists in the context of their attempts to remove “under God” from the pledge and thinking how silly and stupid they sounded. I was a Christian at the time, but starting to have trouble with my faith. Slowly I was moving into Buddhism and I comforted myself by thinking “well at least I’m not an atheist.”

I remember doing the same thing with politics. The earliest political memory I have is from 2000, sitting on my mom’s bed late at night watching the election results of Bush v Gore, and rooting for Bush to win. Everyone around me wanted Bush to win, and I remember seeing some political cartoon about how Gore sounded like a robot. That was enough for me at the time.”

Later, as I started to begin my slow but steady drift left I remember defending myself to other people by attacking anarchists. I guess I wanted to appear still mainstream by calling out a group of people with a position I perceived as more radical than my own.

“I could never be an anarchist, that’s just ridiculous. You need order and government.”

Of course at the time I was attacking anarchists I was doing so without knowing anything about them except what was common societal knowledge on them; namely that they were violent punk teenagers that threw bricks through store windows and wanted absolute chaos.

I knew nothing about anarchists. I feel a lot of people make judgements on a groups based off of this type of common societal knowledge, aka ignorance.

Now that I’ve been reading anarchist essays I see myself starting to change. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now. I’m on the verge of making large, life changing commitments like moving to another country and lately I’ve been feeling a little lost and overwhelmed.

I’ve been struggling with what I want to do with my life, unsure if my current plan is really what I want. To be honest, I’m still not entirely certain what I would like to do in life. I’m afraid of walking away from something good, but I’m  know I can’t stay still.

In the midst of all this I’m also struggling to define myself and the society I exist in. Developing and solidifying a new concept of society is important because it’s the framework for how I examine and adjust my life priorities.

Anarchism has been very attractive because it provides the framework for I’ve been looking for. I’m finding many of the ideas very compelling and satisfying, even if I’m not overly sure of the practicality.

In an effort to be intellectually honest I’m trying to approach the ideas I’m finding in anarchism with skepticism. I want them to try and convince me, though I will admit, I am eager to be convinced.

Far from the brick throwing chaos punks of my previous understanding, I’m finding anarchism to be a life affirming philosophy focused on building healthy and beneficial relationships between individuals and society.

The wonderful thing is that there is just a wide variety of anarchist philosophy to explore. For example, there’s mutualism, anarco-collectivism, anarco-capitalism, anarcho-syndicalism,  anarcho-primitivism, and anarco-feminism, just to name a few.

I’m in the process of listening to arguments from all the various subsets and trying to decide which align the most with my views on reality. So far, the one underlying principle I’ve identified is simply “Coercing another individual into doing something they would not freely do is wrong.” From this everything follows. This principle informs how anarchists look at governments, laws, violence, sex, employment, etc. It’s really quite fascinating. Just about every aspect of life and interaction is affected by this axiom.

I’ve been viewing this experience, of changing my mind, a bit in the third person. I’m aware that it’s happening and I just find it really interesting to watch, even as I’m actively participating in it.

There is only us

1 Feb

This might seem like a no-brainer for many people, but it was something I slowly came to understand when I was a kid growing up.

My parents don’t really get the internet. My grandmother doesn’t even know how to turn a computer on. My father rarely uses the computer. Whenever he does it is just to check bank statements or e-mail. My mother also doesn’t understand the computer, much less the internet. She mainly uses the computer for typing up letters in word, for checking e-mail and facebook, and to play bejeweled. For both of them the computer is simply a tool, like a telephone. I can understand where they’re coming from; they spent the majority of their lives in a computerless world, even more of that time without the internet. The one thing they haven’t grasped about the internet is perhaps its greatest power: the ability to answer questions.

Both of my parents don’t understand how to use google to find the answer to a question they have. “What are some good chicken recipes?” “What movies are playing at the theatre tonight?” “How do I do fix X,Y,Z?” They’re both used to finding these answers elsewhere.

Where am I going with this? Well when talking to my grandmother, or my parents, I wondered how I would explain the internet. What IS the internet?

The first analogy that came to mind was a university, which leads me to the point of this post.

What is a university? The campus? The buildings? The books? A university is none of that, it’s the faculty and students that make up the university. If all the people left, the cold empty buildings would not be a university. If you get a degree from a university, what that degree signifies is that the people who make up that university deem you as having achieved a certain level of knowledge and ability. The buildings just serve as a meeting place.

The internet is the same way, only more pronounced because it lacks a physical location. It exists in the digital realm that we access through our computers. Or at least we create the notion of this digital realm by linking up millions of computers and servers where the actual content physically exists, just as the “university” realm exists through the connection and interaction of ideas and concepts that physically reside as chemical an neurological interactions within the brains of those who collectively are “the university.”

But what I’m trying to get is more than just this notion of creating realms of information through the transmission of ideas. What I slowly started to understand while growing up was that we are all there is. The lines on a map are not physical boundaries between countries, they exist purely because we created them. The system of calendars and years are setup by us. Only we mark the passing of time. Sure the earth completes one full rotation in about 24 hours, and one full orbit in 365 of those rotations, but it is we who arbitrarily picked a beginning and end to each year. On midnight of December 31st, the other animals on the planet have no idea that one year is ending and another beginning. For all they know, it’s just another night, and tomorrow is just another day.

I first came across this concept when I started studying history more in-depth. While we talk of “historical periods” like the Roman empire, or the middle ages, or the renaissance, there is no clear delineation between the start and end of these periods. Bells did not ring, the sun did not stop, and a voice from the heavens did not announce “You are now in a new historical era!” The only thing that separates us now from the middle ages are a lot of revolutions of the earth.

What is society? What are laws? If you are at a stoplight, in the middle of nowhere, and there is not a single person around, there is nothing inherently wrong about driving through that red light. It is only wrong because we say it is wrong. (Because doing it in a populated area could get someone killed) But if you drive through that light out in the middle of nowhere, nobody is going to make a mark by your name.

There is a saying “All knowledge is human knowledge.” For a while this bugged me. “Well that’s stupid, a squirrel has the knowledge of how to gather nuts for the winter,” but that’s not what it is addressing. It’s more of an existential statement. This whole post is about an existential realization I had growing up.

We are all there is. We make the rules, we alone are solely responsible for our actions and for creating meaning in our lives. There is no safety net or wall we can lean against. We’re completely vulnerable to error.

Which brings me full circle back to computers. I feel that more and more we are trying to make life like a computer program. If a computer were self-aware, it would not have the existential problem that humans do. A computer must obey laws (the coding of a program) in order to function. That coding is created by external entities, us. Our own version of coding that we attempt to enforce are social mores.

For me, one of the most stand out examples of this was when I went to Disney world with my now ex-girlfriend. We were going out to a late night fireworks show and it was a bit chilly. I wanted to pack one of the hotel blankets in my backpack to keep us warm. She protested. This made her very uncomfortable and she tried to explain to me that I can’t take the hotel blanket from the room. Why not? You just can’t. (coding) I explained to her that nobody was going to know, that I was going to return the blanket when I was done, and that if anything happened to it, that I would personally pay for its replacement. She grudgingly dropped the issue, I took the blanket, and we were warm. The whole incident really stuck with me. Why is it such a big deal to break the computer codes? We are the masters that wrote them in the first place. They exist because we say they exist.

How would you feel if there was no god?

30 Dec

This is directed at theists who might stumble across this post.

One of the most common accusations leveled against atheists are that they’re angry, so angry. For many of us that’s true, we are angry. Yet in order to understand why we’re so angry, let me ask you something.

Lets pretend for a moment, a little thought experiment if you will. I promise it won’t hurt or do anything to your faith, it’s just an experiment.

Imagine that you died, it doesn’t matter how, only that you’re now dead, and the afterlife is not what you were promised. Instead of heaven or closeness to some deity, you are made aware of the fact that their is no god, there never was. You look down at the earth, all the people on it, all the things we do to ourselves and each other in the name of a god; a god you have just learned never existed.

How would you feel? How would you react to the magnitude of the consequences and implications?

Sure you would see some good things being done in the name of this mythical god, but what about all the suffering? Suffering that is needlessly prolonged by those claiming to act in the name of a god you just learned never existed.

How would you react to this revelation’s implications? Think of all the time spent in pointless prayer instead of action, all the money spent building monuments and structures to a nonexistent being. All the money that lines the pockets of those who claim to speak for this being. What about all the wars, genocides, book burnings, shootings, suicide bombings, the death in perpertrayed in the name of this non-existent being? What about all the people who are forced to marry those they don’t love because of religious prescriptions? What about the millions of people who have their genitals cut in keeping with religious commandments? What about the honor killings? What about all the people who were forced to live in a miserable marriage, perhaps where they were even beaten, because their faith frowned on divorces?

How would you feel?

What about your life? What if you spent a large amount of time, effort, and money investing in something you later found out to be a scam? What dreams could you have accomplished if those energies were directed elsewhere? What about those things you denied yourself that you could have enjoyed? What about foods or drinks you refused to try for ultimately pointless religious reasons? What opportunities to live did you turn down in preparation for death, only to find now that you’re dead, those preparations futile, those opportunities gone forever?

Hypothetically, as all these realizations hit you like a tsunami, how would you feel as you slowly fade to nothingness?

I’m willing to bet you would feel an intense anger, possibly betrayal.

Hold that feeling in your mind for a moment. Now imagine that you weren’t fading to nothingness, that you weren’t dead. Imagine you were still alive, yet with this knowledge, and now you had the chance to do something about it. How would you feel? What would you do?

If you answered that you’d be angry and outspoken in your efforts to make the world a better place and end suffering, then you now understand where a lot of “angry” atheists are coming from.

Should feminism include men?

30 Nov

The other day I visited a thread on an atheist website about feminism and the role of men. It was a very interesting discussion, with most people agreeing that men can be feminists and help, but their was one particular poster who would have nothing to do with it. To her, feminism was solely about women and improving their situation, no men allowed.

At the same time another woman, who disagreed with this poster, presented a very interesting article from The Daily Kos titled: “15 aspects that must be recognized in third-wave feminism”.

The very first item on the list states:

“There must be a widespread understanding that feminism does apply to men. Therefore, men who stand up for feminist issues may, and should, be identified as feminist. It is counterproductive and hypocritical to discuss gender equality while simultaneously creating a double standard towards males who share feminist values.”

The author then goes on to say that feminists can come from any walk of life, men included, and that feminism is inclusive, not exclusive.

Back to the thread. The lady who started the thread then got into an argument with the “no men allowed” poster over the goals of feminism. To the OP, feminism, while it may have began as a movement directed at undoing the wrongs done to women, has now morphed into fighting for gender equality across the board, men included. According to the OP, the feminist should not only be concerned with fighting the strict gender roles society imposes on women, but the roles imposed on men as well.

As mentioned earlier, the “no men allowed” poster would have none of it. “If that’s what feminism has become, then I guess I’m not a feminist anymore.” Her goal seemed decidedly set on retribution as opposed to making things better for everybody.

For the longest time I was scared to say anything on feminism for fear of running into this person. For the longest time I questioned whether, as a man, I had any right to have an opinion on feminism, much less voice that opinion. I felt like when feminism was being discussed by women, I had to sit in the corner like a child and keep my mouth shut. After all, I was the enemy.

But you know what? I realized something the other day. Men do have an important role to play in feminism. If feminism is going to have any shot of changing society and gaining equality for women, it’s going to have to include men.

Now let me be crystal clear. I am not saying women are dependent on men to do anything. What I am talking about is the simple reality of how movements work.

In order for a minority to achieve something, it needs the help of the majority. It doesn’t matter who the minority and majority are. Blacks could not get the civil rights acts passed without the help of white legislators. Gays could not get anti-homosexuality laws repealed without the help of straight allies. Atheists will be unable to get the separation of church and state enforced without the help of their theist allies. This is a fact of how things get done.

Women may not be a minority population wise, but unfortunately in every other aspect of life they are. They are a minority in government, in businesses, and in churches. They will not get anywhere by alienating the majority in those spheres.

For centuries male has been considered “normal,” the default. It’s part of male privilege and the majority of men are so accustomed to this they don’t even notice. Women trying to tell them that it is not normal will only have so much of an effect because the men they are trying to talk to are living in a bubble where they see the woman as abnormal. “Of course she’s going to say that! She’s a woman!”

This is where men can have their greatest impact. As I talk about in this post, men are able to break through that bubble and reach other men simply because they are deemed “normal.” A guy can easily dismiss a woman’s attempts to correct male privilege simply because she is a woman, but if a man stands up and says “Look buddy, these assumptions are not normal, they are people too and deserve equal treatment”, then that will bypass the other man’s defenses and stick!

So to that “women only” poster I say no. No I will not sit down and shut up like a child. Gender roles and society affect me too, and I am part of the solution. If you’re interested solely in retribution for something other men have done, then I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m interested in working to make society better for all of us, regardless of sex or gender.

Gender specific insults

22 Nov

So earlier today some lady on the road really pissed me off. Being human, I mentally shouted a slur at her as I swerved past.  Afterwards I realized that the slur I had mentally shouted had been a sexualized slur. I did it unconsciously, not actually giving any thought to this woman or her sexuality, but nonetheless I realized this after the fact.

Have you ever realized how sexualized insults are in American English? I wonder if it’s a cultural thing. I studied German back in university and I remember that a lot more of their insults revolved around cleanliness. Sure they had sexual insults, but you would never hear an American calling someone filthy swine.

It seems that in my culture when you want to insult a woman, you make some claim about her sexuality and promiscuity. When you want to insult a man, you make some comment about his manhood, usually equating him to being a woman. What gives? I know patriarchal Victorian attitudes about sex and gender roles are at the heart of it, but I’m dismayed that such attitudes have survived subconsciously in our language.

Driving in that car, I had no grounds from which to speculate as to the other driver’s sexuality or promiscuity. I’m a little ashamed that I automatically mentally spit out such an insult. At least it provided me with some food for thought. I’m going to have to work to undo the subconscious societal training and come up with more creative, gender neutral insults for idiots.

Empires and Faith

21 Oct

People have been warning that “society is going to collapse” since the dawn of societies millennia ago. Despite a track record of failure spanning longer than recorded time, some modern day religious people like to pull out this gem to argue that refusing to adhere to their world-view will cause the downfall of life as we know it. In actuality, it is the world view of the religious person that will collapse if everybody ignores him; but what can you expect from someone who has the infinitely arrogant view that the entire universe was created solely for them, that they are the chosen creature of an invisible god, and that they alone hold the keys to truth, knowledge, happiness, and everlasting life?

The “logic” of the religious person making this claim is thus: God it watching us and demands worship. If we worship and honor him he will favor us. If he favors us our society will flourish. If we don’t honor god then things will go wrong and our society will crumble. Assumably god “favors” a society be subtly intervening to make the crops grow, the buildings stand, and the trains run on time…you know, stuff that would normally happen in a well managed civilization. The whole thing has an African witch doctor feel to it. No matter how you try and disguise it, what the religious person is suggesting is just an advanced and dressed up version of a rain dance.

Now anyone who actually takes the time to study civilizations will know that there are many reasons why they collapse. These reasons usually contain a mixture of economic, environmental, and political factors, but “failed to appease the sky god” is never a valid factor. At this point we can expect our rain dance shaman to chime in “but god causes those things!” This claim is unfalsifiable, untestable, and completely lacking in evidence to support it so it can safely be dismissed.

Before we continue I must point out a seldom thought of fact about civilizations: The idea of “civilizations” is an arbitrary delineation made by historians in order to neatly classify specific periods of activity in a given area. When a civilization collapse, as many have, it is not like a tsunami suddenly comes and wipes them off the map. There are no trumpets on high that announce to the people of a civilization when their civilization has fallen. The buildings, people, and customs remain. Sometimes people move out of an area, but they still exist. In rare cases a city is hit by a natural disaster (like Pompeii). However, more often than not the political system changes and those who used to belong to political system X now belong to political system Y. When the Roman empire collapsed all the Roman citizens around the world did not vanish; they simply assimilated into the local political system. Bottom line: civilizations don’t end like the apocalypse.

What I would like to do today is take a very brief look at some civilizations to show that the collapse independent of religion. However, when religion does play a role in the collapse it is often the over zealous practice of that religion that ends up harming the society. (contrary to the claims of our rain dance shaman)

One of the most obvious examples of an extremely religious empire collapsing is the Spanish Empire. At it’s height in the 16th century Spain was a superpower. Their army and navy was unmatched, and they had a monopoly on the riches of the new world. The effects of the Spanish empire can still be seen today. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world! Spain’s rapid growth and mismanagement in the 16th century ended up crippling her in the 17th. She collapsed primarily from economic and political problems, but these were exacerbated by religion.

Spain was a shining example of a society that put god first in every aspect of life. Forged in the bloody crusades of the Reconquista, birthplace to the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, and mother to the fanatical order of missionaries, monks, and assassins, the Jesuits.  Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, was on the front lines of the split between Catholics and Protestants. He was the champion of the Catholic church and swore to return the protestants to the fold, at the edge of a sword if necessary. When he failed to force the protestants back into the church he retired to live out the rest of his days at a monastery. His crusade was passed on to his son, Philip II who pursued it all the more fervently.  Most famously Philip bankrupted his country and cut down entire forests to build his great armada. This massive fleet of ships was to take thousands of soldiers, the inquisition, and god’s fury to England. When the armada was destroyed Philip started building a second one, but died before it was finished. Philip’s confessor once told him that it was better to lose his whole empire than to lose his salvation. It would take Spain centuries to pull out of the economic downturn set off by the mismanagement of their empire and the ultimately pointless wars over religion.

Earlier I mentioned the Roman empire. Rome was founded in 753 BCE and the barbarian invasions began in the late 300’s CE. This was a civilization that lasted over a thousand years. Between 27 BCE and 180 CE existed the “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace”, a time of relative stability and economic flourishing. To help put that in persepective, he United States has existed only slightly longer than Rome’s golden age.  In 313 the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and issued the “Edict of Milan,” ending persecution of Christians and making the empire religiously neutral.  Sixty-seven years later (380 CE) Theodosius I issued the “Edict of Thessalonica” making the state religion of Rome Christianity. The imperial city that had lasted for a millennium was sacked by barbarian hordes three decades later. Did Christianity cause the fall of the Roman empire? No. There were a lot of complicated factors that led to the eventual collapse; but it should be pointed out for our rain dance shaman that the collapse of that civilization coincided with the the conversion to and enforcement of Christianity.

 

How about the British Empire? Here was a Christian nation that also once ruled a quarter of the world’s population. The empire was not only a means of transmitting western culture, but the Christian religion. Wherever British armies went, missionaries soon followed. Despite bringing the gospel to millions, England lost her empire after WWII.

What about the French empire under Napoleon? The Ottoman empire? The Japanese Empire? The Mongolian Empire? The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great? All of these empires fell because of natural economic and political reasons, not because they didn’t worship hard enough. But lets look at some smaller examples.

The Puritans: Unhappy with the more moderate and relatively tolerant society in England, they left for the new world to set up a theocracy in 1620. Seventy years later and the colony was hunting and executing their own citizens for witchcraft.

Easter Island: Home to the famous Moai statues. Here was a civilization so obsessed with pleasing the gods that they destroyed their own ecosystem in the process!

 

Easter Island is important because it so wonderfully outlines a major problem with focusing to heavily on religion in your society: you tend to neglect the things that matter, like food, water, shelter, and political/economical/environmental stability. You can see this fact echoed in the Human Development Index. The most religious societies in the world are also the worst places to live.

So where do we stand today? The United States is arguably an empire. Despite it’s secular constitution and first amendment protections, we are an extremely religious country. God has been placed on our money, wedged into our pledge, and adopted as a second national motto. 86.7% of our congress is Christian. 98.7% of them believe in a higher power of some kind. For the majority of the past century our nation was ruled by deeply religious men. Churches have tax exempt status despite meddling in politics. Half the country doesn’t except the scientific fact of evolution. (The rest of the developed world accepted it an moved on over a century ago) There are millions of houses of worship in this country. Religious programing floods the airwaves. Religious lobbies are very powerful in Washington.

All this and our rain dance shaman wants more. The utter saturation of religion in American society is not enough. Things are starting to go badly for America despite our devotion. Some assure us it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. If we only prayed a little more, worshiped god a bit louder, things would turn around. But in reality this will never work. It will never work because it is ignoring the actual causes of our problems. A poor economy, an over extended military (which some like Palin feel are fighting wars that are god’s will!), and a failing school system are only a handful of the actual problems dragging this country down. But the rain dance shaman ignores this. They won’t be happy until the country is turned into a Christian Saudi Arabia. By the time they manage to create hell on earth it’ll be too late for them to be held accountable.