Ever since Man invented the concept of “God” as a means to provide answers to the baffling origins of life and to soothe the inevitable and irreversible arrival of death, he has been killing other men, women and children in the name of god.
Five-hundred or so centuries into the self-aware existence of our species, the slaughter continues.
The homophobic Orlando massacre is the latest deadly embrace by a deranged individual with a weapon of the “word of God” – words written 1,400 years ago and which proscribe killing gay men by stoning them, burning them or tossing them from a high wall.
Sadly, killing homosexuals with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is so much easer than these ancient punishments. Thus far, there has not been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in which 49 people have been stoned to death.
It is, however, too simple to blame the easy availability of guns in the United States for the bloodshed in Orlando (although we can hold gun access responsible for unending string of shootings on high school and university campuses).
The true culprit is religion, primarily Christianity and Islam (although other modern religions as well as more ancient ones – the Aztecs come to mind – have shown themselves to be just as bloody in the enforcement of their beliefs.
- The Christian crusade against the Muslim world dispatched up to 3 million souls to their competing versions of heaven.
- Muslims, during the Ottoman empire, attempted to scrub Armenian Christians from the empire, killing up to 1.5 million of them in the process.
- Hitler, inspired in part by the Armenian genocide, cloaked his fascism in the robe of Christianity and killed 6 million Jews (a Holocaust that, in turn, fuels both the current Christian-Muslim wars in the Mideast as well as the violent hate crimes committed in the United States by neo-Nazis such as the KKK and other right-wing extremists.
There’s more – so much more. Muslim women stoned to death for being raped. Marathon runners bombed to death for being Christian. Thousands of Christians killed by other Christians during the Inquisition for not being Christian enough. Millions of indigenous peoples in North America either murdered to driven to their deaths for being “pagan” by Christian conquerors from England, France, Spain and Portugal.
The deliverance of death as a means of interpreting the mandates of god is not religion’s only crime. It is also guilty of forcing Muslim girls to live in ignorance and fear for their lives should they dare to be educated. It is guilty of condemning poor young Catholic women in Latin American countries to continued poverty by preaching against birth control and thereby enabling teen-age pregnancy. It subjugates Jewish and Muslim women to the will of men, denying them full participation in their lives. It spreads hate – against gays, against foreigners, against non-believers – and in doing so encourages group-think and herd mentality: Us against Them (with the Us always being morally superior and adhering to the true god).
I must be naïve, I realize, to wonder how these ancient beliefs persist – beliefs inscribed by men who knew nothing of science, little of geography and not much more of any life other than that in their own tribe. Not only do they persist, but they shape cultural norms, infiltrate public policy and far too often lead directly to violence, either by some lonely, disconnected guy with a gun or by an entire nation with modern weaponry at its disposal.
If there is a god, it has cursed us with these religions.