It’s a particularly big elephant. It appears whenever discussion turns to IS, Iran, Iraq, Syria, terrorism and any number of international conflicts.
Commentators often talk about compromise, tolerance, education and humanitarian assistance. There are calls for punishment of the truly evil and protection of the innocent. Discussions often centre around how far our aid should extend and in what circumstances we should act.
At some stage we need to stop and look at the fundamental issue. Is there a root cause of all of these problems? The answer is yes.
The driver of these problems is religious faith and it is time that as a civilised and educated society we recognise religious faith as unfairly influential and very dangerous.
Religious faith is a powerful tool that enables a small group of leaders to effectively control a large group of followers. At its most innocent this results in people getting together to chant slogans and waive incense around but at its most dangerous it leads to people picking up guns to shoot each other.
We have to recognise that religions practice a form of mind control. Religions instruct their followers how to think and behave in certain situations. They are unfairly influential because they are given access to young children and are permitted to indoctrinate them into religious beliefs. Given enough control and access to young impressionable minds, religious leaders can make people believe almost anything and unfortunately that sometimes includes that in certain circumstances it is a good idea to chop someones head off.
We do not allow hypnotists to enter our schools and fill young minds with crazy ideas but by allowing religions to indoctrinate young children we are essentially permitting the same thing.
I read with interest the press release of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) dated 15 September 2014. It says “ANIC warns all Muslim Australians not to trust the internet and social media as some material may have dangerous influences on vulnerable minds. Instead Muslims must get proper religious advice from knowledgeable, respected and qualified Imams”.
I agree with the sentiment that young minds are vulnerable to bad influences. I reject the notion of a knowledgeable, respected and qualified Imam. I’ll return to that later.
Now I accept that in 2014 most religions are not explicitly imploring followers to kill people, but they are still promoting many dangerous ideas.
The most obvious is that their particular religion has been in conflict with some other religion and being a member of Religion A means you automatically adopt a 2000 year old grudge against Religion B. Now that may not mean explicitly that followers of Religion A should kill followers of Religion B but that is often the practical result. Don’t believe me? Look at Israel and Palestine.
Religions create situations of “them” and “us”. We are Muslims or Jews or Roman Catholics and we cannot marry anyone who is not one of “us”. It even causes division within religions. Think Sunni and Shiite or Catholic and Protestant.
Religions use their coercive powers to influence members on a range of issues that cause enormous harm to billions of people. For example, the subjugation of women, discrimination against gays and disapproval of birth control to name just a few.
So what can we do?
Unfortunately, we have billions of adults who have been hard wired by religious indoctrination, some of whom are now programmed to want to kill each other. Our options are limited. In the short term, the best we can do is keep them away from each other.
But let’s look long term. Let’s look at the next generation. If we can keep religions away from children until they are 18 then they will be much less likely to take up religion and importantly less likely to take on the ancient grudges and outdated and discriminatory policies.
So if we are going to give aid to Iraq, Syria, Israel or the Palestinians let’s make it conditional on or aimed at secular government and policies. The best aid we can give these regions would be to remove the infection of religion from the next generation.
In our own back yard to help prevent the creation of home grown terrorists and misogynists and homophobes let’s restrict or prohibit religious indoctrination of children.
And let’s stop the favourable tax treatment that religious organisations enjoy. Why are they exempt from taxes? If they do enough charitable work to qualify as a charity then they can be tax exempt under that category but make them prove it. Is there anyone who seriously thinks the Church of Scientology should not pay taxes? Religious organisations are running all sorts of businesses from breakfast cereal to insurance and if they aren’t using it for charitable purposes they should pay taxes. We should not be giving special benefits to such dangerous and irresponsible groups. It only makes it easier for them to peddle their poisonous messages.
At the same time can we treat religions as the charlatans they are?
I mean really, it is just nonsense. There is no all powerful being judging us in preparation of an afterlife. There was no ark. No Adam and Eve. There are no virgins waiting for you. It’s OK to eat bacon. Prayers are a waste of time. It is gobbledegook and mumbo jumbo.
So the notion of a knowledgeable, respected and qualified Imam is just rubbish in the same way that there is no such thing as a knowledgeable, respected and qualified snake oil salesman. Our media is littered with the comments and opinions of Imams, Priests and the like. They are treated as experts but they are not. One cannot be an expert on unicorns. These “fairyologists” are afforded far too much respect. The media and government defer to them too readily.
So please, when you next read of a large scale conflict or terrorist act step back and ask whether there is a long term religious battle in play. When a cleric offers prayers or theological advice, remember they are peddling nonsense.
The Iron Fist