I t might be a good time to issue a report card on human endeavors. How are we doing? There seem to be some wide discrepancies, ranging from abysmal failure to spectacular success. What do we do best? Where have we made the greatest progress?
Science and technology wins by a mile. Since Galileo, we have been on a roll. Brilliant, free-thinking men opened the doors to understanding. Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch. Now we understand DNA, we map the genome of fly, mouse and
human. An exploring probe called "Curiosity" motors around on the Martian soil, taking rock samples and performing analyses. The Hubble telescope orbits the earth taking fantastic pictures of distant galaxies. Discoveries come faster than any man can grasp.
We collaborate, we discuss, we repeat to confirm, we report, we revise. In the world of science, the capabilities of the Homo Sapiens brain are fully revealed, put on display. We need to give ourselves A+. We are masters at entertaining ourselves. We
write and play music. We sing. We dance. We play games. Sport and music brings people together, breaks through religious and ethnic barriers like no other activities. The level of performance, for both men and women, continues to escalate. B+ Religion
drags us down. Religion is like the La Brea Tar Pits; it captures us. At first, our legs cannot move, then the arms cannot be lifted, the eyes cannot see, the ears go deaf, the brain is a dead zone and we sink from sight. At least one third of the world's
population has not moved forward one inch with the problem of religions in thousands of years. Every day there is a report of an activity or behavior which hails from somewhere between Biblical times and the Dark Ages. The children of the Gaza Strip go
to summer camps. Here the boys do military drills using wooden guns and receive further reinforcement of religious values. War games and religion come as a package. How backward, how dark, how wasteful, this ablation of good brains. These countries creep
upwards then slide back, like a man on the proverbial slippery slope. Turkey has shown signs of enlightenment in recent decades. Until recently. Their leader now is by the name of Tayip Erdogan . He wants to roll back the clock to the good old fundamental
Muslim days. In a railway station in Istanbul, a couple were seen to kiss. This prompted an announcement on the PA system, "Stop kissing and respect the moral code". This is just the narrow edge of the wedge. I thought Buddhists were a peaceful, gentle
religion. Certainly, this is the image presented by the Dalai Lama. A quotation from the Dalai Lama: "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." What happened? In Myanmar, in April, Buddhist mobs armed with machetes and swords, pursued
Muslims, killing 25, burning down their homes. This problem has now escalated and the Rohinga Muslim minority have been driven from their homes, amidst a slaughter of women and children, So much for the peaceful Buddhists, Sunni Muslims and Shiite
Muslims cannot peacefully co-exist, it seems. Since the Americans left the Iraqis to themselves, they take turns carrying out atrocities on each other. Shiites prefer car bombs. Sunnis do the suicide bomber. One thousand suicide bombers blew themselves up
in 2012. Many thousands of innocents perished with them. The bombers specialized in attacks on funeral processions, weddings and each other's mosques and shrines. The Taliban, despite some serious setbacks, continue their own brand of treachery. They
promote a harsh version of Sunni Muslim. They want to ban music and kite flying. They don't want women to have an opportunity to be educated. The ban on music does not kill anyone, but they seem quite able to change gears to brutal murder and execution. They
recently executed seven foreign mountaineers in northern Pakistan. Who can find words? Earlier this year, a stellar member of El Qaida climbed on to a bus and shot a teenage girl in the neck. Punishment for going to school. "Served her right", he said.
The penalty for him for this crime? I can find no report that this came to anything. From 1960-1990, in Northern Ireland, it was Catholics against protestants again. Some like to say this was a political issue, but I'm sorry, "The troubles" were about
religion. Three thousand died during the "troubles". Come on Ireland, just go to the rugby match. A sizable number of Irish Catholics live in predominately Protestant Scotland today. The country's deeply-rooted sectarianism becomes obvious when Glasgow's
Celtic FC and Rangers football teams face off. In Scotland, football games between the two Glasgow clubs Celtic FC and Rangers FC can quickly turn into violent affairs. A showdown between the country's two top teams is almost certain to bring out bagpipes,
riot police on horses and surveillance helicopters. Come on Scotland. Just play football. You want to go back to the good old days? Maybe about 500 years ago? OK, read this. In Flanders, all heretical Protestants were ordered executed and thousands
were burned at the stake. But Queen Mary was merciful to Protestants who recanted - instead of burning, the men would be killed by a sword and women buried alive. Philip II, Spanish king and also ruler of Holland and Belgium, was positively obsessed with eliminating
Protestantism and ordered that all prisoners be killed so that there would be no chance that they might escape through neglect or mistakes. In France, the largest Protestant group was known as the Huguenots. They were mercilessly persecuted, and King
Henry created a heresy court known infamously as The Burning Chamber because that was the standard punishment for heretics. On the night of August 24, 1572 - known as St. Bartholomew's Day - Catholic soldiers swept through Huguenot neighborhoods of Paris in
a foreshadowing of what would happen to the Jews under Nazi rule. Thousands were slaughtered in their homes and other massacres timed for the same night occurred in cities across France. In response to this, Pope Gregory XIII wrote to France's King Charles
IX: "We rejoice with you that with the help of God you have relieved the world of these wretched heretics". Religion scores E. Honorable mention needs to be given to some countries, at least for making an effort to improve in this category of human
behavior. I see evidence that America is trying. The Supreme Court struck down elements of the Defense of Marriage Act, making it possible for same- sex couples to receive the same benefits as couples in conventional marriage. Same sex marriage is now sanctioned
in 12 states. Barrack Obama was not afraid to state his opinion in favor of continuing in this direction. For the comedian, the satirist, many writers and commentators, religion makes a dandy target. So packed with fables, fairy stories, unsupportable
rubbish and hypocrisy, the subject is a favorite topic. At least, it can be said, that in the western world, where Christianity is on the receiving end of satire and humor, none of the authors of this material have been killed or even threatened. C-
to America for the effort and for a slow but progressive display of intellect and a sense of humor. In 1628, William Harvey described the circulation of the blood. Anton Von Leeuwenhoeck invented the microscope. . Galileo observed and proved that
the sun is the central body of the solar system.. Newton developed the Laws of Motion. . In 1697, in Scotland, Thomas Aikenhead, age 20 years, was prosecuted, convicted and hung for the "crime" of blasphemy. The indictment read, " ..the prisoner
had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra's
fables, in profane allusion to Esop's Fables". The murder of Mr. Aikenhead, bracketed by the greatest discoveries of that time, demonstrates that brains capable of careful observations, analytical thought and brilliant conclusions can co-exist with bottomed
-out, bone headed ignorance. In 1988,the novel, Satanic Verses, and its author, Salman Rushdie, did not get a pass from the Ayatollah Khomeini, who called for the death of Mr. Rushdie. So far, Salman Rushdie has not been harmed, either because he is hidden
somewhere in England, or he is too well protected. His Japanese and Italian translators did not fare so well. Neither did his publisher. Death for blasphemy? Blasphemy? We are talking, "blasphemy"? Gentlemen, this is about, "Blasphemy"? What???
Bad behaviour by the Homo sapiens
"Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to
Makes countless thousands mourn! "
"inhumane". Strange word. The dictionary says; lack of kindness, lack of pity, lack of compassion and mercy. To say the least. Cruel, brutal, savage, are closer to the truth in many instances. The word "inhuman" suggests that the behaviour is not that
of humans, but of some other animal species. But, the fact is that inhuman behaviour is totally human. No other animal massacres, slaughters, tortures, mutilates and executes other animals by burning, beheading, buried alive.
Humans have a large
brain. We have spoken and written languages. We can record history, we can plan for the future, we are aware of our mortality. We are creative and innovative. We can perform complex tasks. We have a talent for investigation and problem solving. Some of us
have come to reach the highest levels of understanding of history of the universe, our solar system, the earth and organisms that evolved here over the eons. Some of us search for truth.
On occasion, humans have displayed kindness and compassion, courage
and devotion, of the highest order.
So, what has happened?
Someone said that history is "one damn thing after another". If you study history, you may come to believe that it is just a chain of genocide, murder and massacre, repeating itself,
over the centuries. What was/is going on with the marvelous human brain?
To me, it appears that the human's complex brain is vulnerable: vulnerable to mass hysteria and mass hypnotism.A single person, or small number of persons, can whip the population
into a patriotic or religious fervor. No one can think for themselves. The most horrific acts become justifiable. Humans become an out of control mob, capable of the most unbelievable atrocities.
Sometimes there was what could be described as a war.
But in most instances it was just a slaughter.
From biblical times onward religion was the central issue. Not every time, but many times. The old testament begins with some pretty tall tales; one might hope that none of the rest of the Old Testament
is true either. Unfortunately, the descriptions of the massacres perpetrated by the Israelites have a ring of truth.
"God" commissions Joshua to continue the invasion and conquering of Canaan. The first "battle" is the taking of the city of Jericho.
On "God's" order, they "destroy every living thing in it, man and woman, young and old". Even the donkeys. A massacre at "God's" command.
"God" has conversations with Joshua, giving him encouragement and direction. The next was the city of Ai. "The
Israelites returned to Ai and killed all those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day- all the people of Ai."
Five Kings of the Amorites were captured and brought to Joshua. His men held them down while Joshua struck and killed
them. The Kings were hung on five trees and left there until evening.
The justification for all this killing? The Caanites were "bad" people. Worshipped idols. Practiced incest and bestiality. Maybe sacrificed children. Incest and bestiality?
Tried by many. A child sacrificed to a God? Ignorance and fear caused this to happen. The Israelites solved this problem. They killed all the children.
By the year 1000AD, there is now recorded history. The period of the crusades is documented in some
Pope Urban 11, in a momentous speech, proclaimed the Crusades against the infidel Muslims. He promised absolution of all sins to those who went and died, plus immediate entry into heaven. The listeners chanted, "God wills it". Roman Catholic
armies from all over western Europe were mustered and 100,000 set off on the first of many crusades. The crusaders were motivated by intense Christian piety. They put the city of Antioch under siege. Once inside, the Crusaders massacred all the inhabitants,
then pillaged the city.
They then moved on to Jerusalem where they massacred all the Jewish and Muslim inhabitants.
The Crusades continued for 200 years. There were nine separate expeditions. Hundreds of thousands died. By 1290, all the
Christians had been driven out or killed. Pope Urban 11, who started it all, had died in 1099.
Killing among religious factions is not confined to Christian against Muslim. Muslim fights Muslim, Sikhs attack Muslims and Muslims retaliate. And Christian
The French Wars of Religion began in 1562. Rather than a war, what is described seems to be a series of massacres. This time, it is Catholic vs Protestant [The Hugenots]. It seems that the Queen tied to cement a peace between
catholics and Protestants by arranging a marriage between the King's sister and a Protestant, the future Henry IV of France. This did not sit well with the staunch Catholic population [also referred to as Traditionalist, Extreme, Catholics]
"Traditional" and "Extreme" sound familiar to you?
Tensions escalated and the King ordered the killing of some protestant leaders. This triggered the slaughter of the protestant population by Catholics, the "St. Bartholomew's Day massacre." Thirty thousand
people were killed.
The Pope offered his congratulations to the King of France and sent him a yellow rose. The Pope ordered the mint of a medal, depicting an angel carrying a sword and standing over the bodies of the slain protestants.
massacres of Protestants followed. The massacre of Merindol was ordered by the French King Francis 1, who ordered the "punishment" of the Protestants in the city of Merindol for "dissident" religious activites. His soldiers slaughtered about 100,000 people.
Religious conflict was not confined to Europe. About 1400, Timur, led his Muslim armies into India. He said, "There arose in my heart to lead an expedition against the infidels. The Koran told me, make war upon the infidels and unbelievers".
Sound familiar? I think I heard or read these same words very recently.
Timur went to India and attacked the Hindu city of Kator. He says, "10,000 heads were cut off in an hour." Further, "they were dispatched to hell with the proselytizing sword".
Then we have had the Inquisitions. The fight against the heritics. "Combat the spread of heresy". Led by the "Grand Inquisitor", punishments were handed out. These included banishment, life in prison or burning at the stake. The stated purpose
was to terrify people, so that they would not commit "evils". There was a Roman inquisition, a Spanish inquisition, a Portugese inquisition. The most notable of those prosecuted was Galileo. The Roman inquisition assigned him life in prison for pointing
out, on good evidence, that the earth and other planets orbited around the sun. The inquisitors needed to get a confession so the accused could be brought back to the fold. This end apparently justified the means, so various forms of torture were brought
to bear. The "rack" was a frequently displayed technique. Combinations of burning, piling hot coals on the body, hanging by the arms until the shoulders dislocated; the inquisitors were promised "clearing" of wrong-doing by the Pope. The " crime" was often
a possibility that the accused was a protestant.
You think all this bad stuff is remote history?
How about the Canadian idea of the residential schools? Converting an intact family of Aboriginal people apparently proved difficult. So the idea
came to isolate the children from the family, feed them a steady diet of Christianity, don't allow them to speak their own language or practice their own religion. Punish them if they do. "Civilize" them. The children were physically and sexually abused, and
lived in poor conditions. The schools had a mortality rate. A large mortality rate. Over a five year period, 1905-1910, 30-60% of the students died. In some classes, all the children had tuberculosis and many, almost dead, were being made to sit through
classes. The Catholic and Anglican churhes can both stand up and take responsibility. There is a rough estimate of 6,000 deaths in these schools.
Even more recently:
In 1980, Iraq attacked Iran. Muslim fought Muslim, and the battles continued
for eight years. Iraq apparently feared that its majority population of Shiite muslims would be inspired to insurrection by the Iranian revolution. Over two million soldiers on both sides were killed or injured. Horrendously, the Iranians used child
minesweepers to clear a path for their armoured vehicles. Thousands of chidren were blown to bits. And, read this: The child, wrapped in a shroud to contain the body parts, rolled along the ground until they hit a mine.
They had been given a plastic
key, which, they were told, would give them entry into heaven.
This is where a religion goes? How could anyone have anything to do with any religion after learning of this?
In contrast to religions, I am not killing or torturing anyone.
I am not making anyone sad, guilty or fearful. I absolutely never want to hurt anyone.