The Dangerous Ideology of Religion

Ideology, in the hands of true-believers, tends to reject facts in favor of some grander “truth,” an especially dangerous tendency when mixed with religious conviction and certainty, as Lawrence Davidson explains.

By Lawrence Davidson

Ideologies are pre-set forms of thinking that shape people’s worldviews and, supposedly, help to order and simplify reality. While this supposition is always flawed to one extent or another, ideologies can be very seductive. In part this is because they free their adherents from the hard work of critical thinking. Thus, they are often held onto tenaciously.

Because ideologies distort reality, they are particularly unsuited for those aspiring to power as well as their devoted supporters. History is full of examples of politically powerful ideologies that underscore this fact: fascism, communism, various military cults (particularly popular in South America and the Middle East) and even the ideology of democracy as manipulated by corrupt elites, who play the Pied Piper to the masses.

An image of a Crusader killing a Muslim.

An image of a Crusader killing a Muslim.

Yet there is still one more ideology out there which, even now, wreaks havoc by either claiming for itself the trappings of secular power or attaching itself in some influential advisory way to the institutions of power. That ideology is religion in its various institutional manifestations.

I want to emphasize that I am not referring to the personal religious convictions of millions by which life is made to appear understandable and meaningful. Whether such convictions are accurate or not, they play an important role at the individual level and, as long as they do not promote harmful intolerance, should be left to benignly function at the local level.

What I am referring to are religious ideologies that are institutionalized in bureaucracies that can project power much as do secular institutions of authority. Religious ideologies so institutionalized see themselves as possessed of God-given truth while playing the game of power amidst human competitors.

Religion in Power

It is often said that we live in an age of religious revival. Whatever this might say for the “spiritual” shortcomings of modernity, this is a state of affairs rife with political danger. A quick look at history can again easily demonstrate why this is so.

,In the Tenth through Fifteenth centuries in Europe, Roman Catholicism was a strong political power centered in the Papacy. Historians often claim it preserved what was left of Greco-Roman civilization. It also brought with it the bloodletting of the Crusades and the tortures of the Inquisition.

,When, briefly, the Protestants tasted political power in the form of Calvin’s Geneva, Savonarola’s Florence, Cromwell’s England, and the early New World establishments of North America, the result was widespread intolerance, civil war, burning flesh at Salem and elsewhere and, of course, no dancing. It does not take great imagination to see the potential for high levels of intolerance occurring if some representative of today’s Christian Right, say Ted Cruz, takes power in the U.S.

,Buddhism used to be universally revered as a religion of peace and tolerance. However, put it in power or ally it to those who politically rule, and what once was benign turns malignant. Thus, consider the self-identified Buddhist government of Sri Lanka and its brutal campaign against the Tamils in the north of that country. Likewise, you can find Buddhists allied to the government of Myanmar crying for the blood of the country’s Rohingya, a Muslim minority.

,There is a lot of Hindu fanaticism in India, and It remains to be seen if the present government of that country, dominated now by Hindu nationalists, will again turn loose the religious passion which, in the recent past, has led to sectarian violence and massacres of India’s religious minorities (again, notably Muslims).

,Where the Muslims seek or hold state power, the situation is little different. According to Sunni tradition, the ethical standards of behavior set down in the Quran did not dictate state behavior beyond the brief reign of the so-called “rightly guided Caliphs.” Shiites often point out that things fell apart almost immediately upon Mohammad’s death. Civil war and internecine slaughter followed in both scenarios.

Today, in Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf emirates, one finds Sunni intolerance of Shiite Islam and the exploitation of non-citizen laborers despite their being fellow Muslims. In Shia Iran, authorities seem unsure just how tolerant or intolerant to be toward more moderate interpretations of their own, now politicized, religious tenets.

Then, of course, you have various organizations, claiming to be Sunni Muslim, ranging from ISIS to Al Nusra or some other Al Qaeda variant, all reaching for political power. Where they have tasted success, as in the case of ISIS, the consequences have been particularly bad.

,Since 1948 Judaism has succumbed to the same fate as other world religions entangling themselves in politics. Despite all the rationalizations, propaganda and self-deception, it is clear that institutional Judaism is now firmly melded to the deeply discriminatory and particularly brutal political ideology of Zionism.

I use the word “melded” because what we have here is something more than just an alliance of two separate entities. The Zionists have insisted since 1917, the year of the Balfour Declaration, was proclaimed, that the fate of Judaism and an Israeli “national home” are thoroughly intertwined. Their insistent manipulations have resulted in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The consequences of this melding have been horrific. If you want to know just how horrid things have become, there are numerous Palestinian and Jewish human rights groups that are easily found on the web which will document Israeli behavior in all its dehumanizing detail.

For a more personalized assessment of just what this melding means for Judaism as a religion I recommend the recent book by Marc H. Ellis entitled The Heartbeat of the Prophetic (New Diaspora Books, 2015). Ellis is a Jewish theologian who, in the 1970s, was greatly influenced by the work of Roman Catholic priests in Latin America who were promoting “liberation theology.”

That “for the good of the people” interpretation of religion was corrosive of the institutionalized Church, and so the movement was ultimately stifled. However, Ellis thought that the same philosophy could be applied to Judaism – an insight that eventually led him to denounce Zionized Judaism in a manner reminiscent of the prophets of the Old Testament.

For Ellis, institutionalized Judaism has been reduced to an adjunct of an expansionist and racist political ideology. He feels that there is no getting around the inherent evil of this situation. No two-state solution or other “progressive” approach can erase it. As long as Judaism persists in identifying itself in terms of the Israeli state and Zionist ideology, the ethical underpinnings of the religion are left behind in the wreckage of an evolving “Jewish empire.”

Lessons to Be Learned

What have all these historical examples to teach those of religious faith? Some fundamentalists would have us believe the lesson is to remain humble and obedient in the face of an unfathomable deity whose mysterious purposes are simply beyond human comprehension. Yet there is nothing incomprehensible about the repetitive death, destruction and intolerance bred by institutionalized ideologies. And, as the historical examples given above tell us, religious ideology is no exception.

A better lesson learned seems to be: if you want to be religious, keep it personal and tolerant, avoid tendencies toward institutionalization beyond the level of local charity and organized good works, and stay clear of political alliances.

It is said that Jesus told his disciples, “where two or three of you are gathered together there I too will be.” Those are just about the right numbers when it comes to keeping religion safe for the believers and non-believers alike. After all, when you have two or three thousand, or two or three million gathered together, for whatever purpose, then something quite different from a helpful and humane spirit is likely to be present.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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48 comments for “The Dangerous Ideology of Religion

  1. Christoph Rebner
    January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

    masonic brabble – why don’t you keep your effluences private?

    • Zachary Smith
      January 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Definition of brabble

      brab·bledbrab·bling play \-b(ə-)liŋ\

      intransitive verb

      : squabble

      Translation => “masonic squabble – why don’t you keep your effluences private?”

      Still doesn’t make any sense to me.

      I don’t know any Buddists, Muslims, Hindus, or Jews, and only a smattering of Catholics. The Protestants who make up the vast majority of my family and friends tend to be devout and ignorant. They truly believe what their preachers tell them, and almost none of them know anything at all about their Holy Book except for a certainty that every single word of it is true. Except of course when the Holy Book prescriptions are in conflict with what they want to do or want to believe. In the most extreme cases the Holy Book is rejected – like with the entire Old Testament being of THE OLD DISPENSATION. If a person rubs their nose in the actual teachings of Jesus, the usual reaction is to nit-pick or duck and weave, claiming that it takes a pure Born Again spirit to understand the finer points of being a Good Christian while ignoring the specific teachings of Christ.

      I’ve had elderly female relatives who stoutly defend the tortures of George Bush. Who openly say they hope some especially nasty criminal gets sent to prison where he will be raped by other prisoners and endlessly beaten by the guards. But they would cry if they saw a small animal being hurt.

      If anything, Mr. Lawrence Davidson understates the problems of religion in his essay.

      • rebner
        February 1, 2016 at 8:07 am

        brabble
        [brab-uh l] Obsolete

        Word Origin

        verb (used without object), brabbled, brabbling.
        1.
        to argue stubbornly about trifles; wrangle.
        noun
        2.
        noisy, quarrelsome chatter.

  2. J'hon Doe II
    January 30, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Yes! Religion is ideology.
    Those who trust/rely on their “religion”/religious views are inculcated followers.

  3. dahoit
    January 30, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Yes,the Israelis use Judaism as the cudgel for their existence,but only believe the chosen people part,not all the mercy,justice and wisdom parts.Sad.

  4. Richard
    January 30, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    Corrupt man twists away from the light in rejecting God. Because man has rejected His Name, Torah, and the words of Jesus…the whole of man’s history is a study of rebellion, hate, death, darkness, and scornful rejection. God is real. Jesus was truthed up from his Father and is exactly who he says he is. That is not hyperbola.

    • Zachary Smith
      January 30, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Corrupt man twists away from the light in rejecting God

      Now which God would that be? Surely you’e heard of a professor at Wheaton College who is in the process of being fired.

      Hawkins wore an Islamic hijab head covering for Advent to show support for peaceful Muslims. In a Facebook post, she quoted Pope Francis to the effect that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.”

      Once again, which God are you talking about? Would it be the one who was the God-Emperor of Japan during the Shinto Restoration period leading up to WW2? Or might it be a North American Deity like the Navajo Black God, or Makemake of Easter Island in the South Pacific?

      • J'hon Doe II
        January 31, 2016 at 10:36 am

        Religion is a set of beliefs and rituals.

        Spirituality is a focus on spiritual things.

        God is Spirit. God is Truth. God is Love.

        “Things which are seen are temporal, that which is unseen is eternal.”

        Man is mortal. God is eternal.

  5. Odd Fausko
    January 30, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    The whole world religen is totaly NUTS .We all have one thing in komen the feeling of LOVE,it’s no argument about That and its reel.So leave al gods alone and use love AS the main true belive!Yes i know i’m dreaming??

  6. Evangelista
    January 30, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Ideologies and Religions are separate entities. Ideologies are garbed in religions’ trappings, coverings and vestments to give a religious color to the garbing ideology. The purpose is to ‘borrow’ the positive-purpose component from the religion to give the ideology appearance of ‘higher’ ‘purpose’ and ‘legitimacy’ (my single-quotes are to designate the what the words reference to be propaganda-patina, not the real-thing, the real purpose or legitimacy of the religion ‘borrowed’ from, or whose vestments are usurped).

    Mr. Davidson slips into the common error the dressing up of ideologies is intended to precipitate, perpetrate and perpetuate, mistaking the religion the dog and the ideology attached to it the tail. In fact, the religion is neither dog nor tail, it is a paint-job brushed onto the ideological dog’s fur. The product the ideologists want to achieve is something on the order of a Trojan-Horse, a religious symbol (which the horse was in the religion of Troy) that is only a covering to carry the ideology’s aggressive intentions and plans forward. From the end of the first section onward Mr. Davidson presents ideological component as religious component. Reading the essay with this in mind, we can see how the switch effectuates and the Trojan-Horse deception succeeds.

    Recognizing this is the first step toward combatting the twistings of religions into idelogues’ tools. To combat the twisting we have to learn the common religious components of religions, what it is that makes them religions, useful to their non-aggressor believers, that makes them able to exert the positive influences that makes religion’s trappings desirable to ideological aggressors.

    For example, warmaking is not a purpose of Christianity, even in the Paulist incarnation (which took it away from the impossible idealism of Jesus of Nazareth to a practically salable doctrine, or beyond). Also, warmaking was not Mohammed’s propose in propagating Islam (or Allah’s in using Mohammed). Ideologue Bhuddists are even farther from their Tree than Paulist Christians and Shariafi Muslims. Septuagint Judaism was begun from irresponsibility by its Seventy, who provided it a ‘growing-up’ to recognition of ethics and reverence for ethical conduct, which true religious Jews give high priority to.

    Ideologues leave all of these essential components, taking only the skins, and, for being misshapen, themselves, distorting those. To combat, or strive against, or jihad against the abusings, those who recognize the fundamental values of religion, whether religious or not, themselves, have to direct attention to the misshapings and distortings, to separate the religions from the missusings.

    • J'hon Doe II
      January 31, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      In the Church, ideologies can be “changed”.
      An example of that is the clergy’s vow of celibacy. The vow is not observed by all 23 Rites of the Catholic Church, and is not an official dogma. In fact, the earliest church fathers were not required to remain celibate. Even today, many non-Latin Rite priests are married clergymen.
      .
      Vows. Rites. Requirements.
      .
      Dogmas, however, are infallible, official doctrines of the Church, and can never be changed. To change them would be a theological impossibility.
      An example of a dogma is the policy of the Church not to ordain women. This is a dogma and therefore can never be changed. The Church does not have the power to ordain women. It is not what Jesus taught. Women have their role in the Church, just like men do, but that role will never be as a priest.
      .
      Dogmas. Doctrines. Policies.

      Huxley’s masterpiece was originated by previous Russian authors. They, and Huxley railed against authoritarian ideology and doctrine. Religion is precisely that. It is un-biblical. It is Binding with it’s Absolutes (like classroom notes collected/saved in a book-binder).Today the lock is a mobile device.
      Unbelief florishes. God has been overthrown into an irrelevant minor fiction despite the claim the He is The Creator.
      Scientific discovery continues unabated, but none can find a discovery of the origin of life – in all of it’s wonderful and dynamic forms.

      “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’

      • J'hon Doe II
        January 31, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        Proverbs 1

        1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;

        2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

        3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

        4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

        5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

        6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

        7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
        .

        8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

        9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.

        10 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.

        11 If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause:

        12 Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit:

        13 We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil:

        14 Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:

        15 My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path:

        16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

        17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.

        18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives.

        19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.
        .

        20 Wisdom crieth (shouts) without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:

        21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying,

        22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

        23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.

        24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

        25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

        26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

        27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

        28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:

        29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord:

        30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

        31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.

        32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

        33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.

        • Ann
          February 1, 2016 at 2:25 pm

          Your right on!

      • Evangelista
        January 31, 2016 at 8:39 pm

        In churches ideologies exist side-by-side, too, or, using ‘ideologies’ as a designator for non-moral ‘political’ activities, ideologies and religious principle applications can, and often do, exist side-by-side. A good example was provided by the Roman Christian Church during the plague years in the Middle-Ages, when most of the top church hierarchy was political and corrupt, but a significant portion of the pastoral priesthood, administering in villages, hamlets and the country were putting themselves at risk to provide the plague-stricken the comforting and services the church was purposed in its founding principles to provide. In so doing those self-sacrificing defended the organization the higher up corrupt were breaking down, providing a base that remained to be rebuilt from when the Protestant eruption broke the RC hegemony (which started a war that continues amongst ones who take up those cudgels even today).

      • Regina Schulte
        February 5, 2016 at 6:18 pm

        The rule that only males can be ordained to the priesthood is NOT A DOCTRINE OR DOGMA. It is merely a custom; i.e., a traditional PRACTICE attached to the church’s performance
        of its RITUALS. It can be changed.

      • Regina Schulte
        February 5, 2016 at 6:19 pm

        The rule that only males can be ordained to the priesthood is NOT A DOCTRINE OR DOGMA. It is merely a custom; i.e., a traditional PRACTICE attached to the church’s performance
        of its RITUALS. It can be changed.

      • Regina Schulte
        February 5, 2016 at 6:20 pm

        The rule that only males can be ordained to the priesthood is NOT A DOCTRINE OR DOGMA. It is merely a custom; i.e., a traditional PRACTICE attached to the church’s performance
        of its RITUALS. It can be changed.

  7. Erik
    January 31, 2016 at 9:06 am

    The only legitimate value of religion is in moral education, where one religion is as good as another. But its institutions usually teach that they have the only true answer, and thereby serve to create the wrongs against which they teach. They are also poor methods of moral education, being irrational and consisting almost entirely of irrelevant detail, myths, etc. Moral education builds sympathy by allowing young people to experience the suffering of others without too much suffering themselves, and to understand its causes, so it operates by means of literature and “the things that reign in men’s morals” such as encouragement, praise, reproof, and example.

    All moral education systems, like all ideologies, have the problem that they are perfect disguises for those guided primarily by selfishness, ignorance, hypocrisy, and malice. They can praise their lord and wave their flag better than anyone, and they see their moral superiors as obstacles, and their audience as fools. They easily rise to power among the religious, precisely because they are not guided by principles, but by self interest, and so they are ones most strongly motivated to gain power withing their group.

    They are the right wing, present in every group, which has sought power throughout history by creating fears and public enemies, so as to demand power as protectors and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. They combine the militarist flag-waver and the hypocritical priest to create nationalist (or other group) movements which serve no principle but their own self-interest. This works best when their audience feels oppressed, and so it was that the oppressed Germans turned to Nazi nationalism, and their oppression of Jews created the supreme irony of fascist Zionism.

    Democracies must always be on guard against the flag waver and the religious zealot, not because patriotism or religion are bad, but because they are almost never the guiding lights of those who deserve office, but rather the disguises of those who do not.

    • Evangelista
      January 31, 2016 at 8:49 pm

      Moral support rather than moral education. The support of a co-concerned group (or even a single Deity, who the individual can talk to knowing he is being listened to with empathy not criticism) to aid the individual in holding to a moral code he or she has adopted to respect is what makes religions religions, even, sometimes, to ‘non-believing’ who ‘have to believe’, as in the cases of some alcoholics who may not be sure in their beliefs, but know they need the mooring-post’ . Their mooring-posts benefit the rest of us, too, whatever we believe, in many ways, but pretty obviously when the mooring keeps someone susceptible from driving drunk (again, or anymore).

      • Erik
        February 1, 2016 at 7:36 am

        Yes, personal moral support and the “pastoral role” are to be found also in moral and ideological systems, but they are not made more effective by organization or ideology, versus social education and willingness to counsel or console.

        Moral education remains the primary public rationale for religion, the reason that parents teach it to their children. And it is the primary reason that the religious often believe or claim their religion to be more true than others. That is the reason that religious groups conflict, and the reason that they can be persuaded that their group is endangered by others. Hence religious groups are more readily drawn into intractable conflicts by the right-wing element present in all groups.

        Casual belief that “we’re the best” only leads to conflict when groups are oppressed, or can be convinced by the right wing that they are endangered. Then they look for a definite group of witches, foreigners, ethnic/racial/political minority or other easy target. The US right wing usually finds a small foreign country far away that somehow poses vast insidious security risks which are given a name, but for which no one can find much evidence. Then the right wing bombs for profit, declares victory, grant themselves powerful offices, lucrative careers, and pensions as “heroes” rather than the ignominious traitors they are against god and country, and ignore the disastrous consequences to the nation. That is their sole motive: they are gangsters exploiting the idiots, and nothing more.

        But in areas of poverty, low education, and broad oppression, especially where the historical lesson is yet unlearned, the target selected by the right wing is a competing religious/ethnic/racial group. They are exterminated, or long wars waged which bankrupt states and destroy lives, and nothing is gained but a return to the prior state of poverty, low education, and broad oppression. Perhaps one or two hundred years later someone notices that their own group is just as vulnerable as others to disasters with no cause but religion. Score one for the right wing, which just moves on to targeting smaller and more distant terrors.

  8. J'hon Doe II
    January 31, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    1 Corinthians 13
    The Message

    The Way of Love
    13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

    2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

    3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

    Love never gives up.
    Love cares more for others than for self.
    Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
    Love doesn’t strut,
    Doesn’t have a swelled head,
    Doesn’t force itself on others,
    Isn’t always “me first,”
    Doesn’t fly off the handle,
    Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
    Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
    Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
    Puts up with anything,
    Trusts God always,
    Always looks for the best,
    Never looks back,
    But keeps going to the end.

    8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

    11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

    12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

    13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

    • Norske
      January 31, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.” Marcus Aurelius

      • February 1, 2016 at 1:51 am

        These seem to cover the possibilities, and seem to be very good advice about an attitude to take toward life and living which takes into account uncertainty regarding the reality of God (or of gods; here it does not make any difference whether singular or plural, or capital “G” or small “g”) and of life after this present life.

        Regarding the first possibility mentioned by Marcus Aurelius, I find it very interesting to note that in the accounts of life reviews that sometimes accompany near-death experiences (whatever they might actually indicate), as reported in books by Raymond A. Moody and elsewhere, the reviews focus on the deeds a person has done, the motives of the deeds, and the effects of the deeds on others. The person’s religion, religious beliefs, or theology do not matter at all. One of Moody’s books makes note of a former seminary student who reports that during his NDE he came to see what a stuck-up ass he had been with all his theology, and his looking down on anyone who wasn’t a member of his denomination or who didn’t subscribe to the theological beliefs that he did.

        In fact here is an interesting video about the life review titled The Golden Rule Dramatically Illustrated, and featuring NDE researcher Dr. Kenneth Ring. It makes the point that people have re-experienced their deeds not only from their own perspective but from the perspective of others whom one’s deeds have affected.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tiKsKy7lFw.

        Regarding the second possibility enumerated by Marcus Aurelius, I consider the God as believed in by fundamentalist Christians, and as preached by people like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and others, to definitely fall into the category of being unjust. This God sends people to hell for all eternity if they happen to miss their chance to “accept Jesus Christ” in this lifetime, for whatever reason, or if they happen to guess wrong by being an atheist OR by adhering to a religion other than Christianity. This God also sends a murder victim to hell if the victim happens to be “unsaved”, i.e. has not “accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”. However this God will let the murderer into heaven if the murderer later “repents” and “accepts Jesus Christ”.

        This is definitely NOT a God I want to worship or serve or evangelize on behalf of. Even if I might have accepted Jesus Christ and being “saved” for myself (which I did once; I now no longer consider myself to be a Christian), I could never accept having the terrible thought in the back of my mind that OTHERS are either “saved” or “unsaved”, and go to hell for all eternity if they happen to die “unsaved”, and I could never accept the duty and obligation, as preached by people like Billy Graham, to tell others about Christ with that thought in the back of my mind and motivated by that concern.

        For myself, I would now consider myself to be a Deist, and just on the believing side of agnostic. And I take seriously the possibility that the near-death experiences we hear about might actually indicate a life after this present life (though I accept some uncertainty, particularly since I never had had any such experience myself, nor do I know of anybody I know personally having had such an experience). I have problems with either being a Christian (or an adherent of any other “revealed” religion, such as Islam, Judaism, etc.) or with being an atheist.

        • Brad Owen
          February 1, 2016 at 5:40 am

          Thank you for this comment. Syncretic Panentheist here, by dictionary definition. Your mention of Moody and NDE represents, for me, a return to the roots of primary, shamanic, Mystic experience. We might not know all the particulars and cosmologies, but NDE strongly suggests there is SOMETHING beyond what our five ordinary senses can access, and SOMETHING existing on “the other side of the grave”. Practically alone amongst the other cultures, “European Man” (including all colonial off-shoots) has cut him/herself off from any practiced experiences beyond the five senses and the material World. I’d go so far to say that humans in christian and muslim cultures have suffered a “take-over” from Imperial religions foisted upon them by those with a hidden, VERY worldly, agenda, and severed any genuine spiritual roots their cultures had, once upon a time. “Elves twisted and mutilated into Orcs”, as LOTR would say it.

    • February 1, 2016 at 2:09 am

      I find it very interesting to note that fundamentalist Christians and the Religious Right are very definitely NOT motivated by love, or charity, as described above.

      An example of this is Kim Davis, who does not care about those people whom it is her job to serve as a county clerk in Kentucky, and who does not care about the voters who elected her to office, and who does not care about the taxpayers who are paying her $80000 per year salary for a job which she refuses to do.

      I think she likes to fancy that she will earn a special reward in heaven for “staying pure” by refusing to budge about what she considers to be “God’s definition” of marriage. Or she dares not incur divine disapproval or divine wrath for violating “God’s definition” and lose her reward in heaven.

      And I am sure she likes the approval and accolades of the Religious Right bigots.

      Here are the opening paragraphs of an article about fundamentalism which describe people like Kim Davis to a T:

      Fundamentalism is variously described by various authors, but to me it really boils down to a rather simple test: In my view, a fundamentalist religion is a religion, any religion, that when confronted with a conflict between love, compassion and caring, and conformity to doctrine, will almost invariably choose the latter regardless of the effect it has on its followers or on the society of which it is a part.

      Fundamentalist religions make this choice because they uniformly place a high priority on doctrinal conformity, with such force that it takes higher priority than love, compassion and service.

      Indeed, many fundamentalists are so caught up in doctrinal seriousness, that love, service and compassion seem scarcely to even be a part of their thinking. As one correspondent said to me regarding a certain Christian sect’s converts, “Its like they go in and surgically remove any sense of love or any sense of humor.”

      http://www.bidstrup.com/religion.htm

      • J'hon Doe II
        February 1, 2016 at 10:09 am

        I find it very interesting to note that fundamentalist Christians and the Religious Right are very definitely NOT motivated by love, or charity, as described above. > MikeH.

        Your observation is undeniably true, Mike. These people are “christians” in name only and religious ideologs.

        “Religious” folk are ritualists – obedient to rules, customs and family traditions.

        “To be Carnally Minded is ‘death’ – to be Spiritually minded is life and peace… .”
        Carnal
        1. pertaining to or characterized by the flesh or the body, its passions and appetites; sensual:
        carnal pleasures.
        2. not spiritual; merely human; temporal; worldly:
        a man of secular, rather carnal, leanings.

        Now Hear This: That which is born of the flesh , is flesh –
        That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. — God is Spirit.

        “Born Again” literally means Born of Spirit.
        “Marvel not that I say to you, you must be born again.”

  9. Hillary
    January 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Uber Evangelical President G.Bush invited 2 ultra Zionists to the White house during the time he was consulting with his God about the Invasion of Iraq .

    1. Bernard Lewis————– 2. Nathan Sharansky.

    http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/06/iraq

    G.W.Bush was to be the leader to carry out the Biblical “Gog-Magog” prophesy.” http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2009/08/gog

  10. Norske
    January 31, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    Ideology is a disease. “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?” Epicurus

  11. T. Maples
    February 1, 2016 at 7:21 am

    There were no witches burned in Salem. They were generally hanged and one was crushed by a boulder. Enlightened Europe was the home of frequent witch burning.

    • Evangelista
      February 2, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      Correct. Eighteen people were hanged in the Salem, Masschusetts Witch Trials event, all of them having committed the unpardonable sin of asserting and maintaining their innocence, except one, Rebeccah Nurse, who saw the way the wind blew and attempted to change her plea from innocent to guilty. Her attempt was recognized a ploy by the judges, on the watch for such trickery, who refused to accept her change of plea, found her guilty and condemned her.

      Giles Corey refused to plea, since a pleading would affirm him subject to the power of the court, which would permit the court, under the law of then (as again now, after a hiatus imposed by the United States Constitution, when it was Law Of The Land, before it was overturned by the early 20th century Revisionists, or “Revertionists”) to confiscate his property. Corey, by submitting to being crushed slowly, under a plank door on which were stacked many boulders, added one at a time, preserved his legacy for his heirs, disappointing the judiciary theft-ring.

      Over three-hundred others, accused of turning into smoke to whisp out keyholes, or up chimneys, to fly through the air on brooms, to dance with devils, plead guilty, confessed and threw themselves on the mercy of the court. The judges, gratified by these honest pilgrims’ corroborations of what the judges believed, treated them clemently, condemning them to pennances, but not death.

      Today the same continues to be the case: grovel to prosecutors and judges and admit they are right, whatever they have imagined, convinced themselves is ‘truth’ and assert and accuse, and get off light, or refuse to lie and, unless you can prove the self-deluded in power, and overcome the emotional rantings by which they inflame and adjure jurors to join them in a lynch-mob, expect to be lynched.

  12. Dosamuno
    February 1, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    I’m always appalled at adults who believe in nonsense like astrology, homeopathy, or religion. There’s no evidence for any of this obscurantist nonsense. The burden-of-proof falls on those who make these ridiculous claims.

    Christianity is almost as dumb as astrology. Its foundation is the Adam and Eve myth, their “sin” against God, the transmission of the stain of this sin to their descendants, and the need for God to spawn a son in the womb of a virgin and have him murdered in order to forgive people who had nothing to do with the mythical sin of Adam and Eve.

    If the Adam and Eve myth were true, any half decent assistant DA would have indicted Jehovah as an agent provocateur; any decent public defender would have won an acquittal for Eve.

    Perhaps despair is so deep at the seemingly inevitable demise of our species that people are grasping at anything they see for salvation–whether it’s the resurrected cadaver of a schizophrenic Jew, or the influence of burning masses of energy in deep space.

    The people who created Christianity were scientifically illiterate. They believed in a Ptolemaic universe in which the planets and stars revolved around the earth. They believed in four elements: blood, water, air, and earth. They believed that disease was caused by evil spirits and could be cured by bloodletting, prayer, and relics.

    Most of us have rejected their cosmology, physics, and medicine. Why does anyone take their religion seriously?

    • Dosamuno
      February 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Astrology is nonsense and anyone who takes it seriously is as much of an idiot as someone who believes in gods.

      Constellations are illusions based on perspective: The stars in a constellation may be tens or hundreds of light years apart, but when viewed from earth seem to form images that were first perceived by primitive savages who knew nothing of science, mathematics, triangulation, or empirical reasoning.

      The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.24 light years away. One light year equals about 5.88 trillion bloody miles, so Proxima Centauri is approximately 24.9 trillion miles from earth. It has no effect on anything that happens here.  It’s light takes 4.24 bloody years to reach the earth.

      The only bodies in the solar system that affect the earth are the sun and moon; meteors, comets, and asteroids can affect it too, if they crash into it.
      Why the bloody hell would astrological forces only affect the fetus when it emerges from its mother’s body? Wouldn’t they also affect it in utero?

      And what star might the gods live on? How many lights away might it be? Does it contain heaven and hell? And how did Jesus get there from earth? Did he take a short cut through hyperspace? Or perhaps his old man sent a chauffeured flying saucer.

    • Dosamuno
      February 1, 2016 at 2:24 pm

      Correction: The elements were earth, air, water, and fire. The corresponding humors were yellow bile, black bile, blood, and phlegm.

  13. J'hon Doe II
    February 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Dosamuno-“There’s no evidence for any of this obscurantist nonsense.”

    So, you evidently subscribe to religious/scientific tenet of “the survival of the fittest” and “natural selection.”
    There is and never has been obscurity in the desire for dominion in a world where countless millions have died sacrificially, with sadistic cruelty in the name of Power and Control. It continues to this day in the now 21st century. Has there ever been, by eons or ages, Peace in this world? —

    As the dominant control and rule and the oppressed masses scrape by, the Ideal of a suffering Savior is a lifeline of hope.

    As such; “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… By faith we understand that the things which are seen were not made of things which did appear.”

    Therefore; “The just (by choice) shall live by faith.” We see the war-torn leave their decimated homelands, by faith & hope, wanting to survive and live. We see this humanity, these families, cross seas and borders in the hope of survival – they Only Have Faith to hold on to/no guarantees/only hope&faith.

    “Christian” America is largely responsible for this 21st century Middle East horror story.
    This so-called christian nation is undergoing the “spiritual death” (moral decay) as described by MLK in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York.
    .

    Definition: “Moral breakdown is a phenomenon in which a major degradation or complete loss of moral values takes place within a particular society. The abruptness of such kind of degradation may vary depending on the situation and the events that take place within the given society over a certain time. Moral Breakdown may be caused by the changes in the political and/or cultural changes of the society, conflict or a natural disaster.”
    .
    As to your obscurantist nonsense, He who made and controls Times and Seasons/ Epochs and Eras/ Kings and Rulers, has never ever obscured His Omniscient Omnipresence in Creation and Eternal Existence.

    I take my stand with these “dreamers”/migrants whose hope is to live as through the Baby born in an animal cave saga.
    In these days, that appears to be the hope of the world – can you see it?

    • Dosamuno
      February 1, 2016 at 5:24 pm

      Incoherent drivel.
      You’re probably the product of a Christian education.

      • J'hon Doe II
        February 1, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        the traits of the Dragon that I followed
        led to the death of my physical happiness
        as i knew it
        but my birth laid a crown on my head
        and only the dragon knew i was dead.

        • Dosamuno
          February 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm

          And, as in uffish thought he stood,
          The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
          Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
          And burbled as it came!

  14. Dosamuno
    February 1, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    —Something that is invisible and impalpable is indistinguishable from something that doesn’t exist.

    P.Z Meyers

    On my front door is this caveat for Jehovah’s Witnesses and other mentally impaired proselytizers:

    —If the purpose of your visit is religious, to tell us about your god’s love for us or to convince us that we need Jesus to be our personal savior, please don’t knock.

    Instead, bow your head and pray as sincerely and intently as possible for this door to disappear. When it does, feel free to come on in: we will definitely want to hear what you have to say.

    • J'hon Doe II
      February 1, 2016 at 7:36 pm

      —Something that is invisible and impalpable is indistinguishable from something that doesn’t exist.

      P.Z Meyers

      do you mean something invisible like air & space?

      • Dosamuno
        February 2, 2016 at 9:10 am

        Do you understand the word “Impalpable”?

        • J'hon Doe II
          February 2, 2016 at 9:58 am

          Yes, of course.

          Do you understand the word Spirit?

          • Dosamuno
            February 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

            “Soul” and “spirit” are words that superstitious, religiously indoctrinated, ignorant, uneducated people use for the mind.

            And “minds are what brains do” as Marvin Minsky of M.IT. has observed.

            If you doubt this, do volunteer work in a mental institution where disease and accident have damaged human brains. Or observe what happens to your grandparents when they descend into senescence. I’ve seen it happen with my parents. When the brain is damaged, the mind is damaged.

            When I taught science to fourth and fifth graders, It was tedious trying to overcome the nonsense inculcated in them by charlatans. It’s even more depressing trying to overcome the superstitious nonsense that some grown-ups believe.

  15. michael ehling
    February 1, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    What “burning flesh” was there at Salem? The Salem “witches” were hanged (or in one instance pressed). Not that one mode of death is all that much better than the other, but it would do nicely if you would keep your historical facts accurate.

    • Evangelista
      February 2, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      The Salem “witches” were not hanged, or burnt; they were kept in jail for a while and as the hysteria (and ‘hymsteria’, since the judges were all males) subsided they were released, to attempt to re-integrate into the community, or, in more cases, move on to find somewhere they more comfortably could.

      It was the non-”witches”, the eighteen who plead not guilty, who were convicted on ‘Spectral Evidence’ (popular in the ‘hate crime genre of 21st century non-prudent juris-ity), who were hanged, instead of burnt. For pleading not guilty they evidenced themselves ‘hardened’ and ‘not deserving of mercy or clemency’, their pleas evidencing their refusals to admit and confess, and so their being beyond redemption.

      Though the error is not material in the author’s essay, here, for additional enlightenment, are the historically accurate facts.

  16. J'hon Doe II
    February 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    The mind is incorporeal. The brain is matter
    The will is also incorporeal. The body also, is matter.
    The heart is both matter and incorporeal
    It is a vault that harbors both truth and lies
    and the inner-santum of the self, the You.

    God is not a man that He should lie.
    God Is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
    God said, “You will find Me if you search for Me w/all your heart.”
    This in not a command nor a dictate, but a prompting suggestion.
    Free will makes you the proprietor/owner of your choices/destiny.

  17. J'hon Doe II
    February 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Dosamuno
    February 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

    “Soul” and “spirit” are words that superstitious, religiously indoctrinated, ignorant, uneducated people use for the mind.

    And “minds are what brains do” as Marvin Minsky of M.IT. has observed.
    .
    {Minsky’s own words}

    Eccles: I do not look at the mind as an additional point or anything like that.

    The mind is an entity more complex really than the brain.

    Minsky: I did not realize that you thought the mind has many parts.

    Eccles: Have you ever seen a diagram where I show all those aspects of the mind … imagining, . All those feelings are aspects of the mind.

    Minsky: But why are not they aspects of the brain?

    Eccles: Well, they are related to the brain but I think that you will find…

    Minsky: O.K., I did not realize you had that complex a theory. I stand corrected.
    .

    BTW, thanks Dosamuno for the Minsky hint.

  18. J'hon Doe II
    February 4, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Research on John Eccles very informative.
    His rejection of Minsky’s view is clear.
    I thank you, again, Dosamuno for expanding my knowledge.

    Conclusion
    (of article here) – http://www.creation.com/john-eccles

    Eccles spent his entire half-century-long career in brain research and published widely in the scientific literature on this subject. He concluded from his research, and his extensive review of the research of others, that the idea that the mind is a product of evolution is wrong and badly misinformed.30 In the end he concluded that only an intelligent creator could account for the existence of the human mind:

    “We come to exist through a divine act. That divine guidance is a theme throughout our life; at our death the brain goes, but that divine guidance and love continues … It is the only view consistent with all the evidence.”10
    Eccles, “a practicing Christian”7 also saw the existence of the conscious self as definite evidence for the existence of a divine creator. As he had stressed in his writings, God’s creation is a “loving creation” and He is “a loving Creator” who has given all humans many “wonderful gifts” including our mind.31

  19. J'hon Doe II
    February 6, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    I just can’t close w/o leaving this:

    Dosamuno /// “If you doubt this, do volunteer work in a mental institution where disease and accident have damaged human brains.
    Or observe what happens to your grandparents when they descend into senescence. I’ve seen it happen with my parents.

    When the brain is damaged, the mind is damaged.”

    ::
    The mind is not the brain.
    The mind continues to function
    even after the brain shuts down
    ::
    The fool has said
    in his heart
    “there is no God”

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