The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Why does international terrorism carry religious significance?

B. A. Aryatilake
22 August 2005
Sri Lanka

Believers in the Abrahamic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have an obligation set by their God to obliterate all other forms of belief. For them the populations of the world are divided into two sets: the believers and the non-believers. The former are destined to heaven after death with special reserved places for their martyrs, while all others are sent to hell as according to Jesus Christ. “But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me” (Luke 19: 27). “Depart from me you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels”(Mathew 26:41). He also instructs his followers to compel followers of other faiths to join him. His Sermon on the Mount, which contains the best that could be, attributed to him ends with blood curdling threats of eternal Hell Fire for the non-believer. If you have not been brought up as a Christian from childhood you see Jesus as a sort of armed Savior. In Luke 22:36 he instructs those of his followers who do not posses a sword to purchase one, even if it means selling their garments. He did not come to earth to bring peace. No. Rather, he brought a sword. (Mathew 10:34).

All self-proclaimed “prophets” of the Bible have declared that they were so close to God that nobody-else could have known the Truth given only to them. Everybody else is an imposter destined to destruction along with his or her doctrines. If you read carefully the Hebrew Bible (i.e. The Old Testament), the Catholic Bible with its 72 books, the Protestant Bible (66 books), the Koran - they all claim to be the one and only true inerrant Word of God. But the Jewish Bible is different from the Christian Bible, which includes the Gospels. These are rejected and repudiated by the Jews. The Catholic Bible is different from the Protestant Bible. Besides these there are many other versions. Bibles are the ultimate products of literary processes that started in most primitive stage of human thinking. But their adherents hold them to be unquestionable although lack of proof or evidence is their hallmark. Was Jesus Christ a human being or a character easily identifiable in Greek legends? How is it that Osiris and Dionysus have similar life stories?

Normally there is no harm in anybody believing in anything provided one’s beliefs do not impinge on others and sow war and hatred of all others having different views. What is the history of Abrahamic religion other than constant war and suppression of other peoples in the world? “The Lord is man of war” (Ex.15: 3). Once the Catholics got established as the most militarily powerful Christian faction in the fourth century, it unleashed a war against the “heretics” physically eliminating them. Then they took on the Jews accusing them of being the “Killers of Christ”. “Pagans” non-baptized Greeks and Romans became their next targets. Great temples to the Greek and Roman gods were razed to the ground. Invaluable works of art and architecture were destroyed. Men of learning murdered, libraries set on flames. That was the fury of Popes in alliance with the kings they anointed and appointed.

By the end of the 10th century Europe was a mass of petty kingdoms all owing allegiance to the Pope, the representative of God on earth. They were constantly fighting against each other and killing each other. The Pope saw in this a great opportunity to finish off the Muslims living peacefully thousands of miles away in the Holy Land. So in the year 1095 Pope Urban called from his palace in Clermont all the potentates of his Christendom for a Holy War against the infidels. By fighting them in the Holy Land and dying there one would be absolved of all sins and gain direct entry to heaven (avoiding the cumbersome litigation on the Judgement Day!) So started the First Crusade. Thousands of Knights, soldiers, peasants and even prostitutes armed with whatever they could hold on marched towards the Holy Land killing thousands of “infidels” on the way and they themselves dying of thirst and starvation. On arriving in Jerusalem, they killed 70,000 Muslims within the Church of the Holy Sepulture and reported back to the Pope that the blood spilled rose up to the hips of men to the greater glory of the Almighty God. The centuries that followed were marked by repeated Holy Wars including the Crusades against the Albgensians and Waldenses (Christian Sects) in which hundreds of thousands died.

The notorious Inquisition was a device that ravaged Europe with clerics sitting in judgement over simple people who did not know the correct line of belief. Pope Gregory IX formally instituted the Inquisition in 1234. The Catholic Church used this juridical tool for hundreds of years to torture, maim and kill, faking evidence against any group that appeared to threaten the papacy.

Since God created the world it belonged to his representative the Pope. Thus reasoning, Pope Alexander VI drew a vertical line through the Atlantic and gave the Eastern half to the Portuguese and the Western half to the Spanish for the exploitation and Christianisation of the Globe. In South America they eliminated native populations in their millions to establish the Cross of Christ. John Paul II sought “pardon” for their “past errors”. Sri Lanka was not spared of the horrors of Portuguese rule. In the vicious campaign to “save souls” (which were never lost) thousands were killed, temples and learning institutions devastated and the country depopulated- Portuguese and Dutch periods is a nightmare in our historical reminiscence.

The proclivity of Islam to wage war and capture foreign lands is no less than that of Christianity. Prophet Muhammad himself led military expeditions and killed people with his own hands. The Arab Empire was won and consolidated by islamising its peoples using the fury of its faith in God who desires everybody to submit to him. One could easily quote a couple of sentences from the Koran to show that their Koran stands for peace and tolerance. But most of its pages are replete with passages that call for war on “unbelievers” and venomous hate of those who would not acknowledge its God. I propose to make only just one quotation, which could illustrate the mentality of Prophet Muhammad.

“Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter fight for the cause of God; whoever fights for the cause of God whether he dies or triumphs, we shall richly reward him…The true believers fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the Devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan…. Say: “Trifling are the pleasures of this lifeThe hereafter is better for those who would keep from evil….” (Koran 4:74-78).

When suicide bombers explode themselves in buses and trains or in buildings, they have been brainwashed to believe that they instantly rise to Paradise to sit on the right side of God. The parents of the bomber often take immense pride in his martyrdom, a concept known only to the inheritors of Abrahamic tradition. The parents receive gifts and money and it is a matter for celebrating by everyone sympathetic to cause he died. The victims? Well, they deserve it and Hell would open up for them. Islam means “peace” and Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”. But history shows the opposite to be true.

All major wars and conflicts in the world past and present have been caused by monotheism a la Abraham. Monotheism is inherently violent by virtue of its tendency to separate people up into those who believe who are good, and who do not, who are not simply wrong but wicked. One set of scriptures (or Revelations) is set against another set of scriptures claiming to have the signature of God when literary research has shown that they are nothing but myths and legends of a bygone age totally unfit to guide and instruct present day human beings. Those so-called “moderates” both in the Christian and Muslim camps are deceiving themselves as well as others. War and bloodshed proceeds from the God idea itself. It is directly opposed to freedom and democracy.

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