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Chapter Three: Religious Conditioning: from When God Became the Terrorist
by William Wraithwrite III
14 Apr 2010
Most Americans have not been introduced to a general theory that claims religions (some more than others) condition people, psychologically, to be more compliant towards certain kinds of governance—in which case, religions, by default, operate as "models" of government?
Chapter Three: Religious Conditioning:
Most Americans have not been introduced to a general theory that claims religions (some more than others) condition people, psychologically, to be more compliant towards certain kinds of governance—in which case, religions, by default, operate as "models" of government?
This assertion is true—or when was the last time you heard of such a general theory discussed in a college course, or newspaper? And where else would you expect it to be discussed—in books—what are those titles that have had any reach?
Yes there were some books published of late about how religions and politics inform each other, especially since the 1980s, that more often than not focused on Islamic fundamentalism—as opposed to this thesis of a similarity of right-wing personality within all three of the Abrahamic religions. Also, very recently, several books have come out, listed in the Introduction, about how right-wing religious fanaticism is thriving here in America.
Karl Marx certainly had things to say about religion’s role in the status quo speaking to religion’s role of human alienation and self-deception arguing that religions are a byproduct of the social and political order. Immanuel Kant, Emile Durkheim, Mircea Eliade, and other renowned social scientists have had insights to address regarding religion’s influence into culture.
Still chances are good that you, reader, have not thought about religious conditioning—at least not to any comprehensive degree. (Or is this “theory” too just another conspiracy theory in the mind of some schizoid?) Yet, if you think about it, how could it not be, at least, somewhat true?
This is not to imply that such a theory has never been stated or written. It is more the case that such awareness does not fly onto the radar screens of most citizens’ cognizance—primarily because such an analysis is not a circulated “meme”.
Rather what is discussed, from time to time, with much fanfare here in the states, is the much touted as sacrosanct ideal, of a separation of Church from State. John Locke in his Letter Concerning Tolerance 1667 distinguished between religions and politics as two “separate” spheres of authority and argued that religion ought be a private matter for each person. He was an advocate for toleration and was against the divine right of kings. Montesquieu in his work The Spirit of the Laws 1734 advocated for the separation of these two powers while advancing the idea of “limited” government. Both men informed our founding fathers. (Note as well that both entities of church and state have organizational hierarchies—meaning that both can become, or veer towards, “autocratic” rule, in which power is concentrated at the top of the pyramid.)
So law professors, historians, as well as some media commentators, then do discuss this separation clause. And as a "secular" notion, this American principle of government, evolved here in the states from Great Britain because of the way oppressive religiosity had previously been employed during Europe’s late history. Call it ancestral paranoia—or a serious concern about political entities imposing religious values and dominance over people, in which discrimination and persecution came to bear. Whatever religion the king abided back then determined the “official” religion for the entire realm.
Plus plenty blood was shed so that religious factions, and their political constituents, would come to power. The winners of these massacres could then likely use their power to terrorize others for believing in other doctrines, and could also threaten their corresponding political agendas.
Beware Oh Wary Awareness:
Still we note that from an academic perspective today, neither the disciplines of political science, nor sociology, psychology, or theology, as teaching subjects, dwell much on any kind of potential role that religions might play toward "conditioning" people into being more willing to submit to various forms of national, corporate or family governance. Nor do other academic disciplines, such as law, consider this matter to any healthy degree. Why?
College campuses are supposed to be places of battle for the mind and soul, in which “relevant” theories are articulated, contemplated, and debated. Are not colleges supposed to be society’s bastions of free thought? Instead, American teaching institutions are not nearly as controversial as they could be, at least not for some topics. Instead they are, in some ways, mundane “establishments”.
They maintain hackneyed reiterations of thoroughly recognized political conflict—the usual trench warfare of dominate, yet staid, ideologies bashing at one familiar polemic or another—battles that are re-fought again and again for each upcoming freshman class.
But the bottom line is that most people to date, including a majority of our political leaders, have not explicitly thought through a conditioning connection between religious orientation and historical governance—even as important a subject as it well seems and is important.
And because few have contemplated such with a wary awareness—that is on how religions help mold mindsets into accepting formations of political formation and outcome, even if the conditioning remains unconscious—its affects are all the more augmented (and less questioned).
Think about it: “What could leave a society more vulnerable than having a “naive” nation, including its political leaders, who have not realized any possible extent that they (or groups within the same community) might be manipulated by presumptions about their own culture’s underlying moral agency—religious upbringing?
Or to what extent are they likely aware the degree their cohorts are so manipulated by religious rhetoric—like “fears” about a pending Armageddon (the mountain of Megiddo—sight of several strategic battles in “ancient” times and the location where the Kings of the World will gather to fight against God (see Revelations 16:16))?
What institutions or ideologies, if any, could help condition a credulous mind to be easily seduced by seemingly plausible “political” explanations—that are exactly opposite to the sobriety of truth? For example, how is it that a person comes to gain an almost blind trust in his own culture, its institutions, its media, and its leadership—so that that person can not, or will not, objectively evaluate the competence or virtue of those institutions, leaders or culture in general (or more importantly even have the desire or curiosity to do so)? Are there formulae for long term cultural conditioning that allows a majority of psyches to cling to whatever rationalizations or deceptions that might be politically propagated—irrespective of how irrational or delusional?
Could a religion contribute to crystallizing authoritarian rule in a region? Or could a religion’s dogma, for example, on the afterlife, be used to manipulate fear that indirectly operates as a tool of control over people, and their followers political propensities, here on earth?
Perhaps a psychology of religion is in order? And perhaps a good place to begin is by looking at the beginning—in this case the “purported” on-goings of angel stories as “mediated” dramas—that were reported to have happened in the heavenly realm (where supposedly no yellow journalism would have taken place to alter the facts)?
But first it is important to notice that not all religions make reference to angels and angel lore, not even as more or less stock literary figures, in some Cosmic Court. Nevertheless a story of angel society and rebellion is part of the Abrahamic stories.
Angel messengers and their specific “loyalty” propensities are especially a theme found in Near Eastern Religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islamism. And despite the possibility that some of these various angels would have been complex personalities operating within social circumstances, they are “mediated” to us mortals, primarily as to whether they were “loyal” to God or against him (male gender noun).
But in the Bible at least, despite their importance, angels were not much rounded or fleshed out, as complex individuals. We do not really get a sense of individualized angelic personality (although it is purported that Milton’s imagination fleshed out Satan in his epic poem Paradise Lost in which he is depicted as a wounded character driven by his pride being slighted). Nevertheless, in the Bible we basically get hierarchical job titles that you would expect to find in a monarchy, like Raphael as the Prince of Heavenly Host, or Lucifer as the Prince of Darkness, etc.
According to fallen angel lore, that we can somewhat boldly refer to as “mythology” or religious “folklore”, the deviously vicious and imminently notorious Arch Angel known as Satan (name used in Judeo-Christianity), was a “traitor” (political concept), who was, and still is, a very crafty “liar” (social and political reality) and treacherous “enemy” (political concept), who was nevertheless left on the loose (not on a noose) to connive against nice, naive and respectable people like you and me (who make up the political society).
Religious tradition tells us that Satan, the “leader” (political and social concept) of the fallen angels, had enormous power—and still supposedly does—especially here on earth (where he roams freely in this forsaken world of evil). Accordingly he uses his wily powers and craft of temptation to get men and women to sin against the true faith in God’s Word (corollary to faith in a political party). But again we notice that this “motive” scenario of slinging allegations (dia bolos) too is “political” reality found on earth as 1) propaganda wars where both sides claim to be politically correct and the enemy as evil, and 2) souls (seat of belief and action) who no longer believe in the faith (political or economic ideology) are labeled as “fallen” in order to marginalize them or the credibility of their power structure).
And, as this mythology goes, if Satan is successful in his temptations (we are warned) very dire things will ensue to those who have succumbed (again a political reality in the sense of souls are punished for “treason” if they have joined an oppositional party or junta that could possibly levy war or counter-propaganda against the sovereign).
In another words the entire Luciferian Rebellion, as purported by Middle Eastern rumor and tradition, that was to have taken place in that Cosmic Ordering of God’s Kingdom (eons of primordial bygone) was a “political” drama, as in how we humans understand the same ways and means of power struggle between factions here on earth. (In fact an American can now get a little nervous in having fears that a police state can hear and learn more about you than even any obsessive compulsive deity of antiquity could have save an omnipotent being).
[Note: Again we notice that Satan, at one time, was primarily known as “the adversary” (Hebrew meaning) had a role or function that primarily tempted mortal souls, so as to learn their true nature or attitude toward God and his sensitive issues. So first Satan was viewed as one who played the role of “tester” of God’s subjects—as opposed to an entity of universal evil.]
Nevertheless, from ancient religious lore of the Near East, specific ideas were passed along from European ancestry by way of the Roman road of domination. These angelic dramas encompassed situations of intrigue, spying, lying, tempting, deceiving and rebellion, in which case “traitors” were severely punished. Interesting, how it is, that these activities are precisely the same types of things you find happening in any century of politics here on earth.
Child’s Play or Nightmare?
It should be asked as rhetorical question, if this type of psychological orientation of religious belief doctrine, as it is relayed and interpreted, with its foreboding episodes of political outcome and provocation of fear, does not in fact surpass the threshold of “fear-mongering” that could be used like intensified forms of indoctrination?
Can it not be concluded, at least in theory, as a kind of conditioning process, whether intentional or not, that such stories allows true believers that one too could be “ostracized” from their God’s kingdom (that is kicked out of his political realm as extradited) or punished in a tormenting hell (like a political prisoner is found in concentration camps)? And does not this kind of belief system potentiate for kinds of manipulation that step into delusional belief?
Christian Naiveté in the West:
Are human “sapiens” of this modern age, whio have more of a sophisticated clue, really expected to go along with these forms of terrorizing hysteria? For example, are educated peoples, the world over, really expected to passively resign to a psychology of a religious right that is under girded by related propaganda of a God’s imminent and presumptive right to punish those who disobey? Are “The People” of this country, when literally threatened by political think tank agitation scheming to ignite another major war in the Middle East via religious blackmail, supposed to fall for this kind of “terrorist” manipulation?
It seems beyond the brink to exploit religious hysteria in order to foment war by fears of being “possessed” of ghastly visions of cosmic darkness versus grandiose righteousness in which soldiers die for an undisclosed patriotism to religious fervor that really does not benefit Americans. After all the Powers-That-Be are threatening nuclear strikes as preventive strategy—that is prevention against nuclear war! So when is the world going to have this conversation about Middle East psychology that makes some sense? The issue is not just differences between Sunni’s and Shiites or a presumption of progressive countries against backward countries.
The Reflecting Pool of Belief:
Yet while stories of Satan, and his corrupted minions, are propped as the ultimate in evil, “we” humans seem very capable of evil of own devises (be it out of ignorance, weakness, calculation, impulse, or indifference). We also have developed plenty of skills in order to deceive others—including masses of people via the arts of political mass propaganda—and control of the information infrastructure.
Furthermore, the human psyche is often enough master of his own self-deception—even while his same ego capacity readily projects and enumerates all the faults of other people—both real and imagined. Whereas every man is innocent and wise in his own eyes. But, like the judgmental and righteous Dante Alighieri (as interpreted by some of his readers) in his Divine Comedy, many of us are less willing to perceive innocence, or maintain a willingness to forgive the sins of others, or sins claimed ultimate the authority of God. How many souls are supposedly detested and denounced to suffer in those nine realms of Dante’s inferno? The sociological question for society is “who” is ultimately in charge of, or responsible for hell (or the criminal justice system and prisoners) as societal institution?
If encouraged by propaganda, the human psyche still prefers to blame bad choice as the deliberations of the devil (separate from God’s cosmic perfection). In the judgmental world of black and white thinking there is little awareness or acknowledgement of mitigating circumstances, accidents, genetic difference, ignorance, fear, poverty, lack of viable power, etc. Apparently some crimes or infractions seem inexplicable unless there is a way to explain evil as a motive from a dangerous chamber of malice—that is always “intentionally” and “willfully” corrupt—rather than just stupid and naive (nevertheless many people in the American prison system today can not read well for whatever reason).
So this is no small point—humans confusing, as well as blaming, evil action onto forces “outside” the human agency and into the supernatural. This is similar to the kind of people who often blame other people for their own issues and feelings—they have little capacity to take responsibility for some of their unhappiness.
A World of Evil:
Evil does exist—as mankind can also define evil in secular terms as well—meaning that “evil” is that which is perceived to be “inimical” to the self or society’s better interests (Nietzschean explanation).
Our problem then is not deciding if evil is a hobgoblin or real; but rather, determining and explaining its causation—such as determining, as much as humanly possible, the extent it is composed of conscious will, intent, foreknowledge of its effects, and thus responsibility.
In the divinely inspired Satan story, religious literature has come to allow the “accusatorial” prosecutor, in this case the Bible, to assert by way of interpretation as pure and absolute judgment, that evil is 100% intended, 100% calculated, 100% willfully perpetuated—and is committed with 100% awareness of its full consequences. Thus these kinds of cartoon figures of bad angels do not need to be understood against any areas of gray doubt regarding circumstances of their diabolic schemes!
Whereas secular, and scientific explanations, as theoretical as they may be, more likely leave people with the mundane feeling that evil is partially the result of chance happening or unintended consequence. In this reflection there is less certitude of definite and complete culpability and absolute justice for punishment. It is not be as easy to argue utter and total evil with a “relativist” outlook that is willing to consider the particulars, of not only social standards of a specific setting, but mitigating circumstances as well, that may border toward the banal and ambiguous.
Non-dogmatic arguments that nuance areas of the intermixed grays do not appeal to black and white of absolute judgmentality. One is not prompted to fee as righteous. Worst yet, for the absolute authoritarian, relativist examinations call into question forms of extreme condemnation and punishment like those of religious templates of eternal and damnable hell.
Judging the Judges:
There is such a thing as culpability. Individuals are aware and cognizant, at least on occasion, and at least partially, of the extent and consequences to their choices and attitudes. More importantly there are evil consequences to actions and choices irrespective of awareness and attitude—that communities must deal. People should not be allowed to get away with anything—and yet organized crime and levels of white collar corruption do exist quite nicely.
Nevertheless are there not situations in which the consequences of personal choice were not anticipated—despite what a “prosecutor” would like to allege or accuse? And do not so-called “victims”, or affiliate communities of “judges”, at least occasionally, choose to over-dramatize their senses of being violated while dramatizing accusations of “willful” intent—when such intent was never in existence? For example, are we to believe that every accusation of date rape really is the high crime of rape—and that it is inevitably the 100% true blame for the male?
The typical prosecutor’s position, in his “assumed” authority to allege crimes, is one that perceived violations were deliberately committed and as fully understood to result in the kinds of consequences that transpired, prior to crimes taking place? Criminal prosecutors do like to presume and allege guilt.
The Devil’s Advocate:
[Note: This defense is not to argue that attitudes of willfulness and awareness are not factors in many incidents of crimes. But rather this awareness stipulates that some personality types do seem to believe that perpetrators are often 100% in possession of the stock character of evil intention and psychopathic depravity—rather than say some partial innocence due to bumbling naiveté, desperation, or just plain stupidity or drunkenness. … Yet we, as modern scholars, must fully remind ourselves that it was the institution of “law”, and “not” that of religion!, that decreed to Americans, via England’s Anglo-Saxon ancestry, the culmination of evolving legal rights for a legal defense—so that the accuser and prosecutor do not have the sole and final word as to the dispensation of the accused and convicted.]
Granted, there is a somewhat legitimate counter argument made in books like Andrew Delbanco’s The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost The Sense of Evil, where he argues that secular and scientific explanations regarding human nature devolve the idea of evil as it “...recedes into the background hum of modern life, that the ‘industrial system’, as anthropologist Lionel Tiger puts it, “provides a uniquely efficient lubricant for moral evasiveness””.
But note too that “absolute” relativism (in which case human agents bear little to zero responsibility for their actions) equally is a form of black and white thinking. It is absolutist as is John Calvin’s belief in predestination. It is equally as absolute as a mindset that never, or seldom, has time to consider how a greater society could also be at least somewhat responsible for crimes or negative consequence. Many would rather prosecute, scapegoat, and incarcerate the single soul—a soul mind you that is often is poor if not minority.
Nevertheless, if we abide to a standard of absolute perfection of God’s judgment, as justice in the Bible, and as related to the intertwined mythic dimensions of demons, exemplified by Satan and his minions, who received “extreme” sentences of eternal damnation, then we presume to accept that these devils knew beyond a shadow of a doubt of the extent of their evil. We follow in belief that the devils willfully chose to do their evil deeds, and that they knew their dire evil, as absolute certainty, whilst they felt it in their souls. So as true believers we then bow to God’s extreme punishment—as never to be forgiven—and always to suffer interminably.
Angel history, as scant as it seems in some ways, paints a judicial system of crushing oppressiveness that brooks little leeway for areas of gray to consider. It this judgmental court of black or white we will few tints of brown, blue, greens, reds nor yellows—just stark black and white thinking and harsh punishment.
Therefore the devil, however misshapen in form and character; however intense in spiteful defiance; however unrepentant and contrary in attitude; however deficient in brain’s wiring; however cold in the calculation of his every sinew and nerve; however inexplicable his haughty hatred of deviant deed; he is “never” portrayed to have had even one half ounce of naiveté, nor mustard seed of innocence, nor dolt of ignorance, nor mental languishment of disease, nor abused soul of past neglect, nor any conditions in which he might have operated from mitigating circumstance, etc., that could have diminished his immortal sentence of eternal damnation for even a single day or single minute.
Rather he is personified as a creature of “total” knowledge and power—and yet he, in his spiritual soul of action, was purported to have chosen evil intention—and the worst of political crimes—rebellion and insurrection—that is parsed and flipped as a mere excess of pride.
Although mere mortals cannot know actual truth as to what might have transpired to have created this biblical story, we can nonetheless, intuitively compare it clues to things we know about the human condition and human agency. For example, in the Hobbesian mindset of political loyalty to the monarch, it is taken as a given, that agents of the current power structure have free reign to do as they please. Meanwhile subjects of the humanly realm are instructed, by Thomas Hobbes, not to attend to their individuated senses of consciences, as not to rebel, or not to assist those being bullied or beaten by the powers-that-be—kind of like being in a prison. Thus the imperative in Hobbes’ dys-utopia is merely staying alive in which an individual’s conscience is “sacrificed” to obedience (which granted is wisdom in times of no choice). In both angelic lore, as in Hobbesian philosophy, there is no room for concerns like individuality, independence, pluralism, etc. There is no consideration for personal ambition, sense of self, personal tastes or desires, etc. There is no recognition of the human passions like honor or glory. Rather, we are left with the official word and simplistic repetition of said motive—counter-resistance as merely a matter of an excess of pride?
[Note: Equally, is it not somewhat ironic that when one human ego attempts to judge another human ego, that the person being judged often perceives naiveté and an excess of bias on the part of the person doing the judging? How many autobiographies do not show more the measure of the person writing than it does the person written about? Judgment, by nature, is often subjective—subject to the moods, perceptions, experiences, presumptions, ambitions, desires, etc., of the person making the judgment. Has not your own passion for justice, or honor, or glory, or ambition ever irritated another—so that your motive was belittled to some form of overweening pride? And even the best of political commentators can get excessively judgmental toward their assumed ideological opposition—while staying quite ladida Pollyanna in respect to one’s own infinite wisdom and own political camp and political presumptions.]
Nevertheless, and more importantly, are not “most” rebellious uprising, coups, and civil wars, in this world of humanity, as throughout history, been instigated because of something greater, or more noble, than mere “hurt” of an excess of pride? And let us ask Hobbes and his minions if there something intrinsically wrong with having some kind of constellation of honor in which one is willing to die—as opposed to succumbing to mere living as subject in a despot’s realm of control—like sheep ready for slaughter or craven flatterer obsequious in every manner?
No doubt there are many wounded egos with ambition and drive that aspires for political means and ends to power—as well as a presumption of glory. But why would the Bible’s scant explanations of Lucifer’s rebellion focus to mere sound bites of wounded pride when other parts of the Bible seem also to imply a weaning need for glory on the part of a mythical God that just seems a bit too jealous or threatened?
Obviously there are rebel natures that are haughty and egotistically proud. In fact some theorists opine that many people who get involved in politics are somewhat unbalanced or eccentric or driven by a dark side—but this too is human opinion even if there is truth to it. Why would not the alienated not want to gain both the means of contentment and understanding?
Granted those who aspire to study politics are likely less conforming—in the sense they think they attempt to affect change or change the status quo. Perhaps they are not as prone to blind humility or deference? Somehow some beings seem to get a notion in their head that they have a right to think for themselves and about their own needs (however modest or immodest). For example, whether you believe in unions or unions busting you have to admit union organizers have been labeled with acrid superlatives as some have even been physically attacked, beaten and killed.
The issue of pride brings us to an excess of it that culminates in a bit of megalomania like that of some of Nietzsche’s attitudes. Here is a man who has told the world that God is dead and that rationalism and people like Darwin had changed history forever. The human as being in the cosmic order is merely conflated pond scum. So his answer to this existential problem of nihilism is an elitist super individualist who follows his own path within the spheres of philosophy and art. Yet if anyone knows anything about artists, it is that some have an excess of pride and faux eccentricity. Meanwhile, many willingly copy the fads that capricious art critics extol. Art, as well as being lost in an excess of gibberish philosophy, is escape par excellence. How often do American artists really get involved in the reality of underlying political issues? More often they are “behind” the curve—not the avant-garde they conceit to be their place. Too often they are concerned with how they are perceived rather than whether they are really of quality. So this is Nietzsche’s answer to the human race left outside the imperial Garden of Eden?
There is no room for imaging alternative realms with man’s capacity to regenerate into alternative systems of thought—like focusing energy and resource on saving God’s Garden of Eden from global destruction. God, as Nietzsche conceived through the Judeo-Christian prism, may be dead, but a sense of the sacred is not, a sense of a functioning community is not, a sense of justice is not either because there will always be a need to reconcile values.
A story can illustrate some preconceptions about the concept of defiance: A man was accused of defying his boss. Most on hearing of this accusation presumed the man to be in the wrong because one simply does not “defy” the boss. However, when the man heard of the rumors swirling around, he confronted those talking and said:
The Latin meanings to the word ‘defy’ means to renounce one’s trust, faith, or confidence in someone ... meaning there were likely reasons why an employee, in a contractual relationship, would respond in a defiance manner ... meaning you should be asking a question like: “What circumstances would cause a person to seem defiant?” rather then jumping to the conclusion that an employee, and not possibly the boss, is automatically in the wrong.
It is from the ego that defiance springs. It is the soul that feels resentment or hostility. It is from the human heart that acts of treason arise. It is from the mind that rebellion starts it course. These are all political realities in the human world of politics.
But you already know the conquering party writes the history and propagates it to the citizens. Therefore if this man is soon found fired for defiance and out of his job, the corporate culture’s version for his pink slip will mostly be influenced by the boss’ version of the reasons of him being let go. C’est la vie in paradise.
So would an intelligent creature, such as a Major General Arch Angel, choose a path, that is purported in society’s dominate propaganda, as merely a path predicated on self-interest and an excess of pride, or are many of these kinds excuse stories lacking in a sense of a “fair” trial? Perhaps there were issues or facts or mitigating circumstance missing from the reported newscast? For example, does the Bible advocate free speech as political principle—or do we in the modern age of civil liberties look elsewhere for such ideology? Is the Bible our main source of precedence of civil liberties in general like freedom of assembly, right to privacy, right to pursue liberty, and a space for minority groups to have some freedom of action?
Or if an accused (or Satan himself, as supposed “created” creature which presumes a certain level of naiveté) were “not” an all-knowing being, then is he still wise? And if he is not so much wise—is he then somewhat vulnerable to factors and naiveté beyond his ken or heart or control? Or is he simply ambitious, cruel, recalcitrant, rebellious, or criminal—and how can we fairly decipher the semantics of accusation, motives, and action given the limited data? Certainly it is hard to say with little in the way of court transcripts or biography or autobiography?
Is There One Correct Path?
Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher or 4th century B.C., is quoted to have said: “Only the just man enjoys peace of mind.” Whereas Epictetus, stoic philosopher of the 1st century B.C, is quoted to have said: “Every place is safe to him who lives in justice.” Now, these words of mortal minds are not without significant truth, as Epictetus’ ambition as a stoic, was “to desire nothing but freedom and contentment”.
Still, while it may be true that freedom first comes from within—it is equally true—that all men, irrespective of their attitude and philosophy, are also vulnerable to politics, threats, war and terrorism. And therefore such stoicism, as advocated in imperial Rome, was still of that biting your lip kind, similar to the mantra that reminds us that ignorance is bliss—and perhaps it is.
Indifference can be considered evil if the consequences set by its conditions facilitates others to be victimized. Ignorance and apathy too, on the part of a community, more readily allows for the expansion of corruption. Or for that matter, not being aware of one’s impact on the environment can leave harm done. Plus, taking too much for granted can be described as a vice (if it leads to negative results).
But such attitudes of negligence are not regularly regarded as intense kinds of deliberate and conscious corruption? Gross negligence may be willful, but much of what can be called negligence is not the sort of cunning that deliberately allows for a premeditated harm.
Evil then is a “human” concept and attitude (even if it is also purported a Divine concept from ancient literature). Evil derives its emotional power from our human capacity to judge people in actual and theoretical situations—realized in the emotional affects of those related feelings. Evil is often based on socialized perceptions that circulate within a given society as presumed to be “common” sense. Things generally considered harmful to health, limb, community, resource, and freedom, etc., are viewed as “inimical” agency.
Evil is mostly understood in reference to the self, or various notions of the extended self, such as in reference to family, group, community, nation, or world, etc. People do not much think about the evil of antibiotics killing off microbes or joining clubs like Rats Have Rights Too. But the self can be extended in the imagination. For example, the aftermath effects of depleted uranium dust from military armor, circulating in war-torn lands and breathed into human lungs that causes various diseases can be considered a kind of long term evil.
Paranoia Will Destroy You:
Psychiatrists and psychologists are much familiar with the notion that certain religious fanatics cannot enjoy their lives here on earth because of their constant anxieties and fears of what might happen in the afterlife (that is their spiritual retirement plan as aftershock eschatology). Therapists are well aware that these kinds of people, who suffer from religious persecution, are inclined to episodes of neurosis and fanaticism because of their interpretations of the Bible (or whatever similar sacred literature they subscribe). Helping professionals also are well familiar that religious beliefs are taken very seriously (at least because torture is taken serious), and they know that such patients are, to say the least, worried about the long-term outcomes of their constantly judged lives.
In fact when street preachers market the idea of heaven as positive place in the afterlife, they do not use the advertising field in the way of quality features, like the vacation industry advertises swimming pools and golf courses. Rather if you ask one a hell and brimstone preacher: “What is so great about heaven?” they often reply: “Well, you do not want to go to hell, do you?!” Their motives are aligned to “avoid” pain rather then envisioning eternal pleasure—unless somewhat smug and secure in their sense of destination. But the sweetness of the carrot is not nearly as important as the sting of the stick. (Unless your notion of pleasure aligns with Epicurus who thought that pleasure was the absence of pain—which is certainly a good starting point—but not exactly the greatest marketing program.)
Nor does the Kool-Aid response: “Don’t you want to be in the presence of God and his love?” quite explain the hysteria of fundamentalism. It does not get at the underlying anxiety—even if unconscious. Besides, God’s love seems kind of abstract and dispersed. You are allowed to come into God’s kingdom “if” you believe in his authority and leadership; and you do good works, or have faith. But you cannot be in “his” kingdom if you plan to rebel against him or the laws of the community that are hierarchically dictated to you. There is no mention of representational negotiation anywhere in most religious dialogue. I am unaware of any prophet negotiating for whiskey or fine dining or symphony halls and any of that kind of stuff.
Martin Luther struggled with the question of whether he could “earn” divine grace. Finally after much turmoil and personal suffering he decided, based on scripture in the New Testament, that grace was something gifted from God—that people could not “earn” enough grace to be accepted in God’s presence. It certainly is a high standard of esteem that mortal man, due to his “inherent” sinfulness, cannot possibly earn God’s grace, and thus “save” himself from eternal damnation. One has few cards to play but to hope or find a certain security in believing that one must accept on faith God’s beneficence—as if real and independent choice—with no emotional blackmail involved. And if Martin Luther was so crushed with doubts, what might such anxieties do to lesser souls?
Men and women often struggle with concern about what will please God or what will anger him. Whereas few of the faithful spent much time wondering ultimately how God might be pleasing them. There is no it takes two to tangle mindset here. Perhaps it is even arrogance (to ask) to even think about one’s own satisfaction? Therefore not only is this biblical psychology a conditioning process—it is one that is based on highly unequal amounts of power—on one side a potential punisher who supposedly controls all and the other end one who could be punished and does not feel in control—like always walking on thin ice. Not exactly a relaxed environment unless you like cold feet.
Political Paranoia as Paradigm:
Meanwhile, other people may be more caught up by being frightened, or paranoid, by concerns of political and economic terrorism—such as the circumstance of war or general malaise, or things like explosives, gun battles, incarcerations, persecutions, conspiracies such as fraud, torture, racism, fascism, murder, crimes, addictions, diseases, poverty, unemployment, starvation, etc., within their own local areas and realities. Or think about the fear of not having resources forthcoming like the high unemployment, terrible condition of infrastructure, and long-term levels of stress and disease found in Iraq today. The world wide wonders what Iranians are feeling these days regarding short and long-term consequences of the U.S. saber rattling and threats of a thousand bombing sorties?
Nevertheless we can perceive, at least unconsciously, the mirror of a religious paradigm (of reward or punishment) reflected in real world of politics (where the use and abuse of power is carried out). Being beaten by thugs is scary enough even if transient.
But evil here in the real world is seldom the product of 100% intention—not when mankind has capacity for having faith in so many stupid theories that he is willing to believe might actually work. Evil in the real world cannot always be blamed on one singular soul or group who supposedly knew the consequences of their bad choices.
Rather one’s choices are played out against many elements of chance and naiveté, within context of other peoples’ choices and naiveté. All choice interacts as social context (like economic realities are shaded by a thousand small seemingly insignificant decisions). We give wrong doers too much credit for presuming the wherewithal of their awareness levels. Certainly crooks realize armed robbery is wrong, etc. but equally there is a lot of bad consequence that was not anticipated in many situations.
[Note: Regarding the Iraq war and conflict in the Middle East, the attitude ought be that if Western countries ultimately need access to oil, as a real reason for war, then they can base their politics and debate on this real motive rather than trying to conjure up war based on xenophobia, racist stereotyping, religious prejudice and exaggerated lies.]
Nevertheless, one can be atheist, agnostic, or deist and still be confronted with the “same” kinds of fears—that is to say political as opposed to religious paranoia. The only difference is that the focus is on becoming aware of what is actually happening on earth that is equally too often fear-based (political paranoia).
After all it does seem more than ironic that an afterlife is “again” fraught with more politics! Have they not had at least one rebellion up there already—at least metaphorically in that “courtly” palace? Why should we then presume an afterlife to be so safe and secure as we would like to imagine—like some stagnant status quo of listening to angelic choirs singing Gregorian chant into eternity.
But irrespective of which notion of paranoia you choose to grapple—religious or the politics of the day—both are based on a fear-based psychology that assumes the realm of neurological and psychological capacity to experience pain and pleasure—that we biological creatures identify too well.
Heaven, as concept, is abstracted as the ego’s capacity to experience psychological and physical pleasure. While hell, as concept, is abstracted as experience of psychological or physical pain. This commonality of the centrality of the central nervous system versus the imagination’s projection of nervous capacity in the after life for either heaven or hell stems from the ego’s neurological potentiality, as well as the brain’s ability to understand and feel loss.
Old Mythologies Echoed Again:
Mythologists, those people who study "retired" religions, inform us that myths (those once "living" religions of yesterday) did serve, amongst other things, to maintain (that is to stabilize), by their doctrine, certain structures or mechanisms of power (within their respective time frames and communities).
As various tribes and civilizations expanded the earth, over the centuries, there were certain people within communities, who came to be accepted within the inner circles of tribal power. The small group of insiders stood contrast to the greater masses left mostly on the outside. To maintain their levels of power, the inner circle strained to control the doctrinaire of their larger groups. And some individuals likely exploited such conditions for their own purposes. This generalization would not be true in every case of society but we can understand that hierarchies have unequal distribution of power and therefore unequal access to resources—so it is likely that some outsiders would want to rebel for different reason including more access to resource and more freedom.
Speaking of the Devil:
Joseph Campbell, popularizing mythologist, seemed to believe that the significance of Lucifer’s fall from grace was due to his pride in refusing to serve mankind as God had commanded him to do. According to this interpretation, Lucifer was only willing to serve God—and not man—even if mankind was explained to be part of God’s creation.
In general Campbell’s explanation of this dominant idea certainly seems plausible. After all why would an Arch Angel, way up the corporate hierarchy, want to spend much time and energy “serving” a lesser community? This ideal attitude would only be true for the more enlightened role models as to be found as philosopher-king in Plato’s Republic—leadership as service—as opposed to using positions of leadership for one’s own self-enhancement, or one’s group’s enhancement, at the cost of the greater realm of lesser mortals.
From our personal intuitions, as we gaze into the crystal ball of soap operas and scams, we can think of “many” leaders in positions of political power that use their power primarily for personal gain, and at the expense of the greater community (and theoretically such people should be “rejected” from power—if not placed in the custodial hell of orange jumpers).
Whereas perdition, as place of torment, at least according to Campbell’s and several theologians’ logic, became the “absence” of God’s love and presence (feeling empty and unfulfilled as needy creature of dependence). If we were to substitute the world “community” for “God” we could especially understand this idea—that man is a social creature—and as a social creature he needs to abide by its laws.
Originally, hell (Sheol in Hebrew) was not a place of eternal torture as we have come to know, but a place of despair of separation, in which case Lucifer was ostracized from God’s beneficence and love. His pride of not wanting to serve mankind was supposedly his downfall.
But irrespective of theological interpretation, we have political corollary, in which one psyche refuses to obey another psyche (and in this case with attitude that refuses consideration for the masses of God’s creation—namely mankind—or some stratification therein—at least as the journalism of that day have supposedly passed down the story to us throughout the transcribed ages with fidelity).
Lucifer’s refusal to go along with the program is the kind of thing that happens in social dramas all over the world. Individuals and groups assert independence as difference and disagreement, and sometimes refuse to carry out orders or wishes as forms of dissent. Thus angelology is really a study of motive—and the subject of propaganda.
Corporate Greed or the Greater Good:
But this allegation of refusal to “serve” mankind (community) needs further speculation as well. After all, can it not be argued, as metaphor, that if the selfish interest, inherent in buying a company’s equity at a stock offering, leads to investors having very little ethical liability (by way corporate structures are made legal, especially for exploitative industries that thrive at the expense of the common good or the environment), then is this not, in a similar way, a refusal to consider serving mankind, or better yet God’s interests such as the biodiversity of ecological systems? Can corporate negligence, even if not deliberate (capitalized as private property but without legal liability like a private mercenary running amok), be considered as evil—if the consequences of such personal investments have dire significance for some? Is there not something potentially evil about an economic system that allows millions and millions of investors to move money in and out of corporations, say like into military hardware companies or tobacco companies, with zero liability—while these same protected investors have vast opportunity for personal gain in wealth (in which case their is no if little ethical incentive as to how one bets one’s money)?
Are consequences of an excess of pride (waywardness in rationalizations), at times, a form of heedless recklessness or deliberate blind concern? And does such “legalized” potential for corporate negligence eventually come to corrupt a society, or even a global world, or its people, so much so that it creates great harm? Or that it grows to such levels of corruption that it can no longer sustain it’s preening ways? Does extreme individualism and laissez faire capitalism, as every man for himself, leave society divided to eventually push extremes of rebellion and civil war as extremes in poverty and wealth accentuate?
Montesquieu argued that different forms of governance correspond to different moral sentiments: monarchy is bound to “honor” whereas a republic must have “virtue” that is manifest in a sense of public responsibility. What virtues have the privileged classes here in America found sacrosanct—reflection?
Fact: The issues that potentially cause fear that include economic issues and ideologies are not going away—the only question is how we choose to deal with various issues. But first we need to ask the more basic question of if we can afford to live in a dark ages of the religious crusades—when we need to battle a more formidable foe—industrial success that threatens our very existence? Can scientific enterprise really afford to engage in wars of cultural clashes between religious factions at this time in history?
The Distracted American:
What happens when the devil’s most renown trait of being a liar and an accuser is turned into political smear campaigns by various camps of dogma that are willing to sacrifice truth to create simplistic sound bites? What do you do if even some of your best sources of thought are also willing to get down and dirty by exploiting peoples’ propensities toward prejudice and hatred as they unctuously smear the declared enemy with creepy insinuations and wriggly half-truths, as if their very pitched voices slither in weasel grease?
But even more sophisticated are those “plausible” arguments that seem to be justified on a rational basis, but are loaded with presumptions that work to hook the naive, who are not hip to the missing factoids and realities that are left undisclosed?
What a challenge for the human mind—trying to figure out what is truth and not so—especially in a political and superstitious world. What is one to believe? Is there no end to our naiveté?
“Who should be the next Supreme Court Justice and why?” “Who is actively manipulating the system to elect so and so and why (infusing money from special interests transfers)?” “Should Darwin be taught in schools versus Creationism?” “Should gays be allowed in the military or allowed to be married?” All these issues and more are targeted as religious issues.
Thence the separation of powers of church from state seems more rhetorical than real. Spirits of the historical past keeps haunting modernity. But why do religions continue to insinuate themselves in American politics when we have a separation clause that is suppose to prevent this interference?
Political Issues Are Moral Issues:
Many issues of political contention evolve around, or contain aspects of, "moral" consideration and consequence. And many who feel the strongest, and are politically activated today, are religious people. Fundamentalists have entered the fray in a big way and are pushing their charismatic leaders' chimes (while tacitly supporting more restrictions on our civil liberties as they blithely ignore economic inequalities).
But why, we ask, is it that religious zealotry interferes so “often” with what are presumed to be secular powers of state (like proposed legislation and lobbying efforts by the moral majority)?
The answer is rather obvious—it is because both religions and political theory share something important in common, namely, "values" about morality. Both spirits (religious doctrine and political practice) play out within the realm of “social” values and moral consequence.
There is then, due to this shared role of value establishment and behavior shaping, never really a full-fledged separation between THE State and THE Church. Religions, at least some religions, both reflect the political nature of humankind, and reinforce the authority of political formation. This is a reality we will likely deal for a very long time.
This is why it is a conceit of modernity and progressive presumption to automatically assume that secular societies are automatically superior to theocracies. The amalgamation of religion and politics is ancient anthropology. This new fangled idea of separation of religious feuding due to Christian religions cutting each other’s throats in Europe is new phenomenon. But what makes a society superior because it focuses on crass materialism, narcissistic self-centeredness, and ecological breakdown? Still we Americans are being manipulated by simplistic propaganda that attempts to portray Muslims and Arabs as barbaric fanatics whose societies are assumed inferior—this sanctimoniousness is indicative of our own ethnocentricity.
At best one hopes, when people are generally too blind to perceive the manipulated fears and prejudices (or oppressive propensities of authoritarian tendencies creeping into political ideology) that they will be contained. Hopefully wiser ones within society, will comprehend such manipulation, and will wise up to dual forms of McCarthyism.
Do “We the People” Still Have a Constitution?
Modernity has come to legislate Constitutionality (in which governance is ordained to prescriptions of “written” rules that set limits, via prescribed procedures to power, so as to be followed for a more legitimate and regulated society). This form of governance was modeled after the division of balanced powers of the Monarch, the House of Commons and the House of Lords in England (of course as rumor had it the king’s "patronage" to buy influence in the these branches with his power to distribute resource and title). Our political heritage is different from the old Latin school. The United Colonies was founded on a creed. It is a creed that individuals have dignity, choice, and a right to satisfy their needs. It is not based on the total domination from the top down.
So we progressive Americans must “re-declare” our “independence”, not just from tyrannical dictators of earth (and their financial and fascist minions), and not just from ignorance and it concomitant mob rule, but equally from religious and other ideological forms of tyranny as well. The American Revolution is not over. We are still not free of the baggage dragged over here from Europe and the Middle East.
The founding fathers of this country were clearly rebels that reluctantly fostered a rebellion that claimed a right of power of THE PEOPLE versus absolutist monarchy. Yes their ideas were considered seditious and threat, and can be compared to those who plot against “any” form of tyranny—including and especially forms of tyranny that rules the minds and hearts of people—be it secular or religious.
John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government used the word “tyranny” as the exercise of power beyond “inalienable rights” that no form of governance has a right to violate. These inalienable rights included the right to liberty. But we must be ever vigilant and skeptical of ideological and religious fanaticism—and how it plays out in the world’s politic, or serves as propagandic cover, to hide real motives of the ruling classes who feel free to remain corrupted. Long live true republican and representational government. Long live the freedom for independent thought.
This work is in the public domain