There have been reactions for all tastes in the comments written to the First Part of this issue, I’ll try now to give a response to them at the time I include in this Second Part new elements of consideration to the problem under revision.
It is thought that giving the economy as a root motivation for the crisis that is going on in the Middle East is an oversimplification of the problem. I do not believe it is, I firmly believe it is the reason for everything going on in the region. Simple reasons can be the answer to difficult problems, sometimes matters are made difficult to understand because those who deal with them so want them to be to hide the real situation behind. In this connection I remember an Einstein’s anecdote when he had to confront the number one student in a class room to solve a problem. The student took just some minutes to find the solution, while Einstein took very much longer to find the same solution because he used a scientifical process to do it.
If you look at things with simple eyes is quite different to looking at them with complicated ones.
Religions have all the time since their inception been exploited. Men were always exploited in one or another way, and they still are, much that they want us to understand that slavery has been erased off the face of the Earth. But this is another question I am not going to deal with here.
It is religions and their exploitation that have brought us to this post, and on them I am going to focus here.
Thirst of power is what have made men and women(the latter in scarce circumstances) divide into two sides : those wielding the power and those suffering the consequences. The growth of populations caused the growth of memberships in all religions. The Ecclesiastical Hierarchies organised them in a way that the faithful were permanently subject to fear of God. God was made in the image of man, not all the way round because this is absolutely impossible as God has never been seen by any one.
Fear, the most abject of the human traits, is at the root of all our problems. We have fear of wars, of fights, of not having enough money to reach the end of the month…, and above all of death. The Catholic Church instituted the sacrament of Confession as a unique instrument to keep its faithful in the fold. Psychologically speaking Catholics owe their souls to the Church dignitaries who are allegedly endowed with the grace granted by God of absolving all sins. The Imams are in charge of this mission, although in a different way, in the prayers all Muslims are compelled to pray every day, while Jews must have a weekly time, the Sabbath, to strengthen their relationship with God. All of these are rites in which the faithful of each religion firmly believe which keep them united in each of the folds.
And those who wield the temporal power, or want to wield it, know and use it for their own benefit.
We have seen in all these years since the problem in the Middle East became really serious, that there have been situations where suspicions might have arisen of attitudes which went against one or another religion. The cartoons issued in Denmark, the Pope’s statements about Islam’s being violent, whilst Judaism has maintained the same position it has for centuries continuously using today the Holocaust to keep undesirable situations off its limits, that is Muslims fighting against Christians, Christians uniting to Jews – of all unions – to fight Muslims, and all of them making the world a complete chaos to live, this in sheer fear of one another.
I do not believe for a second that religion be at the root of the problem, of this universal problem we have been compelled to live with, religions are being used just to keep us watching the locks of our houses, the persons who walk on the streets about us, the suspiciously-coloured passengers that will be travelling in the same planes we travel, the strange bags that have been left unattended anywhere, in sum distrust about each other is growing non-stop in the world. Why?
I do not believe in conspiracies, I believe in evil and in goodness, I believe a human being is capable of being evil or of being good, of being greedy and of being modest. How many times have we seen how a human being has used another one for the former’s benefit? Numberless. Husbands using wives and viceversa, children using parents and viceversa, friends using friends, etc, why then human beings cannot use religions, too? And above all the members of those religions?
Why, for instance, cannot Jews use Christians and Muslims against each other in their own benefit? What are the Christian-Zionists (not Zionist-Christians curiously) but an aberration which is being used in favour of Zionists? Why cannot Muslims use Christians against Jews? Or Christians not use Jews against Muslims?
While they are busy trying to settle their enormous differences, some take advantage of the situation to fill their own coffers.
Religions should avoid to have any interferences in politics, but it is imperative that religions do not allow politics to use them because politics have not anything whatsoever to do with religion. Politics is material, religions are spiritual. The day this is achieved, we shall start to have peace because religions are in their origins meant for peace and love among the human beings.
March 15, 2007
As we have been able to see through the years and our studies, practically all religions have been conceived under the fundamental concept of God, or a god, in this post I am going to deal with the idea of religions which have been a permanent part of our lives for thousands of years, namely – in chronological order – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Of all the three are based in beliefs that have God as the main core of everything that exists, the origin and eventual end of life, any life.
In accordance with what we have learnt, Christianity was the origin of a religion that sprouted from Judaism and which Judaism did never accept as legitimate by Jewish standards. The Christian Messiah was never admitted as the Messiah the Jewish Scriptures spoke of. Perhaps if he had been admitted Christianity would not exist, only Judaism would have been consolidated. But events took a different course to what today seems it would have been a logical one.
Islam came to existence long afterwards. Its origins are in a way much to do with Judaism and Christianity, although it is a totally different religion. All in all I wonder whether if there had not been a split there would have existed the problems we have today which oppose the three religions against one another. If there existed just one giant religion all over the world, without divisions, how would the world behave in religious matters? Would it have been a religious dictatorship? My opinion is that it would not. My opinion is that given the individualistic condition of the human being, it would eventually have split into as many divisions as there are today, with the same problems we also have today.
The concept of God has been taken by the three divisions as an individual patrimonial asset and each one has claimed its property along thousands of years, something that bumps frontally with the very foundations of the three religions, because in all cases God is the proprietor not the propriety.
It is curious that the term fundamentalism was first used in reference to an extreme Protestan position characterised by the belief that the Bible is a verbally accurate recording of the word of God. This position holds that the writers were divinely inspired to the smallest detail of revealed truth. The term has been applied to a part of Islam with the same strict adherences to the Muslim sacred text, the Coran. But the term, if I am not wrong, was employed by Christians in the first place. Following the definition given above, then Judaism is the most fundamentalist of all doctrines, but this has never been said of it.
We have Orthodox Jews, as we have Orthodox Christians and I believe Muslims, too. Can we liken Orthodoxy to fundamentalism? I think we can quite easily. As happens with so many other idioms or terms in our languages, the degeneration of the meaning of fundamentalism has been clearly taken to represent a religious position that in our Western world demonises its followers when it is applied to Islam. If we follow the traject of the term its meaning is all the contrary: it is strict adherence to a faith, nothing else.
Did the persons who started using the term realise that its application was by no means a clear reflection of the real status of those it was meant to be used for? Perhaps they did not or perhaps they did, I do not know nor do I believe anyone will at this stage. The fact is that the term is considered as a deprecatory one referred to the Muslims who use violence in their aims which as far as I can understand, have nothing to do with the Islamic religion. It has to do with the freedoms the people who live in the Middle East region want to achieve for themselves, freedom from the economical grip exerted by multinational corporations whose only interest in that region is the exploitation of natural resources paramount for the normal development of the Western world.
But a world-wide system of news at the service of those corporations has created a false impression on the minds of its readers which really in my opinion disguise a legitimate claim on those resources in a veneer of religiosity. Not that religion is not mixed up in the struggle, but it is mixed up because it is the only way to make Arabs move, given their adherence to the Islam’s principles and tenets. In my opinion it is not conquest what this movement pursues, it is the devolution to their legitimate owners of the exploitation alien forces make of those natural resources.
And in this pursuit the media I referred to before take much care in focussing the attention on Muslims in general, which creates the desired outcome of generalisation of the problem. The more people accuse the Muslims in general, the more Muslims will join what the Western Media call fundamentalism. That is the main mistake – sometimes I call it purpose – of the Western countries regarding the Arabs: their position face to Islamic countries is being conducted by interested parties which will never bow to the Arabic countries’ legitimate claim of their own land and resources.
And to this we should also add the precarious situation in which Arab leaders recognised by the Western countries find themselves in, starting being hated by their subjects for their affinity to the West.
My thoughts about the situation in the Middle East, and in the World, are many more than a normal post would permit, so I will leave it as it is now for the consideration of readers, as otherwise it would be too long and boresome.
The title of the post also allows for a second part to be written.
February 22, 2007
A very good friend of mine, an American, retired cleric has sent me the following article, which I transcribe here because I find it of interest:
If you are confused about declarations emanating from Tanzania, where Anglican prelates dressed down the Episcopal Church for daring to differ on matters that Jesus never addressed, perhaps this story will help.
In Spring 2003, I led a clergy retreat for the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. It was a welcome break from isolation in an area where ministry means sitting in someone’s living room while they cry, sharing coffee on the town square, dashing at midnight to a hospital room, eating church stew on wintry nights.
Theirs is ground-level faith, not lofty religion. It happens person to person, not at microphones or in position papers.
At the center of this gathering was the bishop’s assistant, who had spent twenty years driving from town to town, visiting clergy when their lives were in crisis, encouraging vestries when times were tough, sharing meals with their families, loving them into a cohesion that is rare in t he Episcopal Church.
Several months later, this friend was elected Bishop of New Hampshire, not as an in-your-face to the Anglican world or partisan statement about homosexuality, but because he was their pastor. I couldn’t imagine their electing anyone else, for he had shown the face of Jesus Christ in their homes, church kitchens and pulpits.
That election set off a paroxysm of recrimination that dominated two General Conventions and now has produced the bizarre spectacle of “Global South” bishops shunning our Presiding Bishop — at the eucharist! — because she didn’t fit their “boys’ club” mentality.
This controversy has brought forth absurd interpretations of Scripture and tradition and elevated an artificial construct called the Anglican Communion into a global arbiter of local practices.
None of this is about faith or ministry. It is ideological bullying. People holding one viewpoint want to impose their will on others. It is holding up stones of right-opinion and saying to the hungry, “Here, eat this.”
Episcopalians, like all Christians, have divergent views about everything, including sexuality. Those divergent views make our assemblies a nightmare and frustrate those who believe that all should believe and behave alike. But that diversity flows from the way God made us, and if there be oneness, it won’t come by sword or religious orthodoxy, but by love.
We need to remember that the locus of meaning for Christian witness isn’t a procession of the elegantly robed. The locus of meaning is the homes where God’s people dwell, the hospital rooms where they are born and die, quiet walks where friend comforts friend, small circles seeking hope, people picking up tools to help others, and the lonely hill outside Jerusalem where an outcast died for us.
December 7, 2006
There is a graffitti in the town I live that reads:
“I pray God to never forget He exists”
Indeed, this seems to me a prayer quite concordant with the times. We have so many problems, unsolvable problems, that praying God for the solution is not the way. Perhaps I think God must be too busy to oblige in each and every case He is troubled by people.
Churches conduct collective prayers in the churches, they – all of them: Jewish, Muslim, Christians – try to unite their parishioners in prayer to God.
In this connection I remember the parable by Jesus that I was taught when I was a kid: The Publican and the Pharisee, both praying in the Temple.
The Pharisee prayed in a loud, boastful voice and compared his prayer to that of the Publican who very quietly prayed by his side, despising the Publican for his humble attitude towards God.
Jesus wanted, with this parable, to show the real value of prayer.
But along the years Christians who – like me – were taught to follow the teachings of Christ, have amazingly observed as those recommentations have changed considerably, at least inside the Catholic Church. Prayers are said in a loud voice, jointly by all present and led by the practicing priest.
In my opinion prayers are a very particular, inner way to try to get spiritual soothing to our problems. Prayers should be individual and, also in my opinion, collectively praying weakens the very essence of the plight we are going under. Prayers should not conform with established texts, the innermost self should compose in each case how every one should ask for help.
Not that we are going to get that help, but at least we might feel more comfortable, more satisfied that we have done everything possible to solve our problem, or any other one’s for that matter.
November 30, 2006
What is behind the pursuit of unity of Churches? The present visit of Pope Benedict XVI’s main objective was to calm down the angry protests which his unfortunate speech in Germany provoked when he spoke of the ancient mixture of religion and violence of Islam. He made a blunder that day – Islam is not a violent religion as are none of the monotheistic religions which exist in our world. That violence has been used in many cases in the name of them does not mean they are violent, just it means violent people have used them in their benefit.
But turning back to my questions, I have been wondering of late why the established churches are always proselytising and trying to unite their faithful in what is called “the fold”. Why so?
In my opinion a faith is a subjective trait of every individual. In the olden times of Christianity, we remember how catacumbs were built in Rome to defend Christians from the Roman Empire, an empire that believed in what were called pagan gods and which used its power to suppress anyone with a new faith, as was the Christian case, that they said imperilled the existence of the state. The sacrifices of Christians were the pastime of Romans during that epoch, but not long later the Empire changed and there were even Emperors who professed the Christian faith. So there was no fear that the sacrifices continued, but despite this change the habit of being united continued to be the norm of Christians for centuries to go.
We read in books that there are numbers of allegedly practicing members of the three monotheistic most important religions: 1 billion plus Christians; 1 billion plus Muslims, and not so many Jews, who despite being the first religion have not seen their members increased noticeably along the times.
Pope Benedict XVI has met with Orthodox Catholics and after the meetings a communiqué has told us that there is a new effort to unite the Christians of the world. There exist considerable gaps between Catholics and Protestants which in olden times were a cause of murder and destruction, we still speak of the Holy Inquisition and the crimes that this intitution committed in the name of the Faith. I think these gaps are not going to be bridged so easily, either of the two tendencies would have to cede in very important tenets of their faiths.
But again why the pursuit of the unity?
In my opinion it cannot be anything but power, economical power and otherwise, that presses the churches to add more faithful to their side. Pope Benedict dared to assure the Turkish Prime Minister that he would support the admission of Turkey into the European Union, something that politically speaking is still very far from happening. Just propaganda to quell Muslim fears about Catholic intentions, because if the Vatican could not achieve that “the traditional Christian values of Europe” were included in the European Constitution, little will his recommendation for the integration of Turkey achieve.
I cannot find any other reason for that sought unity: power. But power in the secular world, not in the spiritual one.
Which ought not to be the aim of a church.
November 14, 2006
Two sources have inspired me this post: 1- my friendship with a retired American cleric and a discussion that is going on in Respect Discussion group :
My American friend is somebody who has frequently made me think on the true task religion has in the lives of people. How people can even kill for their faith and how faith has many times been used by interested people with ends different to what the real motivation of faith must be. He is somebody I look up to for inspiration. A true pater familias with his dear wife and grown-up children who in all make up one of the really typical American families. But he is a human cleric. I always tell him he is a man of God and I feel from thousands of kilometres away that he blushes because his modesty does prevent him from being overly proud. Bob must be reading this post because he is a friend’s friend and always worried how we are doing in life, although I for one sometimes forget that he is one I should always be attentive to.
Going back to that discussion in Respect (link above) two friends of mine, one Christian the other Muslim, are discussing aspects of each one’s religion and their respective beliefs.
In my opinion a religion is not debatable. A religion is a compendium of all the various steps men have gathered to form the essence of that faith, but the faith in itself cannot be explained. Either you believe or you do not believe. Faith is something inherent to each individual and each individual in each religion believes in a way that is not precisely the same way the person next to him on the same pew of the same church believes. The human mind is so complicated that the only explanation I can find to design it is that it must have been created by a supreme being that we all have coincided along the years to call God. Scientist in the XXI century who have been able with their brains to devise tools that take man to the outer space and even different planets, have not been yet capable of describing how really their brains work .
How can we in our infinitesimal presence in the universe can pretend that we know God, much less how can we pretend that God is existing in our image, someone resembling us?.
We are nothing but a heap of bones, flesh, veins, blood and waste that in a given number of years will be inexistent, because Nature so determines following, I infer, the instructions given by God in His wisdom.
But I do not know it, I just believe it.