Religion has always been and still is the cause of discord, war, and destruction.
How many wars have been fought in the name of one religion or another? How many people have been burned alive, decapitated, tortured to death, martyred, shot, blown apart, or hacked to bits in its name? It didn’t start on August 10th 1096, when Pope Urban the Second ordered the first crusade, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children. Or in 1209, when the rather inappropriately named Pope Innocent III ordered the killing of the entire population of the captured city of Beziers, resulting in the tortuous death of around 20,000 men, women, and children. People have always been killing other people in the name of one god or another.
The Bible is a book of horror stories, with ‘God ’ sending Moses and others to commit mass murder on numerous occasions.
And Moses said, “Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.” (Exodus 11:4-5)
Moses was the head man of his tribe with such important tasks given to him by God to perform. The majority of God’s reported communications with Moses involved sending his good man out to perform bloody murder on both adults and children.
And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel.'” (Numbers 25:3-4)
But let’s assume Moses was no more in touch with God than George W. Bush. If we accept that the Moses of the Bible was a real person, he was a demagogue of monstrous proportion. Still, like other demagogues, he was a charismatic leader, and if the Bible is any kind of history, he managed to convince other people that he had received his instructions from God. And that’s the danger of it. All it takes is for one charismatic person to convince others that he has been inspired by God, and believers will follow that person and do his will. In the eyes of believers, God can do no wrong, and because God’s ways are mysterious, we shouldn’t even try to understand – we should do God’s will blindly, in faith, even if it means committing atrocities. Because ‘believers’ don’t have a direct line to God themselves, they follow the representative of any religion or sect who claims to have a two way dialogue with their god.
Our knowledge of human history is unfortunately very short, but as far back as we can look, in the ancient writings of all deity-based religions, we see death, torture, and destruction in the name of a deity. The Incas strangled virgins, and burned up to 200 children at a time to appease their gods. The Aztecs sacrificed more than 20,000 people a year. In India, an estimated 2,000,000 over the years were strangled by members of the Thuggee sect, as sacrifices to the god Kali, who was apparently almost as bloodthirsty as the god of the Bible. Again, this is merely what we know about.
Historians estimate that there were around 30 million people in the world in the time of the Biblical ‘Noah’, (were such a person to exist, and if the Bible described a real history), so if you add that to the approximately 3 million that God ‘gave instructions’ to kill, taking Sodom, Gomorrah, and The Flood into account, God was responsible for the deaths of around 33 million people.
That estimate does not include the people killed in the name of the Biblical God in the last 2000 years. The Thirty Years War between Protestants and Catholics claimed an estimated 14 million people in Germany alone. The history of religious massacres could fill a hundred books. If we could look further back, when humans were even more brutal than we are today, (‘today’ meaning our most recent 10,000 years or so) there would have been other religions, other gods, and other wars in the name of those gods. Our latest religions breed fundamentalism and brutality today. Would it have been less brutal 100,000 years ago when one group worshipped the Sun, and another the Spirit of the local mountain, or the Anima of the Earth, or their ancestors? Or go back to 1.5 million years, when we know that hominids buried artefacts with the dead.
Some may say that evil done in the name of a god is not the fault of the god, or the fault of the religion, but the fault of evil people. And it’s true that evil people will always find a way to do evil. However, it’s only when the evil is done in the name of religion that the people doing evil are considered good, because the gullible believe that anything done in their god’s name is good. Religion – despite the popular myth that it gives people a moral code to live by, messes up our sense of right and wrong. You can still, in some modern practised religions, do what you like to someone’s body if you are saving their soul. Torture them until they repent. Strangle them, burn them or drown them. Kill the unbelievers, the infidels.
It’s easy to think we have moved beyond that sort of brutality, but it is still happening today. Read a newspaper or listen to the news. The faithful, of whatever religion or sect they adhere to, feel justified in any behaviour that is done in the name of their god. If it is something repugnant to them, all the better – it is a test of their faith.
People do still hear voices in their heads telling them to do bad things. We call this illness ‘paranoid schizophrenia with phychotic and sociopathic tendencies.’ The psychotic episodes are generally caused by a combination of chemical imbalance in the brain, together with a genetic propensity and some triggering event such as physical, mental, or sexual abuse.
Such people make the headlines with stories like “Student Says god Told Him to Kill Parents”
or “Father says god told him to kill his daughter”
Generally, the condition is treatable, but incurable, and will recur if they forget or otherwise omit to take their medication. In any position of power or leadership, they can then wreak havoc. It is safer for society to keep such people incarcerated, at least in a secure mental institution.
However in the ‘holy’ books of the Jewish, Islamic, and Christian faiths, voice hearing, vision seeing, and otherwise clearly delusional psychotics are held up as examples of the true faithful. Moses, the homicidal maniac who ordered rape, genocide, and infanticide, is held as a Prophet. Constantine, the mass murderer who collected and constructed the books of the Bible as we know them, is known as Constantine the Great. Abraham, who was close to cutting his son’s throat because of a ‘voice’ that told him to do it, is taught as an inspiration to us all, that we should have such faith. Thus, the religious have no choice but to believe that murder in their god’s name is justified. Otherwise, they either have not read their sacred books, or must distance themselves from the texts that they hold Holy.
Church leaders need to stand up and say, “This man depicted in this Holy Book was a homicidal maniac. If you ever get it into your head to emulate him, realise you are suffering from a mental illness, and seek help.”
But they never will. There will be other wars. There will be more bombs. Many more will die in the name of one god or another, because adherents think that the most important thing is getting other people to believe what they believe. The history of religious massacres is far from over. It might never be over. Now, that’s a bad thing about religion.