“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” – Voltaire
Logic, reason, and compassion is what motivates mankind to be more civilized. These elements seem to be lost on those whose minds are captured by ancient religious dogmas.
The recent kidnappings in Nigeria of young school girls by the extremist Muslim group Boko Haram, has put a face on evil, and in this instance that face is an out dated form of religious dogma. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekan says God instructed him to capture the girls and he claims the girls have converted to Islam. “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women.”
To the average person, the ranting of Abubakar Shekan is delusional at best, and is out of the mainstream of a civilized society. The fact the girls were taken from a school where they were being educated reminds us of the repression of women by religious culture since recorded history. It also reinforces the fact that educated women are a threat to religious extremists. If a woman is educated, chances are her children, male and female will follow suit, denying the extremists new recruits. This is also present in Christianity but more so in the Islamic tradition; In Islamic countries women are not allowed to drive cars, there is a high incidence of child brides, honor killings, women’s faces being disfigured by acid attacks and forced marriages.
Nigeria is on the African continent and so is the Central African Republic and the Sudan.. Recently all three countries have experienced civil violence based on religious differences, pitting Muslims against Christians. What is similar among these nations is the interweaving of politics and religion and the notion of a defacto theocracy creating a sort of group think. In industrialized western nations where church and state are separated, governments are there to govern for the common good of everyone. The hallmark of a pluralistic society.
The leader of the terrorist Muslim group wants to outlaw western influenced education that recognizes the importance of knowledge through centuries of technological and psychological advances. What they want is to keep their populations trapped in a fifth and sixth century world where power and wealth are in the hands of a few, mostly men and the clergy.
The kidnapping of the school girls was a crime for sure, but one against humanity and not against any perceived god as mentioned here; “It’s a blasphemy against God, and people of faith of all traditions should renounce his words” – Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
Mr. Wallis , a Christian, made a joint statement with a Muslim, Dalia Mogahed. Chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting; “As a Christian and a Muslim we believe in a god who hears prayer. A god of justice. People everywhere should pray against the work of these men.”
When natural or human disasters occur, the religious and not so religious go into automatic prayer mode, petitioning someone not there to make things right. People from all over the world are starting social media sites dedicated to the return of the girls and in the U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has a hash tag “Bring Our Girls Home“ started.. These public relation efforts are limited in scope and give the public a sense of doing something positive, but as one person states; “Justice is a concept. Muscle is the reality” – Linda Blandford
In their book Ego, authors Peter Baumann and Michael Taft explore the connection between, evolution, culture and neuroscience in explaining how mankind is still struggling to be fully civilized and how our beliefs, like those of the Muslim extremists are a carry over from a different time in history. The following is an excerpt from the book; “Evolution acting through the mechanism of natural selection created the emotions that motivate and direct our behavior, as well as the imagination we use to model possible outcomes for that behavior. Over millions of years, these developed in our animal and proto-human ancestors into an extremely potent combination. As a system our thoughts and feelings have ratcheted our species up the escalator from harsh, brutal survival in the dirt to the comfort, cleanliness, and convenience of sipping tea on a transcontinental flight.
And yet, like any technology—our body/brain system represents a highly advanced biological technology—there is almost as much of a downside as there is an upside. The same imagination that allows us to build jet airliners can dream up a plan to crash them into skyscrapers full of people. Our religious feelings motivate us to feed and clothe the needy, or to kill nonbelievers. The same emphatic emotions that allow us to care for our families and children can motivate us to annihilate anyone we think threatens our loved ones. This downside doesn’t just drive international terrorists or even the murderer down the block. It drives the anxiety, depression, and alienation that plague us today.”
People of all faiths and no faith are capable of doing evil things, the only difference is sometimes the religious will use a straw man – a personal god- to sanction it. Religion was invented by early man to help cope with a world he could not fully understand. The problem is in the wrong hands anyone can interpret something invented for their own purposes. Taking something already flawed, like the belief in a personal god is doubling down on ignorance and very dangerous.
Mythical figure worship is the ultimate drug, with plenty of addicts.