Monday, September 27, 2010
Western Religions Insatiable Appetite for Death
Killing in the Name of...
Religion is replete with examples of pernicious atrocities perpetrated by those who claim to be doing the will of its god(s); many adherents believe that god is with them every step of the way as they unabashedly commit one vile act after another. Religion has strong divisive effects as well; it endorses an "us versus them" mentality. In modern history, it has given those in power the hatred and bigotry necessary to terminate untold numbers of innocents who did not share their beliefs. It's incomprehensible that so many people died based on a spurious faith; slavery, genocide, systematic execution and so much more can be directly attributed to the teachings in the Bible. Jesus never condemned his own actions of the OT, nor did he address acts of slavery or genocide. Other Western religions do not generally fair much better.
The king and queen of Spain, during the period of Columbus, were endorsed by the Catholic Church because they exemplified the ideals of the Catholic Church. These are the same monarchs who started the Spanish Inquisition and were granted permission by the Catholic Church. The Spanish inquisition was designed to weed out Jews and nonbelievers via exile or even execution when acts of heresy were committed. It was a religiously and politically motivated process. Ferdinand and Isabelle had decided that Spain was a Catholic nation and everyone was forced to convert, through coercion if necessary.
In 1492, Columbus did sail the ocean blue, courtesy of Ferdinand and Isabelle, but it wasn't to spread Christianity in Asia. He was in hot pursuit of gold and, to a lesser extent, fine commodities like spices and silk, as Marco Polo brought back from China. Gold was scarce in the Caribbean Islands but "Indians", as Columbus and his crew called them, were not. The Arawak people were plentiful on the island of the Bahamas, which was the first island Columbus graced with his presence. The Arawaks were an agricultural and egalitarian people by design. The women were given all the same privileges and respect as the men. Interestingly enough, they had no religion to speak of but were still a generous society that expected mutual reciprocity among its members. Columbus himself stated, “When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone…” This naive people went out to greet Columbus and his crew, only to be ultimately rewarded with torture, enslavement and mass execution. Driven by greed and his god given rights, Columbus forced the Indians to search for the gold themselves. When they failed, it had deadly consequences.
Columbus continued to deliver slaves to Spain, since the "fields of gold" he dreamed of were far from ubiquitous. Columbus was brutal to the Indians and full of religious zeal as he reported his dealings with the Indians. “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His ways over apparent impossibilities,” said Columbus when speaking to the King and Queen of Spain. The Arawaks were not cowards; they managed to put together an army of resistance that was swiftly eradicated by the Spaniards superior weaponry. When prisoners were found, they were either hanged or burned alive. Of the 250,000 Indians living on Haiti, only about half of that remained after Columbus got done brutalizing them. Some resorted to suicide, and they even killed their own infants to spare them from the Spaniards.
Bartolome de las Casas, a young priest and vehement critic of cruelty toward the Indians, transcribed Columbus’ journal and told of some of the nefarious actions of the Spaniards. Las Casas stated that the Spaniards, “thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades”. Las Casas recalls one particular event where, “two of these so-called Christians met two Indian boys one day, each carrying a parrot; they took the parrots and for fun beheaded the boys.”
Puritans and Pilgrims
The so called Puritans appealed to the Bible to justify the forceful taking of Indian land. They quoted verses like Psalms 2:8 and Romans 13:2. Romans 13:2 states, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” The holier-than-thou Pilgrims, far from sitting down and having a peaceable fellowship with Indians, were mostly concerned about taking Indian land. The ever amicable Indians, masters of the land, were more than happy to share their agricultural methods with the ungrateful pilgrims. There, indeed, was a sort of dependence which the English had on Indians to supply them with their abundance of corn and other crops. For the sake of survival, relations between the Indians and English remained friendly for a time. But, the ultimate goal of the English remained fixated on the acquisition of more land, at any means necessary.
The English raid of the Pequot village was case in point. They set fire to their wigwams while families burned alive from the inside. William Bradford, a contemporaneous historian, stated that after securing an easy victory “they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to inclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enimie.” Again, an “us versus them” mentality that reeks of a false sense of superiority based solely on the ‘good’ book.
Obviously, Christianity isn’t the only religion responsible for the death of untold numbers, other examples abound. The Aztec civilization routinely sacrificed thousands of people to the gods (think Apocalypto). Then, there was Hernando Cortes who was obsessed with the acquisition of gold and was blessed by the deputies of God. He slaughtered Aztecs by the thousands.
We could also discuss the 50 million people that Africa lost as a direct result of slavery, but that may be another post altogether. You know…the act that was customary in Biblical times and never denounced by Christ. I wonder what effect it would have had if Jesus would have simply stated, “enslaving others, despite their physical or ethnic differences, is never right.” Surely, one person who could have been rescued from slaveries injustices would have been worth the additional ink. Africans were packed in like sardines upon ships for up to sixteen weeks at a time. Pregnant women, in the process of giving birth, were often cast out to sea; they were often too weak to deliver the baby, so they were discarded instead. Where was god when all of this was happening? God has the omniscience and omnipotence to stop such atrocities but fails to do so. He could have denounced slavery before it ever got started. Sure, he said to "love your neighbor as yourself", but were slaves really even considered neighbors? On the contrary, a piss poor job of communication leaves the Bible open for all kinds of deleterious interpretations.
God could have done any number of things to stop the genocidal intentions of the Spanish and English but failed to do so. God laid out the perfect example of how to deal with superfluous neighbors in the O.T., kill them all; you ruthlessly take everything from the society, including the women, for yourself.