Balm for the afflicted. Opiate of the masses. Fairy tales. Myth. The deepest truths.
Religion is a lot of things.
In today’s various wars – the War on Terrorism, the Culture Wars, the Jihad Against the Great Satan and the Little Satan, and the ever-popular War on Christmas (!), religion is a key element, if not the key element. Religion inspires us to do and be our best – but through so much of history, religion also has inspired us to kill and hate one another.
The Crusades were just one example. Western Christians think of knights in shining armor on a holy mission, but Muslims and Jews remember that slice of history differently: women and children raped, disemboweled; whole families, whole villages murdered. Not that the Muslims were that much more pleasant to live with, if you were not a believer.
And it’s no different today. Islamic fundamentalism. Suicide bombers. The 9/11 atrocities. Madrid. Bali. Paris. San Bernardino. Executing teenage rape victims for “indecency” in Iran. Honor killings. And the latest bogeyman, ISIS.
Not that the Christian fundies have given up. You have right-wing religious zealots bombing abortion clinics, shooting doctors. You have people who take the seasonal greeting “Happy Holidays” as a personal affront. They even have us hatin’ on SpongeBob!
The Jews have their own issues. In Israel, images of women are deleted from newspaper photos and blurred out of billboards in ultra-religious neighborhoods. Some Jews throw rocks at other Jews because they do outrageous things… like reading Torah in public. Outrageous, that is, if you’re a woman – at least, so the far right-wing Haredim say.
Sometimes, a little perspective is in order.
Thirty-seven years ago, I was working on a project with several technologists from one of my employer’s affiliated companies in Japan. Imagine, if you will, a whole crew of Japanese science geeks spending a month in Texas, learning about a completely alien culture and eating bizarre food. Barbecue! Chicken-fried steak!
The work required round-the-clock coverage, and so it was that one cold Sunday morning in mid-December I found myself wandering around the process area with Yamada-san, one of the Japanese technology guys. And he turned to me and asked, “Krodman-san, what will your family be doing for Christmas?”
[Actually, this sounded more like “Kurodoman-san, what wirr your famiry be doing for Kurisumasu?” But the meaning was plenty clear enough.]
And I answered, “Not a whole lot, Yamada-san. We are Jewish, and we do not celebrate Christmas.”
Yamada-san considered this for a moment. Then he said, “Oh, that’s OK. All you Western religions are the same to us.”
The difference depends upon your point of view.
Step far enough back, and that alien “other”
Starts in to lookin’ more like your brother.
When the little green men come from outer space,
They won’t ask to whom you pray or note the color of your face.
To them we’ll just be Humans – prey to be destroyed,
By the Bug-Eyed Monsters from the Outer Void.
And will God shed a tear? Will He say “Boo-Hoo”?
Well, the bug-eyed dudes are His children, too.
So we’d better stick together in our Earthly stew,
’Cause the difference depends upon your point of view.