Friday, November 25, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven 

I just watched Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven on DVD and, while it has the usual historic dubiousnesses of most Hollywood flicks, it does make a good point at the end, something worth repeating again and again and again.

The history of the tri-partite religious wars of the last 1300 years centers on one city, Jerusalem. And the only solution to that problem is a simple one that so many people seem unwilling to take. It's this: Jerusalem is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims -- so should belong to none of them and all of them. Just as Vatican City is an independent state within Italy, Jerusalem should be an independent state within Israel, ruled by a triumvirate of Cardinal, Rabbi and Emir. All holy sites within the city should be open to all pilgrims of all faiths. And, without the blinders of religious fanaticism, the only honest position is to admit that all three religions have equal claim to the place. Just as a matter of "time occupied", none of these groups really has a pre-eminent claim. And each of them claims wonders and miracles within the city walls. The Ark of the Covenent resided there, Jesus died and was reborn there, Mohammud ascended to heaven there.

Now, I'm a raving atheist, but I'll tell you this -- if all three world religions descended from Abraham happen to have the same holy city in common, I'd gamble that the deity of those religions was kind of sending a message. And the message would be that this city belongs to all followers of Abrahamic religions. Not to the Jews by virtue of the temple, not to the Christians by virtue of Jesus, not to the Muslims by virtue of Mohammud.

In short -- share the goddamn place, will ya?

And, back to Kingdom of Heaven and the Crusades... what was started by one Pope in the 11th Century has not ended yet -- and if you don't think that the Iraq War and the Global War on (Some) Terrorists isn't an extension of the Crusades, well, then, you're just ignorant of history. I suggest that you read Dungeon, Fire & Sword by John Robinson, perhaps one of the best historical explications of the Crusades ever put to paper.

And, one other bit of news for all you Muslim-bashers out there. Were it not for Islam, there would be no western culture and no America, for two reasons. First off, while Europe was stuck in the dark ages of ignorance and superstition, all the scientific and cultural knowledge of Greece and Rome was being preserved way off in the middle east. Secondly, were it not for Muslim forces at the battle of Ain Jalut some 745 years ago, we'd all most likely be speaking Mongolian and living as nomads on horseback. The Jews didn't do that, because they were being oppressed by Christians. The Christians didn't do that because they were being oppressed by superstition. The Muslims did it because, frankly, for nine hundred years, they were the super-power of Europe -- something that later historians tried to erase.

Remember -- the Muslim empire stretched all the way to Spain, and it's why we still have Arabic words in Spanish and English. Alhambra. Alameda. Algebra. Where do you think they came from, and why do you think they stuck?

Now, mind you, I've really got no place for religion in my world. Were it up to me, all such superstitions would be outlawed, and the world would be ruled by logic. Anyone who seriously believed in something as stupid as I.D. would be sent off for re-education. And, eventually, all these moronic, mindless battles over meaningless plots of land based on some stupid belief called "My god is better than yours" would stop. But, until then, I'd like to remind the religio-fascists of something that they seem to forget. Yo, kids -- Abraham and Moses begat Jesus, who begat Mohammud. Hell, I'll even toss Joseph Smith into that formula for you. But the point is this -- if you're going to be at all consistent in your superstitions, then you have to admit that you're all on the same team. Jews, Christians and Muslims should not be fighting. If anything, each of those religions should honor each other and stop the damn squabbling already.

And, ultimately, ask yourselves this: if your religion is all about the spiritual Kingdom of Heaven and the after life and all that crap, then why the hell are you fighting over a piece of real estate, anyway?

Maybe that's the ultimate bit that makes me an atheist. Well, aside from the ridiculousness of all that "god" stuff. And it's this -- if your religion is right, and if you do what you do to get into some ethereal heaven after you die, then what the holy fuck does it matter what you do in this life, or whom you convert? Hey, to be consistent, it all comes down to you and your god, babe. And, from what I can tell, it doesn't matter whom you convert, or whom you make conform to your belief, or whatever. It only comes down to how you behave, according to how you believe, and what your god thinks of that once you die.

Put your manna where you mouth is, then. Leave the rest of us alone. Pray how you will, believe how you will, behave how you will. And, if your god is so right and so powerful, then there's not a damn thing you can do to help him. To think otherwise is just hubris, which is a sin in at least three religions. I'll repeat that again. If your god is the One, the all-powerful, then to presume you can help him borders on blasphemy. Think about what you're saying with your actions. "My god can't do it alone, so I've got to help." I.E. "I am equivalent to god." Ergo -- act like a crusader or a jihadist or whatever, and you are going straight to hell or gehenna or whatever version of "really sucky afterlife" you believe in.

Got that? Again, being an atheist, I just giggle at such things, but let me put this in terms the religious nuts can understand. An all-powerful god is gonna work things out how he/she wants. You can play your games and start your wars, but it isn't going to make any difference. Nothing you can do is going to change what's going to be. Much better, then, to improve the lot of your fellow man here and now -- a far, far better way to earn heavenly brownie points, after all. To think otherwise is to be deceived by The Adversary/Satan/Shaitan...

Hm. As I write this, I begin to realize that two other world religions got here first, long before the Western Three. There was Buddhism, there was Hinduism. The latter is the only world religion without a known founder, and the former was the first heresy within the latter. Hinduism accepts all deities from all other religions, without judgement. Buddhism condemns the "crime" of believing that "Maya," the veil over our eyes that creates what we call reality, is real. In fact, to grasp onto the material -- things like who owns which piece of land -- is a great sin in Buddhism.

Y'know, though, were I forced to pick a religion that most reflected reality, being scientifically minded, I'd become a Hindu. There are a lot of reasons for that, but here are two. First off, Hinduism is about the only religion to embrace time scales even remotely approaching those of the universe. Whereas, say, Christianity deals in millennea, Hinduism deals in millions of years. Second, Hindu deities are just so much more bitching than the rest, with their multi-arms and multi-faces. Although, if you've ever done acid, they're not so outside the realm of experience at all. And, again, there's the quantuum/relativistic angle. Eternal beings must exist outside of time and, to our mortal eyes, would look more like Shiva and Brahma and Khali, et. al. , than they would look like Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Mohammud. And, at the same time, would clearly give less than two warm shits what the hell we mere mortals do.

If you're religious, go look at an anthill some time. Contemplate destroying the thing, then determine whether you'll do so based on the behavior of an arbitrarily selected ant. Watch the ant for a while... and you'll soon realize that you really don't care. Chances are, you'll stomp the anthill anyway. But it will have nothing to do with anything that any random ant does to any fellow ant.

Proverbs, 6:6: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

Oddly enough, a hell of a lot of truth in that one...

Neat man. I learned a couple things there. But ahhh, to dream, the impossible dream. . .
Ahhhhhhh, good justification killed by a rather pathetic analogy. I agree with your assement of the movie; that being man's struggles reflect the basic growth of philosophic destinies. I like the Freudian approach myself, collapse the whole thing into a three pronged vector and let nature take its course. (not exactly original)

We aren't ants. Ants have some place to run. Give humanity some credit. We're not up to ants. Which may be a good thing.

ndkffgh-Horse cough signalling pneumonia
But... I can't give humanity any credit. Not while they believe in all that religious bullshit.

Ants are smarter. They just try to work for the good of the hive. And they don't try to please some invisible being....
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