The Catalan woman enters the great cathedral. A long, black lace cloth covers her head. She steps softly across a marble floor, ignoring the forty-foot high stained glass windows; dips wrinkled fingers into a stone fount, moves her fingers to her forehead, then across her chest and belly; lights a candle in a red glass; moves to a wooden bench where the tarnish of time’s attendants have polished and smoothed the sitting place; bows her head and moves her lips to entreat her deity; raises her head to gaze upon the carved figure of a man nailed upon a crucifix; sheds tears; asks for forgiveness because just this very day – a Tuesday – she has decided that the welts upon her back have become more painful than the welts upon her soul and so, she is leaving her husband of 37 years . Rising, she wipes her cheeks, and prays that she can live out her remaining years enjoying her grandchildren in a remote village, far from the reach of her husband’s cane. She recognizes she has failed as a wife; she was meant to submit to the authority of her husband and can do so no longer. Her guilt follows her into the mountains.
Four men encircle the teen Yemeni girl whom they have thrown to the dirt outside a mud shack in Ma’rib. The girl’s eyes are the only part of her face visible to passersby; the eyes are blank behind a withered defiance; she rolls to her right and grabs her belly as one of the men picks up a stone and shouts the two-syllable name of his deity; a camel passes; the wind stirs the dust on the hillside; the girl’s father joins the men and the five of them pelt the girl with rocks they had previously collected. Her mother watches from a window as blood saturates the dust where her child is left to perish; the mother turns back to her work as the men enter the residence; she holds her breath until they begin their prayers.
The council of West Virginia elders sit in metal folding chairs behind a long table that is covered with a pink-checkered cloth; a large black book with onion skin paper lies open on the table; beside the table a bin contains squirming rattlesnakes. Standing before the elders of Jolo, a man of 24 years waves a banner with a purple cross; his younger sister shouts and gyrates as their father rises from his place among the witnessing crowd; the younger man passes the father the banner, and then reaches for the bin to remove and hold high the first of several snakes; the brother passes his sister the snakes; the snakes bite her in five places yet she remains standing as words are sung in high voices and all present acknowledge her errors . The child she had out of wedlock had already been stolen from her and was buried in Pinnacle Creek, more than an hour away; its mother lived on for three more years.
The black skin of the old Papuan midwife glistens as she shivers before a pile of stacked branches; the freshly cut stump of her right arm leaks into her dress; a mob of women, men and children screams against the backdrop of agarwood trees; the woman tries to run but is caught and tied between two thick, upright limbs; her clothes are removed. An angry man stands before the old midwife, removes a belt, strikes her legs, her back, her face. The mob calls her ‘witch’ and cries for her suffering; the man obliges, leading the midwife to the stacked branches; another man uses a machete to slice against the midwife’s body; a woman waving a crude fan in one hand ignites the branches with her other; the midwife twitches, flails and kicks to no avail. They only let her burn a short while, this May day of 2013, then lead her to her hut where her skin is still afire yet she is made to yield her material wealth; her cries to the police remain ignored as the sun bends heavily westward.
Buddhists massacre Muslims in Myanmar.
Hezbollah prepares to attack Israel.
The Christian National Liberation Front of Tripura kill Hindus in Tripura.
The Christian Westboro Baptist Church attacks gays, lesbians and the families of dead soldiers.
The Christian anti-Semitic Ku Klux Klan aligns with Christian Neo-Nazis.
Freedom Defense Initiative.
America’s Promise Ministries.
Jewish Defense League.
Catholic Reaction Force.
* * * * *
I sit in my two-bedroom cottage surrounded by giant oak trees on a half-acre property in rural Northern California and ponder the world situation from time to time. I am a self-proclaimed Pacifist, and am not a part of any major religion, though I do subscribe to many philosophies that acknowledge a form of divinity. I abhor dogma, while I appreciate certain concepts of world culture and traditions. Yes, I am among those who consider themselves ‘spiritual –not-religious’ but if you were to read my book “Everyone’s a Guru,” you would find a somewhat tongue-in-cheek compilation of all things ‘New Age,’ with a clearly put forward hope that people dare to think for themselves, especially in this world of media bombardment.
The whole of my life centers on a deep appreciation of nature, of the simpler things in life, of loving one another, of respecting those who may not hold the same beliefs. But I draw the line at hate. I draw the line at hate speech falsely interpreted as ‘freedom of speech.’ I draw the line at abuse of others for any reason, and more and more I see abuse of not only other people – minds and bodies – but of our planet, resources, and the list of possibilities for retaining sanity seems to grow thinner every day.
My heart aches to read such incidents as the four I wrote in the beginning of this document. I have never understood how people proclaiming any form of religious faith can use that very belief system in order to justify harm against others. Whether a one-on-one encounter, a group against another group, or a nation against another nation, where do we – as Humanity – draw the line?
Religious ferver is not the only reason for bringing harm unto others. Yet it seems to continue with more people becoming apathetic in spite of the glaring horrors. Have we burned out? Are we too overwhelmed and helpless, feeling that our one little act of compassion in our one little corner of the world won’t matter anyway?
I don’t just spew my concerns. I am one to act when I see or experience injustice, intolerance and harm. But I do not ‘fight fire with fire’ because I have witnessed similar attempts and have remained among the few left standing in the embers.
What will it take for enough people to grow less apathetic and peacefully claim our right to a life where all people are truly free? The wars on terror/drugs/women do not serve as good examples of success in any form. Yet we are beginning to see more people trying to raise their voices against tyranny, against the rule of oil, against austerity, against the negligence of humanity by those who seem to reign in power over them.
The CIA, in its “Global Trends 2015” Terrorism-Related Excerpts, states that “Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.”
I ask: Will we let this become reality?
The FBI’s 2011 Hate Crime Accounting, released December 12, 2012, states: “Of the 6,222 reported hate crimes, 6,216 were single-bias incidents—46.9 percent were racially motivated, 20.8 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias, 19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias, 11.6 stemmed from ethnicity/national origin bias, and 0.9 percent were prompted by disability bias.” The victims numbered 7,713.
I ask: Will we sit back and watch these numbers grow?
I think that these hate crimes that are supposedly not rooted in religious bias actually are. Because from where does the hate for someone not of your race arise? Why would anyone lack compassion for a person with a disability?
A study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, published December 18, 2012, shows that worldwide, more than eight-in-ten people identify with a religious group. This comprehensive demographic study included more than 230 countries and territories, and estimates that there are 5.8 billion religiously affiliated adults and children around the globe, representing 84% of the 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.
Many atheists proclaim that the world would be better off without religion. I am beginning to believe that, too, even though I hold strongly to my personal spiritual path. The more I watch beautiful young men and women – as diverse as the 900,000 types of insects on our planet – being sent off to wars, I marvel at the nation sending them under the guise of ‘For God and Country.’ These are untruths. And anyone who is party to a religion which is supposedly founded on peace and Christ’s love, for example, is doing great harm to every one of those young people. The programming of young minds in our schools and churches, as well as by the media today, is not the only concern; when one blends the myriad contributions of what a handful of ‘leaders’ – religious, political or otherwise – condones as ‘right action’ with no broad-spanning checks and balances, that concept of the 1% vs the 99% starts to take on different perspectives.
This goes far beyond the 1% of monetary control of certain aspects of global disparity. It goes beyond extremism, beyond ‘them vs us,’ ‘the haves vs the have nots,’ the religious vs the atheists,’ ‘the gays vs the straights,’ and so forth. It goes beyond morality as viewed from the pages of sacred texts and beyond immorality as viewed by those who define law. And it goes often to extremes which cannot seem to be curtailed by any one particular nation or political group or religion or court.
Humanity as a whole needs to awaken .
I will say that again: HUMANITY as a WHOLE needs to awaken.
The facts are out there for anyone who dares to actually look them up rather than just listen to talk-radio show hosts tossing around one conspiracy theory after another. Why do people feel so incapable of applying basic reason to some of the utter hogwash circulating the air waves? Because they lack education? And whose fault is that. Because they lack resources? And whose fault is that. Because they lack experience? And whose fault is that.
Does anyone need to actually be blamed? Does religion cause such senseless separation of humanity that ultimately people stand on two sides of the fence deemed ‘Global Warming,’ with one group claiming ‘their’ Bible states the Earth is only 2,000 years old, while science has mountains of factual evidence to the contrary? Do liberals know more than conservatives because they come from more open-minded roots, or do liberals tend to smoke more dope and just not give a shit, as some would have you believe. Will the new Catholic Pope finally sell off the content of the Vatican’s coffers to feed the starving millions of its own church? Will the shamans of Peru direct their followers to more ayahuasca toward going ‘beyond’ the world’s limitations?
These are the things I wonder about. I know there must be solutions toward Humanity as a Whole finding a way to allow certain basic freedoms to all members of society; these freedoms have become not only distorted but are yet to be felt in many parts of the world.
Do we begin with children? Teach the children well – Did you ever hear that Crosby, Stills and Nash song – and we can prevent further hell, eh? Well, what do we teach them? Who decides that? Clearly, the children we once were must have been mistaken because now our children live in a world where women are raped, tortured and burned, governments spy on their citizens, corporations hide billions of profits in offshore tax-free sites, and sex, food and smart-phones seem to set the foundation for empty-headedness.
Where is our sanity?
Do we revolt until we have destroyed ourselves completely? Or do we raise our voices until we are heard? Who gets the final word on ‘what is right’ or ‘good and evil’ and so on? Doesn’t it come back ultimately and always to personal responsibility.
Personal responsibility. Yes. Every thought you have, every word spoken, every action has a result of some sort.
I would like to invoke Wisdom. As in Sofia – the root of the word “Philosophy,” which literally means the love of wisdom.
If you beat your child, your child will learn to beat others. Unless perhaps you realize in horror what you have done and through remorse instantly alter your behavior, becoming an exemplar of decency.
If you hand snakes to your daughter and say that if God loves her, she won’t be harmed, what are you are teaching your daughter? If you pick up a gun to ‘resist’ attack and are ready to kill another human being in the name of Jesus or Allah or The Star People, are you being an example of truth? I mean TRUTH. And only Truth is True, right?
Do you live by the TOTAL content of your sacred text, or do you grab at bits and pieces to justify your daily actions? Do you adhere to a Higher Power who instructs you to hurt others? Do you rob Peter to pay Paul? Do you cry at the suffering of a wolf skinned alive? Do you climb on your wife to rid yourself of the thoughts of your voluptuous neighbor? Do you teach your sons that no matter if a woman is nude or not, rape is never acceptable?
If we went back to ‘the beginning,’ we might have a chance. A fresh start. A clean slate.
I propose we do just that. And I am open to hearing what the beginning might look like. My own version employs sanity, a world without war, without religious division, without any one person having power over any other person, and with all citizens having every basic need met, alongside unlimited options to realize dreams that benefit all. Laughter rings from the mountains; music echoes through a million trees; art abounds; rivers run clear; altars of Kindness are raised; food is pure and shared with open arms; peace reverberates through every heart. And what once was just a simple thought of goodness and respect becomes a code by which one can measure a life meaningfully lived.
I have many associates who silently mock me for thinking such things, or who proclaim outright that such a concept is impossible.
And I say, smiling to the naysayers, please, PLEASE, for the sake of us all:
Let the renaissance begin – NOW.
For further reading – Includes References I Used, and General, Randomly Selected Sites
Global Terrorism Database
The Global War on Terror – by Laurence Andrew Dobrot, US Army
FBI Hate Crimes Accounting – Annual Report 2011
The Pew Forum – Global Religious Landscape
Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad – Terrorism, Religion and World Peace, by Fang Jinying
DCI Exceptional Intelligence Analyst Program; An Intelligence Monograph – International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A Contemporary Manifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime, by Amy O’Neill Richard
Violence Against Women: Roots and Cures in World Religions, by Daniel C. Maguire
CIA World Factbook – Political pressure groups and leaders
Southern Poverty Law Center – Intelligence Files; Hate Groups
Southern Poverty Law Center – Hate Map
UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy
Guardian – Lee Rigby: an ordinary soldier who died in extraordinary circumstances
Huffington Post – Papua New Guinea ‘Witch’ Burning: 2 Charged In Murder Of Kepari Leniata
MIT Press: Radical, Religious, And Violent; The New Economics of Terrorism, by Eli Berman
Oxford Bibliographies – Terrorism, by Karen Terry
American Psychological Association – With terrorism, labeling has implications
Juan Cole – Terrorism and the other Religions
Religious Tolerance – Genocide Past genocides committed against Native Americans
Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute -The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America and Liberation Theology, by Gary Smith
Canta Clara (Jesuit) University – Killing in the Name of God: The Problem of Holy War, by Dr. David L. Perry
Stanford University – The History of Religious Conflict in the United States: Revolution to September 11th, by Eric Wong
Maps of War – History of Religon
The Christian Arsenal
Ku Klux Klan
Westboro Baptist Church
American Nazi Party/
Australian Bureau of Statistics – 2011 Census reveals Hinduism as the fastest growing religion in Australia
Council of Foreign Relations – Realizing Democracy: Lessons from Mexico and Brazil
All Africa – Search Results: Religion
Christian Science Monitor
Quiet Mountain Tibetan Buddhist Resource Guide
Jewish Virtual Library
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
Metropolitan Community Churches
Lancaster County – Pennsylvania Amish religion and traditions
Pagan Federation International – What is Paganism?
Indians.org – Native American Spirituality
Internet Sacred Text Archive
Religion Facts – The Big Religion Chart
Religious Tolerance – Religions of the world: Information about 40 organized religions and faith groups.