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Religion makes us do diabolical things

26 April 2013, 09:03
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called Blink in which he posits a thinking strategy based on minimal but crucial information.  I think he called it thin-slicing.  How it works is you find the critical element, and the basement explanation for a complex issue can quickly be ascertained.  For example, why do couples break up?  How can this be predicted?  Complicated?  Not if you trace 'contempt' in the relationship.  Turns out that if there is contempt in a relationship, there's a 80% chance or higher than a marriage won't work.

Now take the Boston Bombers for example.  What was the motive behind two teenagers blowing up innocent people running a prestigious race?  What was the critical element?  Answer: what it almost always is when it comes to terrorism.

The information at first was minimal: Russian ancestry.  From an Islamic province in Asia (in other words, a non secular state).
Before any further information came to light I made a bold predicition - that religion once again played a critical role in motivating the wholesale slaughter of folks of a different religion.

It turns out the the older of the Boston brothers - who died when his accomplice rode over him in his haste to get away - was so into his religion, he made sure his wife converted from Christianity to Islam.  In other words, yeah, religion was a big deal to him.
You might think that's a random fact, maybe incidental, but you'd be wrong.

Tamerlan Tsaernaev was so...convicted... in his faith that he went to Russia, specifically the North Caucasus, for 7 months in 2012.  The base Tsaernaev visited to receive his training was a site known for Islamic Fundamentalism. 

When you look at Dzhokhar's twitter page, it takes a little digging, but then the religious stuff starts to emerge. Including an Imam from Zimbabwe whose council he appeared to respect. 

Here's where the piety runs a little thin.  In the same way that Oscar Pistorius and his brother are outwardly very pious, god-fearing men, these two brothers had a rather silly scenario going on.  They seemed to enjoy junk food and junk TV. They didn't seem to have particularly high personal standards (in tune with a higher morality, other than of course the morality they imposed on others).

What do I mean? Whilst Tamerlan Tsaernaev's wife worked (seemingly as a domestic worker), her husband, devoted man that he was, stayed home and babysat his own child. And built bombs. Quite a devoted dad then. Just to be clear, Tamerlan Tsaernaev's wife worked 7 days a week. In addition, she didn't know anything about what he was doing.

So you have to wonder - does terrorism in God's name include keeping secrets from your wife, and building bombs while she is at work?  Presumably blowing up people who are doing nothing more harmless than running in the streets is God's work.  Only religion makes sense of such nonsensical thinking.

And if you think Boston is world's away and Islam has nothing to do with you, maybe you should pay attention to the most horrific crimes happening on home soil, in South Africa. A group of kids setting a girl on fire, based on a verse in the bible (which they've modified to suit their own purposes). Christians will be quick to point out that Satanism has nothing to do with them.  Perhaps you should read this paragraph again then - they based their actions on a verse in the bible.  Satanism is a perversion of Christianity - so one has to wonder, would there be Satanism without Christianity? 

Another crime worth looking at is the family slaughter in Griekwastad. Parents and their daughter shot dead, the son miraculously (on the same farm) escapes, but nothing is stolen. 

I had a look at some of the comments on one of the latest articles (until they were closed) and almost without exception everyone sympathises with the teenager who (thinks he) stands to inherit R23 million.  It is odd to realise how few people read, and even fewer read between the lines.  Has anyone been following the case?  It's another Pistorius-like case where the defendant's case is very thin, and the evidence is not. 

In the Griekwastad case you have a youngster who has been molesting his sister, but doesn't want anyone to know about it.  Ergo, kill the whole family and keep your name (and continue life as per usual).  In other words, to keep your dirty secret (the ugly truth about your life which you dare not reveal), well, it's worth the cost of one, two, who cares how many lives.  Actually, it isn't.  Maybe the problem here is being a slave to a mindset of being pious and right in the eyes of the Lord (and not being able to accept that one isn't and worse, being terrified that society won't accept you if they know who you are).

I dare say Mr Pistorius felt the same way - preserve your reputation (or is that ego) at all costs, all other considerations (including people's lives, secondary).  Religion is the perfect vessel for these egoic fantasies.  It allows one to be more important than others, even if you have no job.  It says that you are not only important, your work is recognised by God. You are above it all, above all those around you. I am not sure what is worse - how this reflects on God, or our views of God, or what mankind thinks of itself when it imagines there is a God.  Whatever it is, Religion provides sane men with a license to go mad. 
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