Opinion - Why I Don't Believe In These Religious Books
Posted by Preet Mohan S Ahluwalia on Monday, 10/08/2001 11:00 AM MDT
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You can describe the suicide bombers who flew hijacked aircraft into the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre as many things. You can call them murderous, fanatic, foolish, evil, vengeful. But the one thing you cannot describe them as is "godless".
Indeed, were they alive, I suspect that the persons who committed those dastardly acts would be very surprised that anyone could even doubt their faith in God. Were they here to do so, I am sure that they would argue that they demonstrated the strength of their faith beyond any shadow of a doubt. And, as far as I'm concerned, they'd be perfectly right.
The fact is, all religious books - the Bible, the Bhagavadgita and the Qu'ran - have texts which justify murder and war. Deuteronomy12:2, for example, says, "When the Lord thy God exterminates the nations thou takest possession of, thou shalt possess them and dwell in their land." Deuteronomy13: 5-9 says that anyone who preaches about other gods must be killed. "That prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death...If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend....entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods...thou shalt not consent unto him...but thou shalt surely kill him."
And, to put the final seal of approval on holy wars, Jesus himself says in Matthew 10:34, 39 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword...He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
It is these texts that have enabled devout Christians, with clear conscience, to oppress, enslave, torture and kill in the two thousand years since Jesus was crucified. Note, too, that the Christian nations ceased such activities only as they became secular.
Hindus are no different. Hindu apologists like to boast that Hindus have never tried to conquer any other nation or peoples. The only reason for that, though, is that India was so large that the maharajas were too busy oppressing their own people and fighting one another to have time for conquest.
The Hindu religious texts, of course, reflected and reinforced the sociopolitical realities of Hindu India. The Bhagavadgita is thus one long argument between a supposed god, Krishna, to a prince, Arjuna, persuading him that it is his duty to kill his relatives who are trying to take possession of his land and wealth.
Thus, we have verses like the following: "When God orders war, then dharma demands that Hindus obey, especially kshatriyas [warriors]." The Bhgavadgita also tries to twist moral common sense: "How can a person who knows that the soul is indestructible, eternal, unborn and immutable kill anyone or cause anyone to kill? One who is not motivated by ego, whose mind is not confused, though he kills other persons in this world does not kill nor is he bound by his actions."
It also uses the oldest ploy in the book, promising eternal rewards for the man who dies in God's name: "Happy are the kshatriyas to whom such battles come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planes."
Which brings us to Islam. Two verses explain how Muslim fundamentalists might commit murder and suicide in Allah's name. Surah 8, verse 65, says "Exhort the believers to fight. If there are a hundred patient believers, they shall overcome two hundred and if there are a thousand of you they shall overcome two thousand of those who disbeliever, because disbelievers are without intelligence", while 2:154 assures these soldiers that suicide missions aren't really suicidal: "Call not those who are slain for the cause of Allah dead, they are living though you do not see it".
Now all this is not to say that, in all the Holy Books, you can't find texts which can be used to argue against war and murder. But this is exactly my point: religious persons attend only to those parts of the Bible, Bhagavadgita and Qu'ran which suit what they already believe. Those who wish to promote humane values would quote texts that justify such values. Those who wish to oppress, torture and kill would find texts that justify such values. Neither can be accused of not following God's word.
This is a major reason why I do not believe any of these texts to be divinely inspired. As a writer who is not all-powerful (just fairly well-built) it seems to me that a Supreme Being should at least be capable of writing - or inspiring men to write - clear, non-contradictory prose. Instead, we have three Holy Books which have been used to justify nearly every atrocity the mind of man can conceive. That is why, if I succeed in creating doubt about God's Word, I feel I am fulfilling a moral duty.
Copyright ©2001 Kevin Baldeosingh
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