Today’s New York Times features an in-depth article about the slow march of radical Islam into Europe through the gates of Kosovo. The country’s longstanding form of Islam is considered loosey-goosey by the extremists who set up camp shortly after the devastating Serbian war of the ’90s and began indoctrinating new generations in “Wahhabism,” which is more in line with Sharia law. Not surprisingly, Saudia Arabian “charities” have poured lots of money into the project.
Here’s how it works:
Young clerics get scholarship money to study in Saudia Arabia or elsewhere in the Arab world where keeping women smothered in Saran Warp is considered a holy duty. They get brainwashed. They go back to Kosovo and become imams of new, shiny mosques funded by the same charities. They start spouting off about the necessity of going on “jihad,” covering up their women, or downplaying the previous, more secularized, versions of Islam that had long been part of the area’s religious landscape. They threaten moderate imams who keep the region’s flag in their mosque (because it has a two-headed eagle on it – no graven images are tolerated), or they say unbelievable shit like, “The blood of infidels is the best drink for us Muslims.”
This is what comes from any religious system wherein “god” (read: your own monomaniacal ego) tells you that you’re chosen. If you’re chosen, there must be un-chosen. That’s how the world of duality works.
“Totem, tribal, racial, and aggressively missionizing cults represent only partial solutions of the psychological problem of subduing hate by love…Ego is not annihilated in them; rather, it is enlarged; instead of thinking only of himself, the individual becomes dedicated to the whole of his society. The rest of the world meanwhile (that is to say, by far the greater portion of mankind) is left outside the sphere of his sympathy and protection because [he’s] outside the sphere of the protection of his god. And there takes place, then, that dramatic divorce of the two principles of love and hate which the pages of history so bountifully illustrate. Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. The laws of the City of God are applied only to his in-group (tribe, church, nation, class, or what not) while the fire of a perpetual holy war is hurled (with good conscience, and indeed a sense of pious service) against whatever uncircumcised, barbarian, heathen, ‘native,’ or alien people happens to occupy the position of neighbor.”
Joseph Campbell, natch. (The Hero With a Thousand Faces.)
Religious people are rarely interested in the backbreaking and soul-crushing work required of us on a spiritual path. (And to be fair, who can blame them?) We can’t handle our shit, so we heap it on someone else’s head and blame them for the stink.
Literalization of any religious text or story leads to a simpleton’s interpretation of the myth, and ignorance is dangerous.
The Scourge once had a conversation with a lovely Hare Krishna, someone whose lifelong dedication to that particular cult left her with a soft voice and a sweet smile. She knew of the Scourge’s interest in mythology and Joseph Campbell, in particular, yet tried to tell the Scourge, with an almost heartbroken conviction teetering on desperation, that the stories of Krishna are real, real, I tell you! Krishna was born on this earth thousands of years ago in a prison! He split himself into dozens of replicas to dance with the gopis! As a baby, he sucked the life out of a demoness nursemaid sent to kill him! Everything was actually just as it said in the ancient stories!
The Scourge smiled politely (never move too quickly in the presence of fanatics) and said that he wasn’t so concerned whether something was real or not. The reality is irrelevant. What do the stories/what does “god” do for you? That’s where the juice is.
It doesn’t matter if a blue person named Krishna lived thousands of years ago. It matters that the image of Krishna lives inside of us now. (Meister Eckhart – it would be far better for God if Christ were born in our hearts than to a virgin in Bethlehem.) It doesn’t matter that a big, Disney god rescued the baby savior from the prison. It matters that we rescue ourselves from the prisons of our own ignorance. It doesn’t matter that this young cad become many and danced with the village girls under a full moon. It matters that “god” appears to each one of us whenever we cry out to it (and that god is a broad topic – it could be sex, drugs, reading, interior design, money; we’re all gripped by something and that thing is our divinity). It doesn’t matter if a literal demon lady tried to kill the baby Krishna. It matters that we know all our demons will come out to play whenever we radically change our lives.
Literalism is the death of the soul, because the soul is not literal. It works in images, myths, art and the poetry of the world around us. As long as we’re committed to finding the reality of our religions, we’ll miss the wisdom available to each of us right here, right now, in this moment. No candles. No chants. No incense. No prayer. No mystical robes. No special rivers or mountains or Meccas. If you can’t find “god” in the trash heap or the whorehouse, then your divinity is nothing but a cheap folk hero with delusions of grandeur.
Until next Sunday…the heretic’s day.
In other news of the faithful:
The Christian Baylor University continues to find itself in hot water with new reports of their cover-ups regarding sexual assault. Football players have been acting deplorably towards young women, and perhaps even worse, are the administrators’ and coaches’ turning of a blind eye towards their star players’ iniquities. Raping women? Now, that’s Christian.
Religious freedom bills and exemptions continue to plague a so-called secular America. Seven Republicans killed a nondiscrimination amendment to a bill that would have protected LGBT people in their places of employment. The amendment was attached to a defense bill which passed and included a religious exemption clause for government contractors whose prissy morality is offended by the gays.
Also in the field of religious exemptions comes Oklahoma’s bill to safeguard good Christian schoolchildren from having to share their bathroom with a trans kid. All those faithful moppets have to do is declare their religious affiliation and then little Sally doesn’t have to share her toilet with little-Sally-in-training.
Finally, the Scourge is calling for submissions! If you come across articles from reputable news sources that contain a religious angle, send them by filling out the contact form. If the Scourge ever makes it big, you’ll get a T-shirt or coffee mug or desktop doodad as a thank you.
(The above photo is of Idriz Billali, an imam who’s received death threats for trying to curb radical craziness in Kosovo. Photo by Andrew Testa for the New York Times.)