A couple of weeks ago the Congress of the United States once again ratified the country’s motto In God We Trust. On the surface I had no problem with that, since the name and image of God is left free to interpretation. But I wondered for a moment if that quick ratification was also because the interpretation of the motto itself by the Senators and Representatives was unfortunately also extremely diverse, one group agreeing to the image of a benevolent God who had been watching over us all since the country was founded, the other group looking at the motto as one more testament to the rightness of their drive toward a Christian-dominated government.
Religious fundamentalism has been raising its ugly head in this country since the end of the World War II, and has grown into a massively destructive threat in today’s politics, with the Republicans so hell-bent on forcing their ideology into the elections and, should they win, into government, totally disregarding the intent of our country’s founders to keep a clear separation between Church and State.
Sometimes it doesn’t seem that man is made in God’s image as much as God seems to be made in man’s, unless of course God is a fickle, warring maniac when power and territory are up for grabs. There have been no communities from earliest history on that didn’t have some religion or religions cementing them together or ripping them asunder. And most of our growth intellectually as well as territorially had religious seeds that occasionally pushed us more rapidly forward or adversely dragged us down into years of darkness.
Cultures with many gods, goddesses and temples seemed to survive better than those with one controlling ideology. The Greeks, for instance, lasted a long time, though internal battles happened frequently. The Egyptians also had multiple deities (Bester–Osiris–Isis–Horus–etc.) and lasted a long time under the rule of the pharaohs. Rome too had many gods and goddesses, and their religion seemed more a measure of a person’s scruples than anything else. It also lasted a long time, eventually adapting to the Christian concept of “One God,” as did Greece and most of the Nordic and Celtic areas. And the Eastern nations such as Japan had a wide tapestry of spiritual traditions and religions.
Admittedly, the clusters of gods were not without their hassles, their grievances more human in nature than godly, such as the jealousy that seemed to be the major cause of the Trojan War, and pride, and of course petulance rivaling that of spoiled children. But it was the “One God” concept, once it took over the governing power of a country, thereby creating a theocracy, that had the ruling group speaking in absolutes, as if they were in a direct line from God. Add that to the dogma of the one religion and you had the most dangerous of worlds, in which those in charge inevitably oppressed any and all of those weaker than they were. Whenever one religion became that powerful, Christianity or otherwise, oppression and tyranny quickly followed with the most dreadful consequences. Holocausts and genocide happened all over the globe and all down the centuries, man killing man, killing women, killing children, all in the name of that glorious “One God.”
Using the Roman Catholic Church to illustrate the inevitable, when the Romans turned from their early gods and goddesses to the “One God” concept, the church and the government came under the powerful rule of the culturally dogmatic Christians and as far as possible from the Christians, known as Heretics, who were the real followers of the pacifistic, idealized Christ. In 1232 the Inquisition began when it became too difficult to persuade the Heretics to stop spreading their ideas of voluntary poverty and no ownership of property, and their peaceful tolerance toward the life choices of anyone else. The Romans first tortured and then burned anyone suspected of harboring any doubt in their concept of Christianity or the right of the Roman Catholic Church to rule with its fiery fist; 100,000 to 2 million Heretics were killed.
During that same time period, the Church also had a long run of witch burnings, witches being primarily the women who were the midwives and those who used herbs to cure the wretched poor who had no other recourse to healing. Between 7 and 9 million women were tortured and burned or beheaded, and the rest of the women enslaved to the domination of the men.
The eight major Crusades dedicated to driving the Muslims out of the Holy Land lasted over 174 years. Their armies were most probably made up of illiterates who knew nothing about Christ other than what their Pope and local priest wanted them to know. They ravaged the towns and castles along the way, butchering every man, woman and child, because God willed it!
And in today’s world the right wing fundamentalists are using their dogmatic cultural and religious clout to con the less informed voters into accepting policies in their God’s name, policies that would be far from their best interests, and would give rebirth to a new wave of serfdom and slavery and Dominionism. Continue reading In God We Trust