Religious Belief and Violence in the Middle East
by Jim Walker
Originated: 30 July 2006
Additions: 05 Nov. 2008
The world press continually ignores or does not see the elephant in the room. In every war and every violent conflict in the Middle East, resides a prime reason as to why these brutal conflicts occur. The media mainly reports about issues of politics, land, honor, and terrorism, and although these constitute surface reasons, the reporters rarely mention the deeper systemic roots, not the cause of violence but the justification for violence. I suspect that part of the reason why everyone fails to mention the elephant, involves an association by guilt. If they reveal the problem, the problem reveals itself back to their own political party and their own religion, so by ignoring or denying the root problems, they avoid direct conflict with their citizenry and their own beliefs.
If you pose the question, "Does any solution exist for solving the problems of the Middle East?" it produces baffling responses. Amazingly the answers usually involve religion as a solution. How many times have we heard that "Islam is a religion of peace," or "Judaism stands for peace, equality, and tolerance," or "Christianity is a religion of peace and love"? The idea that these religions offer the greatest opportunity for peace, and happiness has proven tragically and demonstrably wrong. In every century of the history of these religions, you will find a marked inclination for intolerance, violence, and war. Yes you will find short periods where Christians get along with Muslims, Jews get along with Christians, and Muslims live peacefully among Jews, but for how long? It matters little that each religion has peaceful factions, when each religion also has violence oriented extremists.
And what does the elephant in the room represent? Belief, and in particular, a very dangerous form of belief that stems from superstitious myths. These superstitions evolved into the dominator religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (in that order). Not surprisingly, all three of these orthodox religions began out of conquests from war. The "holy" scriptures from all three religions condone war. All three allow the killing of civilians in order to get at their enemies (God's wrath or collateral damage). All three contain religious scripture that describe apocalyptic end-time prophesies. As long as people believe in these lethal holy-scripts, there will always exist the potential for violence. The religious justification for war from these religions provide distinct examples of the power of self-fulling prophecy.
The "holy" scripts from three major religions of the world program human beings to believe in war, destruction, and the end of the world.
The practice of people believing (or not believing) whatever they want constitutes an inalienable freedom. However, respecting one's personal expression of belief doesn't necessarily mean that we should respect the beliefs themselves or the violent actions that result from them. Who says we shouldn't confront and question beliefs that trigger or cause violence action? It describes one thing to say that people have a right to exist, but since when do beliefs in-themselves have that right? Instead of respecting the beliefs over the lives of people, how about respecting people over beliefs? Respect people, not their beliefs. Many freethinkers have submitted the idea that if we inoculate against dangerous beliefs, then the violence resulting from those beliefs will diminish.
If religious war is ever to become unthinkable for us, in the way that slavery and cannibalism seem poised to, it will be a matter of our having dispensed with the dogma of faith.
I, for one, fear that if we don't subject religion to such scrutiny now, and work out together whatever revisions and reforms are called for, we will pass on a legacy of ever more toxic forms of religion to our descendants.
--Daniel C. Dennett
Innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods," he says. "It's time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn't it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents' religion?
The stakes of allowing religion to indiscriminately invade world politics without question has proven too high to ignore. We the people must prevent religiously motivated political parties and leaders who hold to religious beliefs, from power. It doesn't get any simpler than that.
The evidence for the influence of religious belief in the governments of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity reveals itself, not only in their violent actions but in the very symbols they use for their political power and the prayers they plead to their gods. These influential symbols of religious belief appear in the governments of Israel, the United States,* Palestine, and in every major Islamic state.
* Note, although the United States grew from secular roots and its government symbols once never had religious mottoes, ever since the religious-right wing gained power, the secular nature of the United States has eroded. America now borders on a theocracy, and its religious symbology has increased in proportion to its growing religious believers. (see below)
Not only do their governments base themselves on religious concepts, the members of their militaries believe that their god stands solely on their side and they continually pray to this unproven deity to intervene on their behalf. Has prayer ever worked to stop the violence? Of course not. Interestingly, religious violence usually stops because secular parties intervene to offer peace agreements [a clue!].
The following attempts to reveal the elephant in the room by providing a glimpse of the symbols used by these warring religious governments, the military who prays to their god that allows them to kill their opponents indiscriminately, and a few of the leaders responsible. This exposition, by no means, attempts to describe all of the governments involved, all the terrorist groups, or all the people responsible for the violence, (so please don't write me why I excluded Egypt, Syria, or Jordan, etc.), but it should acquaint you as to how these religious-oriented factions trigger the numerous military conflicts in the Middle East:
Hamas symbol with the Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, a religious shrine
Hamas, an Arabic acronym of "Islamic Resistance Movement," represents a Palestinian Sunni Islamic organization that currently forms the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. The Hamas emblem consists of the Dome of the Rock with two crossed swords and two Palestinian flags embracing the Dome with the phrases, "There is no god but Allah," and "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah." At the top is a map encompassing the boundaries of the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with "Palestine" written under the picture and a strip at the bottom stating "Islamic Resistance Movement-Hamas."
Note the Dome of the Rock represents one of the most "Holy" sites for Muslims (also called the Mosque of Umar). Muslims believe the rock in the center of the dome served as the spot where Muhammad ascended to heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. Many people who believe in Allah will, not only kill their enemies and civilians, but they will willingly sacrifice their own lives to preserve this symbol of their faith.
Hezbollah (The Party of God)
Hezbollah flag with the Arm of God
Hezbollah means Party of God, a Lebanese Islamic Shiite organization and political party. The flag represents the religious and military aim of the movement. The red text at the top ("faina Hizbollah hum alchalibun") means "Hezbollah will be the victor." The red text at the bottom ("al moqawama al-islamiyah fi luban") means "The Islamic Resistance Movement in Lebanon." The green text is the name of the group with the first letter of "Allah" reaching up to grasp an assault rifle.
Hezbollah came into existence in 1982 as a result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This fact alone should give one pause when trying to understand the reasons for war. Even victories can later lay the seeds for further wars. Hezbollah describes a radical Islamic based group dedicated to achieving two goals: The removal of Israeli troops in Southern Lebanon and establishing an Islamic republic in Lebanon. According to Noam Chomsky, "Hassan Nasrallah became the leader of Hezbollah when the Rabin government escalated its crimes in Lebanon, murdering Sheikh Abbas Mussawi and his wife and child with missiles fired from a US helicopter."
Many people know or suspect Hezbollah of numerous terrorist attacks against the United States and Israel such as the suicide truck-bombing of the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Hezbollah has engaged in a guerrilla campaign against Israeli and its Lebanese militia allies in Southern Lebanon. It has employed suicide bombings against Israeli convoys and the use of Kaytusha rockets on military and civilian targets in Northern Israel.
Hezbollah aliases: Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Revolutionary Justice Organization, Organization of the Oppressed on Earth, Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine.
Iran flag with "Allah" at center
The symbol in the center of the white band forms a stylized form of the word Allah, consisting of four crescents and a sword. The four crescents stand for the word Allah and the sword describes a tashdid (a diacritical mark for gemination resembling the letter W). Arabic writing uses this to double a letter, and used when writing Allah. Here, it doubles the strength of the sword. The shape of the emblem resembles that of a tulip, for the memory of the people who died for Iran, building on the traditional belief associating tulips with patriotism and self-sacrifice. The stylized repeated writing on the borders between the white, and the green and red bands reads, "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is great).
Iran has an Islamic republic form of government. Their Constitution defines the President as the highest state authority after the Supreme Leader. Note, that Ayatollah Khomeini served as the first Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader serves for life and only the assembly in charge of overseeing the Leader can replace him if he disobeys his legal duties. Their parliament consists of an Islamic Consultative Assembly, comprising 290 members elected for four-year terms. The Council of Guardians comprises 12 jurists including six appointed by the Supreme Leader. They interpret laws according to Sharia (Islamic laws). Iran consists of a vast majority of Shi'a Muslims.
Post Saddam flag with Islamic crest
New Iraq flag with "Allah is Great"
On 26 April 2004, the Iraq Interim Governing Council announced a new flag for post-Saddam Iraq. The flag caused controversy and it has since been abandoned. Nevertheless, it bears interest because it shows that the governing party chose an Islamic crescent rather than a secular token to symbolize their country. The flag led to controversy because the blue-on white appearance resembles the flag of Israel (the sky-blue has Jewish religious significance), with whom Iraq has had significant antagonism. Others complained that the flag did not contain the phrase "Allau Akbar" (Allah is Great) as it once appeared in the old flag. On June 28 2004, they issued a slightly modified version of the 1991 flag retaining the "Allau Akbar" but with a stylized script replacing the old handwritten one. When you've got "Allah is Great" on your national flag, it can't help but represent a theocracy rather than a democracy.
In spite of George W. Bush's will to impose a democracy in Iraq, the result of his war and the sectarian fighting that has resulted from it, the Iraqis established an Islamic form of democracy (democracy in a very loose sense). On January 30, 2005, a majority of Iraqis voted in an election conducted by their transitional government which elected a 275-member Transitional National Assembly. Some saw it as a victory for democracy but the Arab Sunnies boycotted the vote. As of this writing, mostly Shiite Muslims have control of the Iraqi government, and as a result, sectarian fighting has increased to the point of civil war. A religious civil war.
Also important to keep in mind, Iraq represents the land of the Biblical Babylon, the ancient capital of the enemy for Jews and Christians. The word Babylon, to many Christians has taken on the meaning of sin and corruption. In part, because of this, many fundamental Christians believe the war in Iraq has deep religious significance.
Iraq now supports Hezbollah ( the country the U.S. wanted to turn into a "democracy")
On 4 Aug. 2006, over 100,000 protesters filled the streets of Baghdad to show support for Hezbollah. The demonstrators, followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, carried posters of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, waved Lebanese flags, chanted, “No, no, no, Israel, no, no, no, America,’’ and called on Hezbollah to strike Tel Aviv.
"I consider my participation in this rally a religious duty. I am proud to join this crowd and I am ready to die for the sake of Lebanon," said Khazim al-Ibadi, 40, a government employee from Hillah.
Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982. Hezbollah came into existence to defend the attacks. Hezbollah grew. The U.S. invaded Iraq. Israel attacked Lebanon again. Iraq aligned with Hezbollah... do you see how this grows and branches into new avenues for violence?
With Sunnis against Shiites; Shiites against Sunnis; Sunnis and Shiites against Jews and Christians; Jews against Sunnis and Shiites; Christians against Shiites and Sunnis; Kurds against Shiites and Sunnis; Shiites and Sunnis against Kurds (have I left out anyone?), you might begin to see that this civil war inside yet a larger war with Christian occupiers won't end any time soon in Iraq (from the date of this article).
The flag of Israel
(a religious symbol)
Israel Coat of arms
A tallit (prayer shawl)
The State of Israel represents the only Jewish state. The name derives from roots in the Hebrew Bible where a mysterious adversary renames Jacob as Israel (Gen. 32: 22-32). The Biblical nation fathered by Jacob called themselves, "The Children of Israel" or "Israelites." In an interlinear, literal translation of Genesis 32:28, the first mention of the word "Israel" in the Bible reads as follows: "And-he-is-saying not Jacob he-shall-be-said further name-of-you but rather Israel that you-are-upright with Elohim and with mortals and-you-are-prevailing." Thus one literal translation of Israel, means "Upright (with) God."
The Israel flag includes a blue Star of David (also called the shield of David, and the Seal of Solomon). The star, of course, represents the main symbol of Judaism. The six points of the star plus the center equates with the number seven, which has strong religious significance in Judaism (the six days of Creation plus the seventh day of rest, the Seven Spirits of God, and the Menorah).
The blue represents an indigo colored dye called tekhelet, where the Torah commands the Israelites to dye one of the threads of their tallit (prayer shawl) with tekhelet; when they look at this dye they will think of the blue sky, and of the God above them in Heaven. Thus the flag identifies Israel with a strong religious message.
The Menorah in Israel's Coat of Arms represents one of the oldest religious symbols of the Jewish people. The seven candelabras represents the burning bush as allegedly seen by Moses on Mount Sianai (Exodus 25). In the Temple in Jerusalem, and in synagogues today, Rabbis use the branched candelabrum lit by olive oil to represent the continually-lit menorah used in Temple times.
Although Israel does not have a constitution, the Declaration Of the Establishment Of The State Of Israel implies a strong religious identification with the state of Israel. Israel identifies itself with the land and birthplace of their spiritual, religious and political identity. Although Israel has many non-religious citizens, and allows secularity, the new Israel has every intention of keeping and maintaining its religious nature. Although it has a kind of parliamentary democracy, nothing in Israel's government has anything like the separation-of-church-and state as in the U.S. government, so its religious vs. secular temper sits entirely with the residing political parties in power. Israel allows (and has) several religious political parties. These religious parties have formed coalitions and have maintained positions in the Knesset. Some of these religious parties come from a strict orthodox rabbinical outlook, and from this stems a militaristic approach to solving problems. Unlike the secular American government, Israel has a Ministry of Religious Affairs, a Chief Rabbinate, a Rabbinical Council and local religious councils.
Ehud Olmert became the Prime Minister of Israel in 2006. Olmert once belonged to the Beter youth organization, a violence oriented Zionist movement, and later led the Likud party, a right-wing party based on Revisionist Zionism. According to an ABC news article, Who Is Ehud Olmert?,"Olmert has always been considered as hostile to Palestinians, especially while he was mayor of Jerusalem. While he did support Sharon's pullout from Gaza, Palestinians hardly consider him a man of peace."
Like America, Israel also has its right-wing fundamental factions like the Kahanists, a racist extreme religious movement founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane. Although outlawed from participating in the Israeli government (a highly controversial subject) it still has the power to incite violence against Palestinians and regardless of its illegality, it still influences political views. Other extremist Jewish groups only add fuel to the fire. Some Jews in Israel want to rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem which would require destroying the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques in order to build the "Third Temple." Many think this would guarantee a major war with the Muslim world. Fundamental Christians would also see this as a sign for the beginning of the end of the world.
Ironically Jerusalem (the Capital of Israel), in Hebrew, means "Heritage of Peace," "Vision of Peace," or "City of Peace," yet this city represents the most fought after city in history! Many people think these religious wars occur because of land ownership but people actually fight about the "Holy" land as promised to them by their holy-writs, and on what sits on that land, the "sacred" sites that all three religions believe in, and will willingly use whatever means it takes to defend them. Within the walls of just Jerusalem alone sits the Temple Mount and its Western Wall for Jews, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with its Dome of the Rock for Muslims.
With Israel's Zionist religious framework, and its "sacred" sites, how in the world does anyone expect it to live peacefully among non-Jews?
Flag of Lebanon with the Biblical cedar tree
The red stripes of the flag of Lebanon symbolize the pure blood shed in the aim of liberation. The white stripe symbolizes peace, and the white snow covering Lebanon's mountains. The green tree symbolizes the cedars in Lebanon, referenced many times in the Bible. For example, Psalms 92:12, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."
Lebanon gained independence in 1943 where shortly after, Lebanon's Muslim Prime Minister, Riad Solh, urged the Arab League to prevent the partition of Palestine, and backed the creation of the Arab Liberation Army. Even since then, Israel and Lebanon have engaged in military conflicts. Lebanon also serves as the home of many Palestinian refugees who had fled from Israel.
The politics and government of Lebanon consists of a religious republic. Only religious people can serve as a political leader in Lebanon.
- A Maronite Catholic Christian must hold the seat of President.
- A Sunni Muslim must hold the seat of Prime Minister.
- A Shi'a Muslim must hold the seat of the Speaker of the Parliament.
The Parliament membership derives from religious identities rather than ideological features.
The population of Lebanon consists of approximately 70% Muslims, and 30% Christian.
Hezbollah, a Lebanese Islamist Shi'a organization influences much of Lebanon's political activity.
From the religious nature of Lebanon's government, one can predict a never ending source for religious violence.
The flag of Palestine has deep religious significance
Red: The red symbolizes the Ashrafs of the Hijaz and the hashemites, descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
Black: In the seventh century, with the rise of Islam and the liberation of Mecca, believers carried two flags, one white and one black. In pre-Islamic times, the black flag served as a sing of revenge. During the Abbasid Dynasty (750-1258), the back took on the symbol of mourning for the assassination of relatives of the Prophet and in remembrance of the Battle of Karbala.
White: The Umayyads took white as their symbolic color as a reminder of the Prophet's first battle at Badr, and to distinguish themselves from the Abbasids, they used white rather than black, as their color of mourning.
Green: The Fatimid Dynasty took green as their color, to symbolize their allegiance to Ali, the Prophet's cousin, who wrapped himself in a green coverlet in place of the Prophet in order to thwart an assassination attempt.
(Source: The Meaning of the Flag)
Palestine represents a historical region of southwest Asia at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Since prehistoric times, Hebrews, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Turks have ruled the area. A British League of Nations mandates oversaw the affairs of the area from 1920 until 1948, when Israel declared itself a separate state in the West Bank territory once occupied by Jordan. Jordan subsequently annexed the West Bank in 1950 and occupied by Israel in 1967. In 1988 the Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasir Arafat declared its intention of forming an Arab state of Palestine, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Arab sector of Jerusalem.
The name derives from a word meaning "land of the Philistines." The Bible calls the area, Canaan, before the invasion of Joshua. Palestine represents the Holy Land of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. For Jews, their "Holy" texts says God promised the land to them; For Christians because the land represents the scene of Jesus' life and his ascension to Heaven; for Muslims because of Muhammad's assent to heaven. All three religions consider Palestine a "holy" place of pilgrimage. Shrines shared in common by all these religions cluster most numerously in and around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Hebron.
Needless to say, this "holy" land, shared by three major religions who believe their God acts in their favor, creates the very conditions that favor war against the unbelievers.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement (PIJ)
PIJ emblem with the Dome of the Rock
The emblem of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad shows a map of the land they claim as Palestine, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip superimposed on the image of the Dome of the Rock with two fists and two rifles.
The dark green Arabic text above the Dome of the Rock reads, "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is Great). The green Arabic text below reads: Harakat-ul-Jihad-il-Islami fi Filastin (name of group). The red text at the top refers to the Koran verse 29:69 which contains the verb form jaahaduu (related to jihaad).
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement describes a militant Palestinian group dedicated to the liberation of historical Palestine (whatever that means), destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state for Palestinians. Smaller than Hamas, it receives some funding from the Hezbollah, and some say it has virtually become a local branch of the movement.
When you've got a symbol with a religious shrine coupled with armed fists and rifles, you can pretty much bet on a future of religious bloodshed.
The first official flag of the United States consisted of 13 stars and 13 stripes representing the 13 original colonies. Now, of course the 50 stars represent the 50 states. According to George Washington, the red stripes represent the mother country, England, separated by white stripes showing that we separated from her. White also represented liberty (a word not used very much today). Since then the symbols have taken a more ominous and ideological designation; many people now take the red as representing the blood from those who have given their lives for freedom, and the white representing purity (blood letting, sacrificing life, and sexual purity forms a Christian concept).
The United States began as a purely secular government, in fact the first secular government in the world (the Constitution does not mention God, Jesus, or Christianity, and mentions religion only in exclusionary terms). Nor did there originally exist any religious mottoes or God on American money or in pledges, whatsoever.
Unfortunately after the Civil war, religion began to influence the government and slowly, over time, religious symbols began to appear on coins, mottoes, and pledges (a slippery slope). The phrase, "God Bless America" became a powerful motto and "In God We Trust" appears on all American money. Today, American religious extremist organizations attempt to destroy the secular foundation of our government by denying separation-of-church-and-state, and by rewriting history to make it look as if the U.S. government had a Christian foundation (which of course it never had). Moreover, they have high-jacked the political system by putting in right-wing Christians into state and federal positions. Today, the Christians control the GOP, local governments, and many school districts. Our present U.S. president, a born-again extremist Christian, acts on his bases of his Christian faith. In short, America now has a proto-theocracy type of government.
The military now also has a strong religious influence. Generals such as the Born-Again Jerry Boykin have demonstrated the military's commitment to God and Jesus. Boykin and many other military members think that God appointed George W. Bush into the White House. Military recruiters also campaign to enlist extremist Christians because they make the most loyal fighters and will willingly die for their beliefs. The U.S.A.F. now even allows religious emblems on their fighter jets such as the 523rd Fighter Squadron called the "Crusaders" which includes a Christian cross and a helmeted crusader. Even the motto of the Marine Corps reads, "Semper Fidelis", Latin for always faithful. Faithful to God, Country, and Corps (in that order). The radicalized Pentagon has been infiltrated by the Roy Moore wing of the Republican party, also called the "Christianists". They have even established a "Christian embassy" and makes videos to spread the Christian faith among congress and the military.
More ominously, George Bush, listens to the evangelical right. Many evangelicals believe in the End Time; they believe the fighting that rages between Israel and Hezbollah represents a sign that the final battle comes near. Some fundamentalist Christians see the rebuilding of King Solomon's first Jewish temple in Jerusalem as a precondition for the second coming and the battle of Armageddon. Many of these evangelicals try to influence the GOP to mobilize the United States into a war to hasten Armageddon. Consider also that the religious scriptures used by the Jews and Muslims also contain similar End Time stories (after all, Jews, Christians, and Muslims all share Mosaic and Abrahamic texts).
The new gun-loving, Jesus worshiping, war believing government of the United States will guarantee violent conflicts around the world for years to come.
The Prayers (none of which have ever worked, by the way)
The prayers of Islamic terrorist groups
Hamas fighters praying (Source: Aljazeerah.info)
Hezbollah soldiers praying.
Hamas and Fatah members pray side by side during a protest in Palestine.
(Source: Pictures of Palestinian fighters)
Palestinians pray under Hamas graffiti reading 'revenge is coming' at a mosque in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the southern Gaza Strip...(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Members of the Islamic Jihad praying at a rally on the Gaza City beach. (Newsday Photo / Viorel Florescu) Aug 17, 2005
(Source: Photos: Gaza Withdrawal)
Muslim soldier holding the Koran (Source: danegerus.com)
Masked Islamic Jihad militants (notice the Dome of the Rock on the headband).
(Source: Palestinian Resistance Movements)
This young boy will one day grow up to carry on with the work his father no doubt will pass on to him .. that of blotting out the infidel and all that the evil west has created. (Source: flickr)
The prayers of Iraq Shiites and Sunnis
"Holy" Shiite warriors, members of Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army praying to Allah. (Source: A Holy Battlefield)
Arab fighter in Falluja Iraq, reading the Koran, his holy book, waiting for the fighting to begin. (Source: pbs.org)
Shiite Muslims praying in the alleged resting place of Imam Ali (son-in-law of the Prophet) in the "holy" city of Najaf.
Iraq militants loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demonstrate after prayers in the Sadr City district of Baghdad in 2004. (Source: Conflict in Iraq)
Sunni Muslims praying at a funeral in Iraq
The prayers of Jewish soldiers
Jewish soldiers praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem.
An Israeli soldier wearing the tefillin of shel yat and shel rosh
Israeli soldiers praying while wearing tefillin
A A A praying Israeli soldier wearing a tallit (Source: flickr)
An Ultra-Orthodox Jew prays with an Israeli soldier in front of a tank near the Israeli town of Avivim, on the border with Lebanon, July 21, 2006. (Goran Tomasevic - ISRAEL/Reuters) (Source: flickr)
A religious soldier praying
(Source: IDF Background Information)
The caption under the photo reads: "I believe in war. I don't believe in inane war." (Aren't all wars inane, I ask?) (Source: Jewish Nation)
An ultra-Orthodox Jew and an Iaraeli soldier pray at the Western wall.
An Israeli soldier prays in front of a tank near the Israeli town of Avivim, on the border with Lebanon, July 21, 2006. (Goran Tomasevic - ISRAEL/Reuters) (Source: flickr)
Note the head box. Called a "shel rosh," part of a tefillin, the box contains Biblical verses used in rabbinic Jewish prayer. The origin of wearing a tefillin comes from interpretations of passages in the Torah.
Israeli soldiers pray next to an artillery piece, near Shlomi, northern Israel, Saturday, July 22, 2006. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg) (Source: flickr)
The prayers of Christian soldiers
U.S.Christian airmen and soldiers praying before heading out for another convoy duty in Iraq.
(Source: Air Force Link)
Christian Soldiers in Iraq praying
A chaplain with the 7th Marine Regiment baptizes a Marine at the Camp Ripper Chapel February 23, 2003 during Operation Enduring Freedom. Photo credit: U.S. Marines photo. (Source: Talking Proud)
United States Marine Corps recruits take a moment for mandatory prayer before lights out at 9:00 P.M. in Parris Island, South Carolina, January 6, 2005. Photo credit: Shannon Stapleton, Reuters.
(Source: Talking Proud)
Chaplain prays with soldiers along the Tigris River in central Baghdad. Photo by: David Leeson/The Dallas Morning News. (Source: flickr)
Members of the 154th Transportation Company pray before each mission in Iraq.
(Source: Wing And A Prayer)
A few of the culpable leaders, all of them faithful war believers
George W. Bush, President of the United States, a devout evangelical Right-Wing Christian, and the starter of the war in Iraq.
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, a devoted Muslim, and military extremist.
Osama bin Laden, and Al Zawahiri, leaders of an Islamic fundamentalist militant group, both devout Sunni Muslims, responsible for many terrorist attacks around the world.
Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel, and fanatical Jew. He escalated the conflict with Palestine to the point of full fledged war.
Muqtada al-Sadr, a popular Shiite cleric and leader of the religious Mehdi Army in Iraq.
Tony Blair, a committed Christian, and George Bush's war co-conspirator, once said, “My Christianity and my politics came together at the same time."
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, kisses the Koran.
He has full support of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and has called for wiping Israel off the face of the map.
Hundreds of small Iraqi insurgent leaders like the one above, will willingly sacrifice their lives to Allah, in order to obey the Koran.
Interestingly, not a single leader involved in the Middle East conflicts, lives a secular life, or holds to freethought, atheism, or lacks superstitious beliefs. All of them profess faith and belong to a religion. All of them believe in war.
Religion divides people in death as it did in life
Jewish graves Christian graves Islamic graves
The result of superstitious beliefs
All three Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions feed its believers with scripts that program them to believe in war. The conservative political and religious leaders of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic governments, all support the concept of war ("Just war"). Likewise, many citizens believe both their religious and political leaders and in the concept of war. The parents pass on these fatal beliefs to their children. The children who survive a war remember their enemies and they reinforce the concept of war through the feeling of revenge which they redefine as "justice." War becomes a lifestyle, and the psychological hysteria spreads. War branches out, it escalates, like fission in a nuclear bomb.
Ask yourself this: As long as the belief in war continues, how can war not continue? If no one believed in war, then how can war exist? War doesn't describe a phenomenon of physical necessity. Unlike gravity, the laws of physics, or biological instinct, nothing in nature demands that war must happen. It comes about entirely from cultural beliefs. Warfare erupts out of political and religious decisions, not from animal instinct. We have no born instinct to fight each other; we must teach each other to fight, and this requires a social structure based on beliefs that support it. Religious belief gives us a made-up moral reason to engage in human slaughter, politics gives us the economic means to carry it out.
If for one moment you think humans cannot escape their belief in war, then think again. People used to believe in slavery, thus slavery flourished (most have since dropped that belief). People used to believe women didn't deserve the right to vote (most people no longer hold to that belief). People used to believe evil demons caused sickness and disease (most people today reject supernatural caused diseases). Why did they lose their belief? Because freethinkers, rationalists, and scientists stood up to the shamans and priests. The same must occur with the belief in war if we ever wish to suppress these dangerous mind controlling memes.
As the technology of weaponry grows, so grows the threat of further escalated war when coupled with belief in war. We now have at least three war states that condone and use passive nuclear weapons (depleted uranium cased bombs, rockets, and cannon shells). At least 3 countries have tactical nuclear weapons, including gravity bombs, missiles, artillery shells, land mines, depth charges, and torpedoes. The purpose, supposedly, aims for only a "limited" nuclear war (whatever in the world that means). For the unlimited nuclear wars, the U.S., Russia, (and probably Israel and China) has thousands of thermonuclear weapons capable of incinerating any sized country in the world (not to mention the entire land surface of the earth itself). The largest of the nuclear bombs yield as much as 50 Megatons of explosive power, more than one percent of the entire output of the Sun!
When you've got the capability of unlimited war mixed with unlimited belief in war, you will eventually get precisely what those beliefs demand.
Religious beliefs produce self-fulfilling prophecies
Why have you had to suffer this?
Why this, the cruellest of inflictions?
Was there some purpose?
You look so monstrous, but could not know
How far removed you are now from mankind
--Toge Sankichi (A-bomb survivor), "At the First-Aid Station"
You didn't think I would leave you with just that depressing doomsday outlook did you?
Perhaps we have a way out. Maybe a very small chance, but a chance nevertheless.
The United States has a Constitutional Republic form of government (not a democracy). We elect our leaders to represent the People, not corporations, not their personal views, and certainly not for Biblical views. If our elected officials fail to represent "us" and fail to abide by the Constitution, then the People should not reelect them.
Tell our leaders we don't want your war mongering beliefs anymore. The world doesn't need you, and we no longer admire you. Get out of our lives. Just simply get out.
If the citizens of the largest superpower can pull this off, the rest of the world just might begin to change too.
The question comes to this: Will you let an ancient error-filled script control your life; will you adhere to Old Testament Shock-and-awe tactics? Just how far will you let others control your life just because they say their beliefs connect to a supernatural power? Or will you begin to question and demand workable answers?
Yes, I know, perhaps it can't happen. Maybe the power of beliefs have so thoroughly grown roots into the human brain that people can't escape its power to deceive. But then maybe not!
It happened before in the 18th century. Enlightenment thinkers changed the world and allowed reasoned ideas to flourish. They broke beliefs and began to ask question (always a result of skepticism and curiosity). They ignored the shamans and the priests. They began to think like scientists, thus science flourished. Enlightened leaders began the first secular government in the world, they recognized the natural rights of humans. I see no reason why it can't happen again.
We need to jump-start the Enlightenment again!
Think, don't believe! Vote the war believers out.
"A time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be...surer of the noose than a private homicide."
--H. G. Wells
Addendum: On 7 November 2006 the American citizens voted and replaced the Republican controlled House of Representatives and the Senate with a Democratically controlled House and Senate. Perhaps hope remains.
Even better, On 04 November 2008, the American people elected Barack Obama as President of the United States, thus ending eight years of Republican oppression, unconstitutional government, and the end of empirical ideology. Moreover, more Democrats replaced Republicans in the House, the Senate, and in several Governorships.
People of a true Constitutional Republic can, indeed, determine the fate of their nation.