American Samizdat

Tuesday, January 13, 2009. *
(author's note: this essay was first posted in two parts as a guest post at Jeanette Clancy's wonderful blog God Is Not Three Guys, here and here), then at P!

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave. - Sir William Drummond

When Jeanette asked me to continue our on-going conversation about spirituality, religion, and atheism here, the post began to just write itself. What's here, however, is not what I planned to say . . .

I've spent much of the last ten days with a fellow blogger friend setting up and now maintaining an internetwork on Facebook, Twitter, and our blogs of Palestinian/Gazan activists, making sue their news and cries for help reach the world in realtime.

I am no fan of Hamas. Let me be clear about that. Neither do I send any kisses to Fatah, Hizbollah, or the Israeli state and its operatives (IDF, Mossad, etc). But when I get up each morning after a sleep that did not stem my exhaustion, I go back to watch videos I had posted the night before. And everytime, I am shaken to the core . . .

I was in my teens to my early twenties when the US was ravaged by assassinations, race riots, political riots, Nixon, Kent State, the Tet offensive, and the futile shame and carnage of Southeast Asia. Firsthand, I experienced tear gas, riot sticks, anarchy, drug addiction, virulent hate.

The press was still free to document the truth, so I saw death and destruction and deceit and blood every day on TV. Later, for several years, as a therapist, I treated alcoholism in NamVets who had developed that awful illness by drinking in order to kick the heroin addiction they brought back from the war. Nasty. I lost several folks, some clients, some friends, to madness, despair, and suicide. And many others silently succumbed to lives become totally unmanageable and unbearable.

But I have never seen anything close to what I watch on those videos. Videos recorded and conveyed by shaking cell phones through a jerry-rigged network of internet nodes. Videos showing civilian adults and children, bleeding, dead, dying, screaming, maimed. Others, some hurt, some not, running from victim to victim sprawled on the asphalt and concrete in a quick triage and hauling off the still-living to non-existent medical care at rocket-ruined hospitals . . .

We know that this conflict, this current battle in a six-decade war, is not just about religion and culture. Not just about Jew and Arab, Jew and Muslim, Israel and Palestine. It is about land, resources such as oil and water, and "geopolitical alliances" (that sinister phrase that translates into autonomy and empire). It is also about fear, rage, hate, jealously, revenge, tradition, and pride. And money - always money.

So that it what this, and all, war is about. But the thing itself? Organized insanity. I do not use that term metaphorically. Insanity is an illness, a dis-ease, of the brain. An imbalance of natural organic chemicals causes a disruption of sane thinking, producing a lability of emotion, resulting in abherrent behavior - such as mass murder and other crimes perpetrated by humans on other humans. Once begun, it is an addiction cycle - war producing more insanity driving more war. The cycle produces and thrives on the core of denial. The cycle is broken only when the participants realize that upside is not exceeding the downside and one cries "uncle!".

On Wednesday, the United States Senate, and on Friday, the United States House of Representatives passed concurrent resolutions which condemned Hamas and condoned Israel's actions. The vote in the Senate was a unanimous floor vote; the House voted 390 in favor, 5 opposed, with a scattering of others voting "present" or abstaining. A recent poll claimed that over 30% of Democrats oppose Israel's actions, but 95% of Congress gave Israel a pat on the back and kicked Gaza in the gut. What does that tell you?

We are part of the insanity - many would say we have been instrumental in causing it and are inacapable and/or unwilling to help stop it. At the UN Security Council, the US has repeatedly vetoed resolutions to cease the violence. Kill more. Don't stop. If that's not socio- and psychopathic, it'll do until the real thing checks into the hospital.

In the videos I watch, as people lay motionless or whirl around screaming in these scenes, here are some questions that not once were asked: Do you believe in God? Are you Sunni or Shi'ite? Are you Hamas? Are you Fatah? Have you prayed to Allah? Are you a Jew? Who did you vote for? What do you think of Israel? Of America? Are you gay? Are you an infidel? Do you have health insurance? Do you have identification? Under those conditions, only one question counts - am I going to die? . . .

Those of you familiar with my conversation with Jeanette know that I'm an atheist; I do not believe in an anthropomorphic, creative entity called "God". I think that all the universe is natural - there is no "supernatural". But I also think that there is spirit, human spirit being part of that. And to me, spirit is tangible, natural, a function of the universal matter, light. I experience it, I can hear it, see it, feel it. It is a matter of attention and perception. Scientists, even atheist scientists, will someday identify how it works.

Carl Jung, many years ago, spoke of observing “synchronicity”. He also posited the notion of the “collective unconscious”. I happen to think that there also exists a "collective sub-conscience", a universal knowing of yin and yang that connects us all to each other and everything else. It is in those places, I believe, that we find spirituality. I don't think that believing these things are molecular and sub-atomic diminishes wonder one bit.

All disease and disorder involves a separation, an alienation, of a human from this spirit. One is cut off from true self, adrift in delusion and illusion. "Imagination runs wild" is an excellent description. When the body dies, the participation of that body in the "all" disperses and is never embodied exactly the same way again. Is it not insanity, then, to destroy the body which holds spirit? Is it not crazy to embrace hate and all the rest? Hate kills the hater, at least as often as it kills the hated.

In the book that initially drew us together, Comte-Sponville's The Little Book of Atheist Sprituality, the author speaks of the difference between [religious] "faith" and a more temporal, tangible "fidelity". Fidelity has to do with recognizing, honoring, and perpetuating traditions, such as codes of morality. Things like The Golden Rule and the Beatitudes. How can such wisdom as the latter be discounted by the fact that I do not think Jesus was God? How can I discard the wisdom of "Thou shalt not kill", just because I don't believe in Yahweh?

What disturbs me is how Jews, Muslims, and Christians can say they find their way through reliance on the Bible, except . . . whenever. Their God did not say, "Don't kill, except when . . ." Personally, I fail to understand how religious folks go about justifying "situational ethics", especially when it comes to other humans and this vast home we call "Earth".

I begin my conclusion by telling you that I have no hope for humanity. I have not, however, replaced it with despair. I have replaced it with action based in fidelity. Faith and hope are just self-centered wishes that things will turn out the way I want them. A Taoist friend once told me, "he is happiest who lives without expectations". If I practice humility and act in fidelity and love, I have conducted a spiritual motion, whether the outcome is to my liking or not. My role is to serve humanity and all existence on this planet, not serve a god or gods.

As a backlash phenomena, there has arisen a new, militant, virulent strain of atheism. Pay attention to it, because it is poison. It ridicules religion and even professes (at the same time) to "hate God". How one hates something that does not exist baffles me, as I think it should. These people purport to embrace "science" and mouth "rationalism" in a most irrational way. Perhaps if they weren't so rude and arrogant and nihilistic, one could safely ignore them. I suppose it is the price we pay for a decade of religious extremism, but let us hope it is a passing fashion. Suffice it to say that they do not possess either the manners nor the smarts displayed by late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century atheists like Ingersoll, Goldman, Whitman, Garrison, and Stanton.

Finally, I must speak of science. There is a growing movement within the science community, transhumanism. Although it markets itself to the masses by promising technology that will end disease and pain, and even produce immortality, it should seen as incalculably dangerous. Do take it seriously, because the science and technology is sound and developing quickly now.

On the face of it, this stuff is neither good nor evil. But given humanity's propensity for self-destruction and the fact that this movement is funded and controlled by entities aligned with the new atheists, the ultra-rich, eugenicists, and the like suggests there is a much greater chance that this science and technology will not be used altruistically, but in mechanisms of efficient control and even destruction of most of humanity. You may scoff - but you do it at your own risk.

At the top of my blog, P!, I quote Thomas More: "Because the soul has such deep roots in personal and social life and its values run so contrary to modern concerns, caring for the soul may well turn out to be a radical act, a challenge to accepted norms." One may do this - must do this - whether religious, agnostic, atheist, or none of the above.



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