When Religion Becomes Evil

When Religion Becomes Evil, Charles Kimball, Harper-Collins, 2002

This is a very brief summary of the book which highlights the five common characteristics of many religions throughout history which have descended into evil- coercing, treacherous, murderous evil. Kimball does not focus on a particular religion, but includes examples of many. He does suggest that evil can first be spotted by, and the andidotes to evil can best be offered by the Mystery, or Wisdom traditions within each religion.

I’m listing the five characteristics here as food for constructive thought. Were someone to use the single religion they are most familiar with as their only example of evil (or good), or exclude the religion they might be most comfortable with or least comfortable with, as the characteristics are discussed, it would be to perpetuate another brand of chauvinistic evil which elevates the merits or demerits of any religion above (or below) those of another.

Interestingly, just as the characteristics are similar in every religion descending into evil, so are the solutions. It appears that evils within Islam, for instance, could readily be identified and respectfully helped to change by the Zen Buddhist. The evils that manifest within some organized Christian groups, again- for instance, would be able to be perceived by Sufi Muslims, and solutions to that waywardness could also be offered by those same Sufis (or Jewish kabbalists, or Christians of the Mystical traditions, or Zen Buddhists, etc.).

Kimball’s five evil-indicating characteristics are:

1. The religion makes claims of absolute truth. When a religion stops “seeking truth” because it has “found truth,” all there is left to do is build real and metaphorical fortresses around that truth to defend it. Because that truth, they know, will be attacked literally- with drones or suicide bombers, or with laws, doctrines, and rewritten history. Or it will be subverted by “un-truths” like those perpetuated by Galileo, Darwin, or Nietzsche.

aaaatruth

2. The religion demands blind obedience (to a charismatic leader or a set of doctrines).

aaaablindleader1

3. It establishes an Ideal Time. Beware any religion that speaks of ‘glory days’ that can be ‘brought back’ if only enough people can be made to believe our way. The reign of King David, or A Christian America, or the days of Shan-gri-la, or that time before The Great Satan appeared: all are ideal fantasies which are loaded with contradictions to that ideal time’s claimed perfections.

aaaagolden_age

4. The ends justify any means. From ricin gas let loose in a Japanese subway, to Zyklon B gas blown into Nazi extermination chambers, to invocation of gods with the removed and bleeding hearts of virgins, the ends (good crops, democracy, the Kingdom of God on earth, etc.) are much more important than the means used to achieve them.

aaaaLiars4Jesus

 
5. Religions descending into evil tend to declare Holy War, often. They declare it on aboriginal settlers like Native Americans, Palestinians, or African tribesmen. They declare war (after war) on the Great Satan, the evils of ________ (pick one), or racial impurity. A religion that is both in denial about its true nature, but has political power, is one of history’s most dangerous entities.

aaaaholy-war

And a religion which is on its course toward evil, will almost always identify and kill those prophets who try to point that out. Isaiah, Amos, Jesus, Gandhi, King: the prophets, the good-inspired finger pointers, rarely make it to the end of their intended days.

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Willingness

If you’re willing to see it,
There’s a tree over there about to explode in a fiery green
cataclysm against the sundown sky.

If you’re willing to hear it,
The heartbeat of the universe is throbbing pink and white
in the primrose patch at our feet.

If you’re willing to taste it,
A sugar-laced kiss on lakeside winds
is caressing your lips, even now.

If you’re willing to touch it
(and I can tell by the warmth of your fingertips you are),

The grass will reveal where God has been dancing for you
every springtime of your life..

Showy Primrose

David Weber, 2007

The Memory of Yellow

One day

(we don’t know where

or when

only that it had to be)

One day

a leaf, high on a sky-reaching cane

bent away from the perfection of

green..

deep green…

ocean green churning Life,

the leaf bent away and was

yellow

in the Sun.

It was yellow and there was no yellow

but the sun

and the shine of dragonfly wings.

Now this yellow, this primal yellow

this yellow become flesh

in the world, and warm.

In ten thousand years there was a shoreline of cane stalks

full of yellow

buzzed on and loved by swarms seeking

the sun warmed sweetness of rain

in the yellow fleshy folds

and then

a million years after, there was a stalky but stunted

bush of cane

nestling in orange fiery fury,

insects up and down its tangled highways

bringing, taking life- orange life- that way

and that way and on the wind

and then two million and there was pink

ten million and there was red

forty million and there were fields

grassy leafy green fields filled with

blue, another blue, and a third blue

and purple, and white- so many whites!-

and

yellowyellowyellowyellowyellow

and there was no one to name the colors

no one to classify and organize the colors

and the shapes, the seeds, the fruits

nor the bees, the ants, the butterflies,

and dragonflies (smaller now)

no one.

Which is why today the yellow waits patiently

for that time again

when the names won’t matter

and orange will call to pink

and only green

or maybe an ant or a bee

will be in the way of that calling..

(the yellow remembers)

David Weber, 5/2010

There are times, like now, and more frequently, when I know we are in the way of the earth. We are in the way of what the earth was doing for billions of years without us, and I wonder if..if the others of the world- the flowers, the cane, the insects, monkeys, snakes and coyotes, trees and

the oceans

could vote..if they could vote up or down, yay or nay, how long do you think they would let us stay? I hear a blackball rolling down the centuries, getting nearer. growing louder.

Birdsong in Four Parts

I don’t know the name of that bird that speaks in repeated quatrain-

AABC again and again: four times, rest, then four times more.

Nor do I know the “whom-to” or the “where-when” of its soft low trill.

But there- over there to the west- is another responding in the

same verse, same tune,

and now another, to the east

and these two replies (plot them on graph paper if you must)

begin to reveal the “why:”

procreation?

discovery of food?

particular dried dried grasses of the correct nesting density and length?

or simply (and I kind of hope this is so)

companionship?

Do quatrain-speaking birds have dactyls they bird-giggle over?

Double dactyls that causes bird-guffaws?

Or cinquains they sing in quiet celebration?

Anything other than noting the four note melody is, of course,

mere human-bent conjecture;

worse, it is my mere personally-bent conjecture..

I would like to know on

intellectual, investigatory, inquistive

levels, what the quatrains mean.

But not-knowing is important, too:

In ignorance I have no opportunity to

judge myself separate

from the birdsong.

I can only- in Mystery- accept the calling out

as a prelude, or an echo

of my own..

4/17/10

De Colores

I drew a picture of Mom
in pastels,
as she was dying.
I rubbed the chalky lines
with my finger,
and raised tiny clouds of colored dust.

Later on that night,
I had yellow, green, and blue streaks
at the corners of my eyes and down my cheeks.
Those colors may have been what
my mother’s quieting eyes
were resting on
when the world whimpered
that evening, and, for awhile..

ceased to breathe

 

(I want to finish the written part of the journey with Mom through Alzheimer’s which I’ve shared with many of you. She died on April 22 and, as my wife has said, we are getting used to the "new normal." The writing will come (because it must). For now there is this. I have the actual picture I drew in a notebook and I’ve looked at it once, and may never look at it again. The New Normal is still fragile. Thank you again, all of you who sent notes, thoughts, prayers, and tears. We who loved her have been blessed by you.)