Friday, 18 March 2011

Religion as weakness

Young religions assume that their priority is strength, even if this means (killing others in religious wars to assert their primacy, torturing and executing heretics to illustrate the power of orthodoxy) violating the central ethical tenets of the religions themselves -- Christianity's love-thy-enemy, the centrality of Peace and Mercy to Islam. The tacit assumtion, I suppose, is not worldly glory for the sake of it -- there certainly were some people driven by such base motives, of course, but that's not what I'm interested in here. It's the sense that what differentiates the great world religions from the many thousands of other religious that have come and gone is that they proved themselves more singlemindedly self-assertive.

There may be something in this, although times have changed.

This is what has got me thinking about this: though some people are hot against it, most people are indulgent about astrology (a pseudo-religion, perhaps, but there you go). To believers it is a valid transcendental meaning-system and, to a certain extent, a community. To most it appears too feeble a cultural discourse to be worth getting upset over ('what harm does it do?' after all). But I'm not sure the long-term survival of religion is assured by keeping one's head down. The recent, terrible, heart-hurting earthquake and tsunami in Japan provoked this monstrous response from the Daily Mail astrologers, who 'explain' the disaster in terms of astrological conjunctions -- although those conjunctions did not enable them to predict the disaster ahead of time. But when a weak system like this is confronted by pain and death on this scale, it wilts (the obvious human reaction to the DM article is outrage, of course). Christianity, with two thousand years of putting to the sword and burning at the stake, and (of course) with the icon behind everything of a human male tortured to death, is better able to endure the shock when the Titanic of human existence strikes the iceberg of human suffering.

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