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You can kill the person but not their ideas

Martyrs are Willing and Sacrifices for the “greater good” are not

So how can the Greater Good be served by sacrificing the vulnerable the minorities or the young men and women who’s lives would be better spent contributing to their communities?

War is a FAILURE of democracy and the cost is never paid by the diplomats and politicians or large corporations who benefit from the economics of the a war time economy.

This is where the 1% got rich – profiteering and profiting from the deaths of the 99% – usually after PROPHETiering and making people believe that they were serving a god or that said god had their backs.

A Gravestone is a cold comfort to a spouse and children.

The religious martyr east-west divide

If you aren’t prepared to die for what you believe in, you don’t deserve to live

In the mid 1980’s on a school field trip from Chilliwack, a rural community, to Vancouver, the comparative Big City, I saw those words were hand lettered in white on the back of a denim jacket worn by a punk rocker.

Most of the other teens – the school was primarily cliques of head bangers and goody two show kids – on the field trip, made ooo and ahhh cat calls in complete non-comprehension and likely more to do with the fact of the young man being a punk rocker than the sentiment on his back.  I sat frozen, looking at the words and absorbing them very deeply. When you’re a teenager, everything feels epic, life and death, but you don’t really have a sense of what those concepts really mean. Or what if anything, you believe in, never mind what would be worth dying for. Dying was for old people; except….. my favorite movie at that time, was TAPS, starring Tim Hutton and pre-Ridgemont High Sean Penn and introducing Tom Cruise as three military students who lead a student revolt against the closure of their school – to disastrous and predictable conclusion of romanticizing the death of youths for a cause greater than oneself.

This idea of martyrdom continues to hold sway, people who die for religion are made into saints, religions demand sacrifice of supporters and promise eternal afterlife rewards for those who die in service or at least, when taking out the enemies of religion.

In American, religious zealots are less willing to die themselves but are often fairly open to taking out those who they see as betrayers or enemies – shooting abortion doctors right inside their own community church if need be. The American zealots tend to prefer to live to kill more another day, but when they do end up dying, it’s more likely suicide by cop during a shooting event than taking their own life. Suicide being a sin for which you burn in hell, and apparently this is not balanced against the good of protecting the unborn by the murder of a medical doctor.

As if forcing a police officer into killing you is somehow different than doing it yourself….. might as well take up extreme sports as the avoid hell loophole to suicide and not traumatize another person.

Whereas, Islamic zealots are more the hands on martyrs, strapping on a bomb belt and detonating in the crowd – even though sometimes, they only manage to take out themselves – we have to give them kudos for being fully committed in a way that makes North American Zealots look like they are phoning it in.

Not that there’s anything remotely admirable about being a martyr or, for that matter a criminal. The admiration in American culture for the gunslingers, mobsters, gangsters, outlaw bikers and gangstas is on the same wavelength as admiration for saints and martyrs. They are all the same spectrum of rule breaking outsider who’s become romanticized in pulp fiction, movies and video games.

They are an archetype that fulfills the fantasy of rule breaking freedom, being the law unto yourself, to be the power or to be the one fighting the power. The reality is far short of the fantasy.

Criminals are no different than businessmen, they are in it for the prestige and the cash, the power and influence, one through force and the other through cunning. Their respective criminality and anti-social behavior is only limited by the scope of their reach – and businessmen have a far greater reach than criminals – organized or otherwise – as businessmen who put stockholders above employees, customers, financial institutions and the environment do far more damage to society than the most violent of criminals can hope to.

Criminals, be they in legitimate or underground business, are related to the zealot martyrs, in that they often feel entitled by a higher call or by some quirk of birth or force of personality, to be above or beyond the rules that apply to mortal and lesser men. To be rule makers unto themselves.

Hmmm, putting it that way – the dictator/politicians, criminal/business, outlaws and zealots are really the same spectrum of anti-social disorders. Especially with the recent revelation that many if not most American Republicans believe that they are called by god to run for office and that dictators assure their populaces that they are themselves divine – but never in a fun campy way, always the creepy religious way.

To some degree, the mentality of “live fast, die young” explains the willingness of criminals to accept life as brutal and short, to live and die in service of the gang or larger community, is no different than a person who is a religious martyr, who either dies as part of an assault on their religious foes or in self-sacrifice in self-immolation as a form of protest.

Western secular zealots are less self-sacrificing than their eastern counterparts generally, again, preferring to not be caught or to be killed by police or by the state after a media saturated trial. The most horrifying fate for the western murderous zealot would be to be caught and endure life in obscurity and prison; without even a made for TV movie to explain their crusade.

Perhaps if we could understand the nuance between a zealot willing to self-sacrifice and one who is only willing to sacrifice others, we could identify the thought process that allows a person to sacrifice life in the name of ideology.

The willingness to die for causes has traditionally been thought linked to the degree of economic participation and freedoms one had in their respective society.

For bigoted reasons, the 9/11 hijackers changed this idea – suicide bombers where thought of as disaffected, disengaged young men – but the 9/11 hijackers were middle aged, married and many with children and professional career credentials. Most of them were engineers by training and trade. The increase in female suicide bombers also flies in the face of convention.

I say for bigoted reasons, because Timothy McVeigh was middle class and employed and he looked and could have been anyone. Homespun terrorists hit too close to home to analyze perhaps, much easier to hand wring and wonder about the truth when we don’t have to examine ourselves too closely.

People are something in between herd and pack animals – we like just enough structure to provide a consistent and stable framework, but we also like our individuality and some freedom from restrictive social roles (gender or socio-economic). Collectively, anyway, some people reveal in anarchy and others rejoice in rigidity. To each their own comfort level, but most of us in the middle spectrum like these two extremes in some balance or variability – it maintains our illusion of not only freedom, but free will.

Aside: Here’s a terrible thought, what if the only true expression of free will is choosing to die?

It all comes down to what do you value, or, as the punk rocker wrote, what you believe in.

Do you believe in yourself or do you only credit you with value when you are in service or attached to something bigger?

I think that if you are not enough to assign value to, you have no option but to glom onto something bigger, be it religion, politics, sub-culture, anti-culture or social movement. But, by casting yourself in a supporting role, you become vulnerable to exploitation by people who have no problem with their own self worth and often will fall prey to people with the opposite problem – those who value themselves as better than everyone else.

Leaders of movements have dupes, pawns, toadies, hangers on, minions and disaffected fanatics to do the sacrificing.

It’s never the leaders of any movement who self-immolate or strap on a bomb belt – when the leaders of a movement die, it’s usually a result of either their own over-indulgence with drugs/alcohol or in a doomsday cult mass murder/suicide when the legal authorities come knocking and blaring music and blazing gunfire.

It doesn’t matter how much education or professional accreditation or career accomplishments or families one has, without self-worth, there can be no value or worth inherent in these accomplishments and connections. Without valuing yourself, you have no value to transfer or put into accomplishments or connections; and instead, seek external validation to convey worth and value to your person.

It seems to me, that in addition to fluoride to compensate for the state of dental hygiene, that the government may wish to add anti-depressants to the water. Except that governments of any kind prefer a compliant and only marginally disaffected population who feels bad enough to console themselves through shopping therapy, but not bad enough to get out and vote or revolt.

We find meaning and purpose when we are connected to other people, to the community and we can economically participate and contribute to the world. But this cannot be our only source of value – we have to value ourselves in order for other people to value our contributions and to value ourselves.

Individuals are the basic part that make up the larger blocks of family, friends, colleagues (packs), demographic groups (herds), and segments of society (hives). We are the parts that form the sum, and must in turn, be enhanced as a part by the resultant sum. It is not enough that we contribute, but our contribution must be honored and recognized uniquely.

By us being a part and merely feeding the machine without recognition and enhancement, without that feedback  balance, it is little wonder then, that maladaptive and anti-social behaviours emerge, and eventually, bites the hand that has stopped feeding them.

Winning and Losing

I am uncertain what believers are referring to when they refer to winning and losing in religion vs atheism – for lack of a better word – debates; recognizing that online forum discussions between non-professional debaters, are more accurately, pissing contests and name calling fests.

I wonder how much is really owing to the anonymity vs the animosity of the participants. Not that I want to assert that atheists are blameless in rudeness, name calling and even malicious behaviors – but the percentage of atheists who thusly engage is anecdotally lower than the percentage of religious believers who often start out the gate with threats of hell and eternal damnation.

I’ve tends towards a live and let live attitude, but that become difficult when dealing with people who are not content to let you live in kind. The idea that beliefs are private and should be respected falls apart on many fronts; not the least of which is many beliefs require the believers to spread them by the word or the sword:

An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”

“Then why,” asked the Inuit earnestly, “did you tell me?”

~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 The simple answer is that the priest aka believer is unwilling to share heaven with those whom they deem have not earned it by believing and the idea that people who hadn’t heard the word would be forgiven by the omnipotent god who was unable to effectively market and promote the word on his own is just illogical apologetics to make the religion seem less harsh than it actually is and to make their alleged omnipotent god forgiving, when it categorically is not at all forgiving given that the punishment for minor offences and major offences is the same being cast into eternal damnation without parole or time off for good behaviour.

Worse, that the believer cannot even imagine enjoying heaven unless there’s people who are cast into hell. Which also explains the insistence that only their god is preventing people from being serial murderer and rapists, rather than that these are self evidently anti-social behaviours that no person able to make moral distinctions could justify engaging in, without need to resort to punishment disincentives. The act of murder or rape, in and of themselves, are not enticing to a person capable of moral conduct. So punishment as a disincentive is only a deterrent to those people who are not moral to begin with and who need these matters clearly spelled out for them, in which case, by refraining, they are merely avoiding punishment in their own self interest rather than acting morally and for any social good.

Religious Belief is then a guideline for behaviour that the believer is not capable of working out on their own or spelling out that which should be self-evident. Except that the number of religious leaders and hierarchy members who have engaged in a variety of criminal, anti-social and immoral behaviors and conduct – from actually immoral or illegal actions such as molesting children, adultery, embezzlement, fraud, bigamy and bigotry to actions that are violations of the rules of the given religion such as non-marital sex, gay sex, sex generally, lying, stealing, coveting – it is clear that religious belief is not a sufficient system of behavioral codes and punishments to force believers to act within the apparent rules of the religion or within secular law or social moral norms.

But when you consider that religion isn’t that keen on humans being good are actually predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy and crapulent to start with and must repent, worship and sacrifice in order to redeem themselves to their chosen god’s good graces and esteem -  you have to kind of wonder, why, when we have an understanding about battered wives standing by their abusive partners, can we not recognize this same malfunctioning relationship pattern exists between humans and their deities?

Humans abase and genuflect, but the deities never call, never respond positivity or clearly to prayers or need for assistance. This absence of impact is excused by apologists with “Sometimes the answer is no”, “god’s will or purpose is unknowable, but we have to believe that there’s a plan or grand design.”

If god’s answer to prayers is no and no is indistinguishable with no god to hear the prayers, then what good is the god or the effort of worship?

Worse, some unknowable grand design is cold comfort to those who are suffering without apparent purpose – and if this grand design is so unknowable, then why do so many people claim to know what their god thinks about anything, while cherry picking their sacred texts to support their pet bigotry and causing much suffering in the world?

The plethora of religions in terms of both unique versions and the high number of sects within each version shows that religion isn’t winning by any meaningful measure- as it only splinters and not unites people; driving so much intolerance and violence, that religions are a death march towards our extinction in which everyone actually loses; but which religionists can claim victory by calling it the rapture – self fulfilling prophesy as it will be. In terms of the destruction of humans with few if anyone left to say or hear the inevitable “I told you so.”

There is something in the religious conservative mindset that makes self-destruction preferable to compromise or social change. Or maybe it’s something that makes them wanting so badly to be right, that they are willing to self-destruct in order to achieve it – which, I think we can put down to the belief in the afterlife. Maybe it’s just delusional self-righteousness and outright denial of consequences – after all, the rapture is supposed to restore the earth to the factory garden of Eden original settings. So, what need do we have of environmental protection laws with a god-backed warrantee?

For non-Abrahamic religions, what need is there for the same environmental protections or human rights when we are clearly working out our own bad karma and are deserving of all the badness and suffering – so should not interfere with this suffering so we can move onto to the next experience or cycle of learning.

If a person considers this life a dress rehearsal for the eternal or repeated cycles of experience, then it becomes easy to understand the willingness to die for ideas. There’s a certain romance of dying in a cause, strong enough to override our individual and even collective survival instincts. It’s not really dying if you expect an eternal afterlife, it’s just…. exit, stage right.