The importance of separation of church and state

Must Not Be the Next President for the whole world’s sake

Report No. 2000/03: Doomsday Religious Movements

 

December 18, 1999

This paper uses open sources to examine any topic with the potential to cause threats to public or national security.

Introduction

Often overlooked in the discussion of emerging security intelligence issues is the challenge of contending with religious movements whose defining characteristic is an adherence to non-traditional spiritual belief systems. While only a small fraction of these groups could be considered Doomsday Religious Movements espousing hostile beliefs and having the potential to be violent, the threat they represent is evinced by recent events involving groups such as the American Branch Davidians, as well as Canada’s Order of the Solar Temple. Japan’s infamous Aum Shinrykio is a textbook example, where the coupling of apocalyptic beliefs and a charismatic leader fixated on enemies culminated in a nerve-gas attack intended to cause mass casualties in the hope of precipitating a world war and completing its apocalyptic prophecy. By examining the many characteristics of these movements, this paper intends to discuss which types of groups could be prone to violence and which factors indicate a group’s move to actualize this violence. The conclusions presented here are solely the result of a review of unclassified information available in the public domain.

Definitions and History

According to relevant literature, “millennialism” is the belief that human suffering will soon be eliminated in an imminent apocalyptic scenario, ensuring that the collective salvation of humanity is accomplished. Millennialism is an enduring pattern in many religious traditions, and it has been reported that 35 percent of Americans believe that the Apocalypse will take place at some point. Cults throughout history have thought that critical dates will bring the fulfillment of their beliefs (e.g. Solar Temple members believe in the supernatural power of solstices and equinoxes). The year 2000 AD as the turning of the millenium is a central date in the doctrines of many modern cults.

Millennialist beliefs are shared by a variety of groups, but not all foresee a violent turning of the millennium; in fact, many see it as the catalyst for peaceful and harmonious change. Those groups which espouse violence have been called Doomsday Religious Movements in this paper for the purpose of clarity. The approaching year 2000 AD has stimulated millennial anxiety and heightened concern that its unfolding will bring an increase in potential threats by groups that would choose to assert their apocalyptic beliefs through violence.

Characteristics of Doomsday Religious Movements

Although the large number of groups which could be considered a Doomsday Religious Movement presupposes a variety of beliefs, there are some commonalities in both doctrine and action which can be delineated in order to anticipate which groups might pose a physical threat to public safety.

1. Apocalyptic Beliefs: Movements often believe in doctrines which are similar to that of mainstream religions, yet the convergence of some of these doctrines expressed through rites helps to shape a violent theological world view characterized by an inherent volatility.

Dualism – The belief that the world is fractured into two opposing camps of Good and Evil, which confers a profound significance on small social and political conflicts as evidence of this great cosmic struggle, and which could precipitate a violent response.

The persecuted chosen – Movements view themselves as prophetic vanguards belonging to a chosen elite but feel persecuted by wicked and tyrannical forces, which push the group to make concrete preparations to defend their sacred status.

Imminence – Because movements believe the apocalypse is unfolding before their very eyes, the “last days” are experienced as psychologically imminent and pressure them to take immediate action to ensure their salvation.

Determinism – Since a group devoutly believes it will be the ultimate winner of the final battle, if it believes a catastrophic scenario is being actualized, the group may feel it has no choice but to try to trigger the apocalypse through violence.

Salvation through conflict / enemy eradication – As salvation depends entirely upon direct participation in the apocalyptic struggle, a group is always on the verge of anticipating confrontation, which justifies action to eliminate evil and eradicate enemies.

2. Charismatic Leadership: Millenarian beliefs are associated with volatility when embodied in and disseminated by charismatic leaders who wish to portray themselves as messiahs, identify the millennial destiny of humankind with their own personal evolution and demonize opposition to their personal aggrandizement.

Control over members – Groups monopolize members’ daily lives and circumscribe their belief systems within rigid doctrines, insulating them from the influence of broader social constraints. The leader is then well positioned to ask his followers to commit acts they would not normally engage in, albeit violent ones.

Lack of restraint – Leaders believe themselves to be free from religious and social laws, and operate in a social vacuum where there is a relative absence of normal institutionalized restraints to curb their whims. Physical segregation further distances the group from society’s mores, where its own social code is established as the basis of all acceptable behaviour. Here authority can be exercised arbitrarily without restraint, a situation that facilitates violence.

Withdrawal and mobilization– While society is often repelled by or hostile to these groups, movements are also often suspicious of others. This tends to lead to their physical, social and psychological withdrawal, intensifying a leader’s power and increasing the homogenization and dependency of the followers. When withdrawal is coupled with the group’s expectation that it will face hostility and persecution, members often feel they must mobilize for “endtimes” by acquiring weapons and securing defences.

3. Actions by Authorities: Violence is often not actualized until the group comes into contact with state authorities, which usually embody all that is evil for the movement and which must be vanquished in order for the apocalyptic scenario to be realized. Action on the part of state agencies will almost always elicit a reaction, which underlining the delicacy with which the situation must be handled.

Lack of comprehension – Authorities often fail to appreciate the leverage they have over doomsday movements, which depend upon them to fulfill their apocalyptic scenarios. Failure to fully comprehend this symbolic role often results in actions that trigger violence.

Unsound negotiation – Should authorities decide to intervene in a crisis situation, negotiators dealing with the movement must understand its belief structure, as ignorance of the minor differences between the beliefs of respective groups can have drastic outcomes.

Hasty action – Hasty actions can directly trigger violence on the part of the group by forcing it to act out its “endtimes” scenario, especially when its grandiose apocalyptic scenario appears discredited under humiliating circumstances.

Spiral of amplification – Sanctions applied by authorities are often interpreted by a movement as hostile to its existence, which reinforces their apocalyptic beliefs and leads to further withdrawal, mobilization and deviant actions, and which in turn elicits heavier sanctions by authorities. This unleashes a spiral of amplification, as each action amplifies each reaction, and the use of violence is facilitated as the group believes that this will ultimately actualize its doomsday scenario.

The presence of these three factors (apocalyptic beliefs, charismatic leadership and actions by authorities), whether inherent to the dynamics of a Doomsday Religious Movement or in response to the actions that it engages in, translates into a predisposition towards violent behaviour.

The Threat to Public Safety

It is difficult to ascertain the potentially violent behaviour and threats to public safety which some movements could represent, since there exists little information about the demographics or attributes of these movements or their members in Canada. This is exacerbated by the ambiguity which surrounds Doomsday Religious Movements: their motives are often not initially comprehensible, their actors not readily identifiable and their methods are difficult to predict. Despite these difficulties, the inherent volatility and unpredictability of some millennialist cults is a cause for concern because any could pose a realistic threat to public safety almost overnight.

1. Threat to democratic governance: This threat emerges when movements associate abstract enemies with concrete state entities; when combined with volatile beliefs, this encourages a blatant disregard for the law and overt revolt against the state. The integrity of democratic governance is severely undercut because the methods of these groups end with attacks, subtle or not, on government credibility. A public perception emerges that the government cannot meet its primary raison d’être, namely, the protection of the people.

2. Weapons Acquisition

Firearms – In Canada, stricter gun control laws prevent an accumulation of weapons comparable to the US situation, where groups justify the stockpiling of firearms through their interpretation of the US constitutional right to bear arms. However, this does not preclude their acquisition through illegal channels, as demonstrated by the case of the Order of the Solar Temple (see below).

Explosives – The possession of explosives poses an equal, if not greater, threat than do firearms. Given this consideration, it is plausible that a sophisticated bomb-maker could focus on the mass murder of non-group members. Situated in the middle of a continuum of destructive capability, explosives possessed by groups represent mass murder waiting to happen.

Chemical and biological weapons – A still greater threat is the acquisition and use of chemical and biological weapons. It is feared that some doomsday-like groups may have mastered the production of biological agents, while the Aum cult manufactured and deployed chemical weapons. Marking the dawn of a “New Age,” Aum’s vast biological and chemical stockpiles included, respectively, significant amounts of botulinum toxin, one of the most powerful poisons, and hundred of tons of deadly sarin nerve gas ingredients. Although the chances that a group will both acquire and deploy these weapons are slim, the Aum case proves that it is within the range of possible action.

3. Institutional Infiltration

Politics – Bribery has been one costly method of building mainstream political support; the Aum cult allegedly bribed Russian officials in exchange for a series of “favours”. Another potential threat lies in members who are already involved in the political process; the Solar Temple’s roster included the mayor of a Canadian town and a provincial government official. The most direct political linkages concern efforts to exert direct influence over political processes. Both the Aum leader and the head of a Peruvian Doomsday Religious Movement, the Israeli Mission of the New Universal Fact (not associated with the Government of Israel in any way), have campaigned for electoral office.

Business – Businesses owned by groups can both facilitate weapons acquisition and drive membership growth; the Aum cult’s multimillion dollar empire financed the purchase of weapons, justified the possession of ingredients for chemical and biological weapons, and provided a legitimate vehicle for widespread recruitment. Also, the position a member occupies in an established enterprise can augment the potential threat; several Solar Temple members were senior employees of a public utility, whose access to sensitive systems could have crippled the provision of a much-needed service.

4. Criminal Activity

Crimes against individuals – Crimes against individuals not affiliated with the state may indirectly enable the above threats. Documented crimes include successful attempts to “silence” opposition from non- and ex-members, while alleged crimes finance weapons acquisition. These acts undermine the state’s ability to identify and respond to dangerous groups, where the ultimate costs of such crimes are public safety and, thereby, the legitimacy of government.

Transnational criminal activity – The final category of threats pivots around alleged involvement in transnational crime. The Solar Temple purportedly laundered money and trafficked in arms and illegal drugs, while Aum Shinrykio allegedly supplied illegal drugs to transnational organized crime syndicates. If these reports are correct, any possible threats to public safety are magnified.

Identifying the Threat

Doomsday Religious Movements often provide both verbal and tangible early warning signs that are symptomatic of a group’s volatility and propensity for violence. The challenge for government and law enforcement is to note those early-warning signs as a group shifts from a “preoccupation with enemies” to “enemy eradication”, i.e. from belief to action. Such early- warning signs include:

1. Intensification of illegal activities – This early-warning sign is most often a noticeable increase in the illegal procurement of weapons, which often attracts the attention of locals, and signals that the group may be making the final preparations for its destiny in the cosmic battle of all time. This occurred at Waco, Texas, before the confrontation with law enforcement agencies unfolded.

2. Humiliating circumstances – Should a group be humiliated to the extent that either its leader or apocalyptic scenario appears discredited, for example, if its prophecies fail to actualize by a set date or if group leaders are arrested on minor charges, then it may try to counter this defamation by violently introducing its vision.

3. Relocation to a rural area – This indicates both a physical and psychological withdrawal, which usually precipitates the strengthening of group solidarity and increased control over members. A relocation betrays a group’s desire to carry out either the defence preparations or violent acts called for by its scripted scenario.

4. Increasingly violent rhetoric – This may indicate that the group has reached a level of critical “fervour” and is ready to take the first step towards actualizing its rhetoric and triggering an apocalyptic scenario.

5. Struggle for leadership – Owing to the unstable nature of the leadership and the volatility of the group, any situation which threatens the leader’s control could result in violence. Examples include the challenging of group beliefs by dissidents and the questioning of the leader’s physical health. All of these put the power of the leadership in question, and, by extension, its fundamental apocalyptic vision.

Annex I presents a brief table summarizing the preceding characteristics and serves as a quick reference guide.

A Canadian Example – the Order of the Solar Temple

The Order of the Solar Temple was a group espousing millennialist beliefs which met the preceding criteria of a Doomsday Religious Movement. The Order had members in the US, Quebec, Switzerland and France; in 1994, fifty-four members committed mass suicide. The group was composed of several leaders who were very charismatic and expert public speakers, and who also had aggrandized beliefs about themselves. They believed in an imminent ecological apocalypse, where members were the “chosen ones” to repopulate the earth after its demise, but not before they had been persecuted on the earthly plane by non-believers. Other attributes typical of a Doomsday Religious Movement were the high degree of control exercised over members, the promotion of bigamy within the group, and the physical withdrawal to a rural area. The alleged criminal activities of the Solar Temple (money laundering, drug and arms trafficking) were clear threats to public safety, as was the infiltration of political and business circles by several members.

The Solar Temple mobilized for their coming apocalypse by acquiring weapons and money. This prompted several high-profile investigations and arrests which could have hastened the suicide. This was an early warning sign: a humiliating circumstance running counter to their supposed glorious salvation before the onslaught of the apocalypse. Other events which could have enhanced the feeling of humiliation included: an investigation initiated by the public utility into the Order’s infiltration of their company; the near bankruptcy of the Order and the loss of investor capital; then, negative media attention. Finally, other early- warning signs immediately preceded the mass suicide and signalled that their potential for violence could be soon realized: a recent change in leadership; the failing health of one of the leaders; and foreboding, violent statements made by members.

The violence of the incident left 48 people dead in Switzerland and five in Quebec. Had the group believed that its salvation was tied to a direct conflict with the “enemy” and the leaders opted for “enemy eradication” rather than escape via mass suicide, the risk to members of the public would have been serious.

Conclusions – Continuing Threats to Canada

The irrationality which underlines the threat posed by Doomsday Religious Movements constitutes a different threat to public safety than that posed by the calculated terrorism traditionally manifested in the last 50 years, usually in support of an identified political cause. One estimation indicates that there are 1,200 active cults throughout the world, and that roughly 400 subscribe to doomsday philosophies which foresee catastrophe on or around the year 2000. While it is not known which cults have the potential for violence, this does not imply that possible threats posed by Doomsday Religious Movements should be ignored, as they can quickly manifest themselves in a variety of forms. Rather, there clearly is a continuing threat potential, given the temporal inaccuracies of the turning of the millennium (various scientific and religious accounts offer competing evidence as to when the new millennium will actually begin) and the tendency for groups to be unpredictable and give early-warning signs of their potential for violence, as well as ambiguities in their structure, dynamics and attributes.

Annex I

The Apocalyptic Cult Checklist

CHARACTERISTICS THREATS EARLY WARNING SIGNS
Apocalyptic Beliefs

  • dualism
  • the persecuted chosen
  • imminence
  • determinism
  • salvation through conflict

Charismatic Leadership

  • control over members
  • lack of restraint
  • withdrawal

Actions by Authorities

  • lack of comprehension
  • unsound negotiation
  • hasty action
  • spiral of amplification
Democratic Governance

Weapons Acquisition

  • firearms
  • explosives
  • chemical / biological weapons

Institutional Infiltration

  • political
  • business

Criminal Activity

  • crimes against individuals
  • transnational crime
  • Intensification of illegal activities
  • Humiliating circumstances
  • Relocation to a rural area
  • Increasingly violent rhetoric
  • Struggle for leadership

Annex II

References and Suggested Reading

Internet Addresses

The Center for Millennial Studieswww.mille.org

Cult Awareness and Information Centrewww.caic.org.au

AFF http://www.csj.org

FactNet http://www.factnet.org

Info-Cult http://www.infocult.org

Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerancewww.religioustolerance.org

Monographs

Bainbridge, William S. (1997). The Sociology of Religious Movements. New York: Routledge.

Bromley, David G. & Jeffrey K. Hadden, eds. (1993). The Handbook of Cults and Sects in America. Greenwich, CT and London: Association for the Sociology of religion and JAI Press.

Dawson, Lorne L., ed. (1996). Cults in Context: Readings in the Study of New Religious Movements. Toronto: Scholar’s Press.

Gesy, Lawrence J. (1993). Destructive Cults and Movements. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.

Introvigne, Massimo. (1996). Les Veilleurs de l’Apocalypse: Millénarisme et nouvelles religions au seuil de l’an 2000. Paris: Claire Vigne.

Kaplan, Jeffrey. (1997). Radical Religion in America: Millennial Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Lewis, James R. (1998). The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

Miller, Timothy. (1991). When Prophets Die: The Postcharismatic Fate of New Religious Movements. New York: State University of New York Press.

Robbins, Thomas & Susan Palmer, eds. (1997) Millennium, Messiah, and Mayhem. New York: Routledge.

Saliba, John A. (1995). Perspectives on New Religious Movements. London: Geoffrey Chapman.

Scotland, Nigel. (1995). Charismatics and the Next Millennium. Hodder & Stoughton.

Stark, Rodney & William Sims Bainbridge. (1996). Religion, Deviance, and Social Control. New York: Routledge.

Storr, Anthony. (1997). Feet of Clay – Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus. New York: The Free Press.

Strozier, Charles B. (1994). Apocalypse: On the Psychology of Fundamentalism in America. Boston: Beacon Press.

Wilson, Bryan & Jamie Cresswell, eds. (1999). New Religious Movements: Challenge and Response. London: Routledge.

Doomsday religions – Christian/Mormons and Islamics – the offspring Abrahamics

click for the CSIS report

The Rapture! The Rapture is Coming!

Moderate believers in Christianity seem collectively embarrassed by the so called fringe elements who have declared May 21, 2011 to be the start of the rapture. They seek to make a distinction between themselves and the rapturists, but, if there is a distinction, it’s lost on those of us who do not share belief in the Christian religion.

That anyone believes in the “end times” or a particular day for the “end times” is merely an order of magnitude without significance.  Does it matter that May 21 will pass as any other day in the last 2011 or so years? Does it ever occur to the believers in the faith that their Jesus promised to return during the lifetime of his followers? As in, the ones who allegedly and literally followed him around?

The rapture is about 2000 years late, and I’m thinking that it’s time people stopped putting any stock in the claim that it was going to happen at all.

The faith is predicated on a threat to behave and worship or else suffer the consequences – all other claims are merely details – that there’s been over 200 claims in the last couple of centuries to reveal the beginning of the end times and not a one has come to pass is less significant than that people believe that is an end of time, a reckoning coming, in which the believer good will be rewarded and the unbelieving bad (no matter how good they were in fact) will each get theirs, shows the childishness and the danger of the religion.

There is no god who will clean up the earth and make it into a paradise – we messed it up and we have to fix it – and that starts with growing up and putting away childish things like Santa, the tooth fairy and gods.

What we need to consider is that the only difference between a cult and a religion, is a false perception based on the age and size of the cult – if it began in antiquity and has endured in some form, it’s a religion, but if it’s recently founded as something new or as a breakaway group, it’s a cult.

There is no meaningful difference between a religion and a cult; there is only the matter of how carefully or tightly controlled the membership is by the leadership or hierarchy.

A group that isolates itself from the larger community geographically and in daily life – Jim Jones’ People’s Temple for example – is not that different from one that remains in the larger community geographically, but isolates itself from mainstream participation – consider that most American children who are home schooled are evangelical protestants – are not substantially different.

Each dedicates their daily existence in accordance with the wishes of the belief leadership – and, for many years, Jim Jones was a politicians’ darling in that he could be counted on to deliver instant crowds at rally’s, tens of thousands of near identical letters in boycotts of advertisers or support on a political matter to state legislature.

The same give and take that exists between the tea baggers/evangelical leaders and politicians today. Give me the support and your votes, and I will deliver the power of my office unto you.

The insistence of evangelical and other religious leaders that natural disasters and disease epidemics are a deity’s punishment for immoral behavior should be alarming and unacceptable to any moderate and rational person. To assert divine cause to natural disasters, including epidemics, is to reject not only all earth sciences and germ theory, but the entire body of knowledge that we humans have accumulated.

To praise deities is to reduce and reject humanity into meaninglessness; this is why religion is the goto justification for the horrors that we have inflicted on ourselves and each other. I categorically reject the idea that we’d find another rational, because there is nothing rational about slavery and genocide against groups and classes of people, or about murder, rape and assault of individuals.

If we, each of us, were to truly accept that we are human, that humans are natural and innately valuable, then there is no way we could justify diminishing another person as lesser than ourselves. It takes religion to create in the mind, the self loathing, hatred and violence to be twisted against fellow humans in anger, hate and violence, because they are lesser than us, to our eye. There is no lesser human when there is no religion.

In 1999, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), released a report identifying Doomsday Religious Movements.

The introduction reads:

Often overlooked in the discussion of emerging security intelligence issues is the challenge of contending with religious movements whose defining characteristic is an adherence to non-traditional spiritual belief systems. While only a small fraction of these groups could be considered Doomsday Religious Movements espousing hostile beliefs and having the potential to be violent, the threat they represent is evinced by recent events involving groups such as the American Branch Davidians, as well as Canada’s Order of the Solar Temple. Japan’s infamous Aum Shinrykio is a textbook example, where the coupling of apocalyptic beliefs and a charismatic leader fixated on enemies culminated in a nerve-gas attack intended to cause mass casualties in the hope of precipitating a world war and completing its apocalyptic prophecy. By examining the many characteristics of these movements, this paper intends to discuss which types of groups could be prone to violence and which factors indicate a group’s move to actualize this violence.

The problem of the introduction, is what about the traditional spiritual belief systems that are based in the same apocalyptic beliefs?

To my mind, a small group that eliminates its own membership is a self-solving problem. They don’t threaten non-members, as they are inwardly focused on their own salvation/redemption. The smaller group, as we say, at least has the courage of their conviction, and their actions are consistent with their beliefs.

Aside: I have always maintained there is nothing admirable about having the courage of one’s convictions, as it is merely fanaticism – the value of the courage should be dependent on the conviction, not one’s dedication to said conviction. Admiring the “courage” to stick by one’s conviction is to make a fetish of suffering and creates a class of sainthood/martyrdom which only inspires suicide bombers and abortion doctor assassins.

But, if we are going to assert that small groups are not behaving rationally owing to their belief in a specific doomsday, then why do we assume that larger groups with the same beliefs, but less urgency with respect to an end date are any more rational?

The CSIS report goes on to identify specific social threats that small doomsday cults pose and in particular, that the danger these cults pose is often a function of when and how they come to the attention of authorities.

Because, like a battering, stalking, controlling ex-spouse or romantic partner ends up striking against their victim ex after a restraining order is filed, so too do small personality cults end up in a mass murder/suicide or shoot out with secular authority, once said secular/government authority challenges the cult leader/violent ex-partner’s assumed entitlement to control their cult/ex-partner – the leader/ex becomes violent and usually fatally so.

The psychology of a person who murders their family and pets to save them from the evils in the world, the ex who would rather their beloved (and sometimes their families) be dead than with someone else or at least without them, is pretty much the same as the cult leader who decides that today is the day and takes themselves and their people out with them. Truly, Khadafy has said the same thing: he’d rather take everyone out with him, then leave them behind.

The mainstream, moderate believers would like to distance themselves from the true believers who take the religious texts as literal. They would like non-believers to think that they are not members of a disordered group who must spread by the word or by the sword, and that failing to convert will literally mean there’s hell to pay.

But, the mainstream and moderate believers are not true believers – religion is not rational, it is not a way to be peaceful and co-exist, to assert that there’s one god and one way to god is to deny all others and declare them as false. Interfaith committees who claim there’s one god and many ways to worship are not being true to their faiths, and are apologist appeasers who have discredited their faith and demonstrated that religion is a tool to manage and manipulate the masses – they have arrived at an appeasement balance of power – a no-nuke treaty with each other, if you will.

The danger of mainstream traditional religion is far greater than any personality cult, for it’s the mainstream traditional belief systems that maintain a veneer of participation in mainstream society – but who vote in blocks according to their religious beliefs that they seek to impose on mainstream society and as a consequence, hold back the advancement of human knowledge and easement of human suffering.

Denying funding to medical research such as stem cells, to Planned Parenthood and international aid programs that promote safe sex practices, to disaster relief organizations to prepare and mitigate natural disasters; that push for some foreign aid policies such as refusing Jewish immigration and creating Israel post WWII, the denial of refugee status based in anti-Semitism and the creation of Israel and moving Jewish people who escaped death at the hands of European hostility and delivered them into the midst of Arab hostility, an attempt to make the bible revelation prophesy come true on some level.

Aside: Anyone else remember what a big deal was made in the 1980’s of Ronald Reagan being the anti-Christ and the revelations prophesy about a time after Jews have a homeland?

The matter of rationality and religion/cult, in a secular society in which individual rights are paramount, we have enshrined the freedom of religion. Whether a person chooses a mainstream moderate religious belief or a minority fringe religious belief, is an order of magnitude of no significance whatsoever. Either way, they have chosen to abandon realty as the basis of their worldview, so how much or little realty is included, is of far lesser concern than that reality has been abandoned.

Individuals, and any children they may have and are legally entitled to indoctrinate with the religion of their choice, are free to choose and the social harm that we must be vigilant to is when groups of individuals attempt to force their religious choice and beliefs into secular law from legislation down to regulation, policy, directives and best practices employed in the secular civil service.

To do that, we must stop making meaningless distinctions that one religion is better or any more reasonable than any other. None of them are reasonable and they are all doomsday focused to varying degrees. The premise of religion is that this life that we have is a dress rehearsal or a learning cycle that will determine what happens in an afterlife, whether it’s a heaven/hell or a rest stop between lives.

Aside: Interesting, most religions do not have eternal either or states, but rather a cycle of rest and rebirth, aka reincarnation. This cosmic recycling of energy and gathering towards eventual enlightenment, or being one with everything, seems on the surface, more comforting and credible than the Abrahamic religions life is a short dress rehearsal for your afterlife placement, is a rather unreasonable and ridiculous lot of work to end up at oblivion/nirvana and the contempt towards human life that the Abrahamic religions highlights what a waste corporeal life is in this worldview, given a single life’s shortness compared to eternity.

Since the afterlife is not the mandate of any secular government, the legislation and policies and everything that flows from these foundational principles, must be wholly concerned with the here and now, not the ever after. To that end, as nations, each must stop looking inward to the short term needs of their citizens, and look to the cross border issues, especially with respect to pollution, water sheds/regions, habitat conservation and preservation, resource extractions and regional/energy sustainability.

We need only to collectively say that life matters and life is what is occurring here and now. Only then, will we be able to work together to make life meaningful and sustainable.