The Unholy Alliance
by Jim Davies, 9/25/2011
About half the world's population adheres to one of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and all three teach that our "Old Testament" is the word of God. The first adds nothing, the second adds the New Testament, and the third adds the Q'ran, but that's the common factor. Now, quick question: what's the best-known verse in the Old Testament?
My guess is that it's the opening one of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." It continues with some exquisite English about having the soul restored, and fearing no evil in the valley of the shadow of death. If I'm right, it means that somewhere in the psyche of around 4 billion people, there is the self-image of being a sheep.
Sheep bleat, and are rather helpless. This Summer I did gain respect for one flock; some of its members were smart enough to spend the night on a big rock, which had absorbed solar radiation in the day and, having a higher latent heat than the surrounding pasture, made a warmer bed - albeit a harder one. Perhaps they hadn't figured out the physics of the phenomenon, but they did stay warm - on their own initiative. But generally, sheep go where they are led and do what they are told. That tells us why governments love religion.
Psalm 23:1 is not, I hope, taken out of context. It really does summarize the relationship these three religions say exists between man and his alleged maker. The Lord is said to be the Lord, and the follower is a follower - so the shepherd/sheep analogy is perfect. If we do have a maker, interested in those he created - if God exists - that relationship is appropriate; what else could it be? - yet it perfectly conditions everyone to be led by... whomever the shepherd appoints as his deputy or vicar on earth. One such class of appointees is declared in Romans 13:1 to be "rulers... ordained of [ie, by] God." That tells us why governments love the Christian religion. The Islamic one is even worse; from its get-go, the line between church and state was almost non-existent, and the very name "Islam" means "submit" and "obey."
Fortunately, this elaborate series of fairy tales has had its day, and is on the way out. Gradually in the "Western World" over the last few hundred years, we humans have learned in part to think for ourselves - an activity very dangerous for all kinds of authority, and heavily suppressed by Church prior to that time and by government since the mid-1900s. With a bit of luck, the habit will be restored very soon, thanks to the bypass of controls on information provided by the Internet.
"Thinking for oneself" involves not just accessing data Authority prefers we didn't see, but examining it rationally. That means clearing the mind of prejudices, ie pre-judgments, opinions formed from superstitions before facts are examined. It means for example coming to another well-known verse in the Old Testament - the first, Genesis 1:1 - and submitting it to rational scrutiny: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." That places the foundation for the rest of the book, and for those added by two of the three subject religions, and sets their tone. Notice, if you will:
Thinking for oneself means also considering the near-universal prejudice that government is needed, lest society dissolve in chaos and violence. The world is chock-full of governments, and to see their effect, turn on the evening television news and observe the chaos and violence, almost wall to wall. The rational thinker will draw a conclusion about that.