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My experience is that sadists and bullies operate just as effectively under the banners of "reason" and "progress" as they do under the banner of Christ or Mohammed;  just as effectively under a red flag as a red-white-and-blue one;  and just as effectively whether they claim to be championing the People's Cause as the Almighty Dollar.  To blame all of their acts on the content of the words they speak or the ideas they ostensibly cherish is imho to be bamboozled by the magician's hand and lose sight of the birdie.

The form of words, the ideological icing on the cake of domination and terror, seems to me far less important than the underlying will to dominate and hurt.  As an insightful author once wrote, she came to a new understanding the day she realised that her father did not beat her and her siblings because he was drunk;  he got drunk in order to get the courage to do what he enjoyed doing, i.e. hurting them.

Religions and ideologies can be for many people like an alcohol brewed from powerful memes, a rationalisation that gives them the courage (or loosens inhibitions of compassion and commensality) to do what they enjoy doing -- hurting others.  Personally I have as little enthusiasm for Hitchens' indiscriminate nastiness or Dawkins' cool condescension -- or the deliberate provocateering of their escalating book titles -- as I do for the Bible-bashers' zealous rants;  from my PoV each set of ranters has swigged a suitable booze of fermented memes to give them the delightful buzz of feeling better than the other guy and entitled to exercise contempt and jettison respect for whole swathes of their fellow mortals.  They're enjoying a good excuse to feel superior and insult others, and I find that really boring, not to mention depressing.

I am as bothered as the next person by the role of Constantinian Christianity in the present US regime, but imho it's part and parcel of the regime as a whole, i.e. it is a form of words that has evolved to make a state religion consistent with the neoliberal agenda.  Without the neoliberal agenda the revanchist fundies in the Air Force and other hotspots would be marginal;  they are being promoted and placed preferentially by the neocons at the core of power.

And I really wish people would stop comparing "anything I don't like" to child abuse.  [A year or so back there was some zealot on a bike list in the US who compared letting your kid ride a bike w/o a helmet to "child abuse."  This is just getting silly.]  Yeah, people tell children stories that are scary, and yeah, sometimes it would be better if they didn't (though kids generally like scary stories, so long as they are told in a safe environment).  But the mind of a child is a mysterious and highly individual thing:  some are terrified by the apparently innocuous (nightmares for months after seeing the funny clown at the circus), some shrug off scare stories with an apparently native skepticism.  Childhood is a maze of potentially terrifying adult narratives, rules, and punishments;  an overbearing/cruel atheistical parent can instil as much fear and suffering in a child as any godbotherer, imho, and a compassionate and loving parent can subscribe to any ideology or religion on earth and still convey that love and security to a child.  Who knows, a child who is raised from earliest youth with a deep sense of being personally loved and cherished by a loving and all-knowing God -- or accompanied through life by protective totemic sibling spirits -- might be more cheerful and better armoured against life's vicissitude than one raised in the bleaker existential worldview of atheism;  being raised atheist I wouldn't know.

What makes people cruel or kind, abusive or nurturing, tolerant or self-righteously vindictive, seems so disconnected (on the personal day2day level) from the cultural formulae they mouth or the rituals they partake in...  it would make more sense to me if we talked about the ways in which different ideologies or religions justify or delegitimate cruelty, the ways in which they strengthen or weaken commensalism and mutual respect, the ways in which they mediate or exacerbate faction, their attitudes to wealth accumulation and justice, etc. -- and the ways in which big ideas (like evolutionary theory or theology, like Science or God) are simplified and co-opted by State power to function as control mechanisms for accumulator elites.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 03:06:38 PM EST

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