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Friday, June 20, 2014

Why One God Is Never Enough




We still hear about the sectarian violence between the Arab Muslim Sudanese north and the African Christian south, but it is almost drowned out by the sectarian violence that is coming from Iraq, again. The Shiite government promised to treat the Sunni minority fairly, which apparently it has not.  The rub, the difference between the two Muslim denominations?  The Shiites think that the Sunnis are damned because of the latter's refusal to accept an early religious leader as infallible.  On the other side of the fence, the Sunnis believe that the Shiites are heretics and apostates.  In both cases, this is what we in the western refer to as sectarianism and the manifested sectarian violence that accompanies it.  The thumbnail definition of all of this:  roiling bigotry, intolerance, hate, and gross discrimination that is brought against another denomination of the same religion, or any other religion/way of life that does not share the same world view (now think ISIS). Sometimes, political ambition is thrown in for the added spice.  Well, the Christian dominated west is not without its history of sectarian violence.  

The western Roman Emperor Constantine and his eastern counterpart Licinius, in 313 C.E. issued a joint decree known as the Edict of Milan.  This decree, among other things, legitimized all sects of Christianity and gave them, along with all the various Pagan and Heathen folkways, religious freedom. It also gave the Christians the green light to commit sectarian violence among themselves. People died over religious dogma.  

The Edict of Thessalonica, issued in February 380 C.E. by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, made all Heathen and Pagan folkways illegal within the borders of the the Roman Empire.  And the practice of these now illegal religions was punishable by death.  This Edict did not stop there.  Theodosius's Edict made Nicene Trinitarian Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.  And, along with all Pagan and Heathen religions, all other sects of Christianity were outlawed.  This gave the Catholic Trinitarians, now known as the Roman Catholic Church, the ability to open wide the doors of sectarian violence, not just against fellow Christians, but also against Pagans and Heathens.  Many more people died.  Let's skip ahead about four centuries.  

Charlemagne was hell bent on conquering territory and people for Christ, and the Roman Church was more than implicit in his actions.  But the Heathen Saxons were not easy for him to overcome.  Even though many nobles came over to Charlemagne's way of thinking, most of the general population refused to lie down, roll over, and play dead.

The Thirty Years Saxon War began in 772 C.E. under dubious circumstances.  Some say the Saxons burned a Church and others say the charge was contrived to give Charlemagne "just cause" to invade Saxony, convert the Heathen Saxons and add their land to his Frankish Kingdom.  This sectarian violence was finally over in 802 C.E.  Charlemagne was victorious, but tens of thousands perished under his conversion sword.  Among other things, he employed the time honored use of terror and deportation, from the beginning of his sectarian violence to the end.  Also, he put draconian laws into place against the Saxons for practicing their ancient folkway; if you were caught you were beheaded. As a violent sectarian reprisal for a triumphant Saxon victory over one of his armies, Charlemagne had 4,5000  Saxons beheaded at a place known as Verden; all were charged with practicing their ancient religion.  When Pope Hadrian heard this news, he created a three day holiday to celebrate "this great Christian victory."  Only fools will dismiss this as not being sectarian violence.

All the Cathars (aka - Albigensians) wanted to do was live in peace and practice their version of Christianity.  But they were in southern France and Pope Innocent III could let that heresy stand in Christendom.  In 1209 C.E., he ordered the Cathar's Crusade; it lasted a bloody 20 years.  About 15 years into this conflict, the King of France threw his hat into the ring on the side of the Pope.  This king's actions had nothing to do, as least directly, with religion.  He wanted the land of the renegade nobles and got it.  Tens of thousands died in this sectarian violence as it solidified the Dominican Order and the dreaded Inquisition.  And through the Inquisition, more death, destruction, and property confiscation happened due to sectarianism in the name of the one true God.

A few centuries later, we have the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation, complete with its Office of the Inquisition.  This was sectarian violence, par excellence.

The majority of the fighting took place in what is now Germany.  It is estimated that during the Thirty Years War, at least 40% of the population perished; each side believed that it had the one and only true God on its side (a great book about this time is - The Warwolf - A Peasant Chronicle of the Thirty Years War by Hermann Lons).  There is an underlying, past and present reason for this kind of sectarianism and the violence that a accompanies it.

Put on your big boy pants, tighten your belt, pull up your socks, and tuck in your shirt.  This underlying, underpinning root cause for this sectarianism and violence is Monotheism.

Monotheism is the staunch belief in the one, or in a "one true God," and that belief is backed up by a Holy Book of sacred scripture, supposedly from the mouth of the one true God himself.  There are three versions of Monotheism, all claiming to be the "correct" one.  However, all three versions have a few things in common.
      
Since all three declare that their version is correct, they have no problem declaring that the other two are either false or incomplete (remember the Shiites and Sunnis....the Catholics and Protestants?). Since rigid adherence to the one true God is blind acceptance, that makes all other Gods not just false, but demons in disguise.  Therefore, these false Gods, along with their followers, must be destroyed. The rabid adherence to these beliefs, doctrines, dogmas, and more is the cool-aid  that makes people fly planes into tall buildings, strap bombs on kids, popes giddy with joy over mass murder, awards sainthood to killers, and awards metals to those who commit the most heinous of sectarian violence, all in the name of the one true God.

Monotheism offers a draconian worldview, one of life denying and world rejecting,  putting all its chips on some vague hope of an ethereal after-life with the one true God.  On the other hand, Polytheism, especially those polytheistic folkways that put an emphasis on one's ancestors, are the exact opposite.  These ancient and ancestral religious folkways were then, as they are now, life affirming and world accepting.  The emphasis is placed on living a good and productive life now, and the future, including any after-life, will take care of itself.  And, you will not find in recorded history any record of a polytheistic ancestral, life and world accepting religious culture forcing its religion and worldview on the vanquished.  This only happened in the past, and it continues to happen today when Monotheistic cultures used and continue to use sectarian violence and terror to control and dominate a lesser culture/people.  Maybe its time to invite the old Gods and old ways back into our lives, and toss the usurpers into their own, ready made lake of fire.

Author's Notes:      Informational Sources - the Internet.
                     This is just a simple blogpost that offers the briefest thumbnail sketch concerning sectarian violence due to differing religious worldviews.  To give this subject the justice it deserves, volumes could and should be written.


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