Reading about the atrocities committed by Jihadist militants in Iraq and Syria today in their attempt to establish an Islamic state, the burning questions remains as to how will we rid ourselves of those amongst us who use religion as an excuse and a weapon to kill or otherwise terrorize populations in the name of some arcane and barbaric mythical beliefs. Without a doubt, the world needs to find a way to rid itself of this deadly horde of miscreants who’s minds appear to be infected by the sickly, nonsensical ideology of the religious fanatic who will murder the innocent man, woman or child just because they refuse to subject to them
But it is hard not be reminded of similar acts of barbarism committed in the name of a religion in earlier times, when very much the same thing was going on to advance the interests of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Lest we forget, in slaughtering the infidel unwilling to convert to their version of Islam the Muslim Jihadis of today appear to have taken a page from the late great King Charlemagne – or Charles the Great – the king of the Franks. In the year 800 he became the first emperor in Western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier; he is sometimes referred to as the founder of modern Europe.
During his campaign to establish an empire in full support of the Church, he felt compelled to Christianize newly conquered people upon penalty of death, which lead to such events as the massacre of 4,500 captive rebel Saxons in October 782 in what is now known as Verden in Lower Saxony, Germany. The unfortunate Saxons had rebelled against King Charles’ invasion and his subsequent attempts to Christianize them from their native Germanic paganism.
Oh, and don’t let us forget the Massacre at Béziers, Languedoc, France, on July 22, 1209. When the Roman Catholic Church established the Inquisition, it was set up, initially, to wipe out the Cathar movement in southern France where it had taken hold in opposition to the hitherto dominant Roman Catholic religion. The pope would not put up with the competition so he mounted a crusade against the Cathars, and under leadership of the Abbot of Citeaux the town of Béziers was taken on 22 July 1209 and all its inhabitants were killed – more than 20,000 people – every man, woman and child. That this would have included many thousands of Roman Catholic adherents also didn’t seem to matter. When questioned about this, the Cistercian abbot-commander of the Catholic crusaders, is on record of having said that: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eis. (Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own).
Now all this happened a long time ago, but the justification for this kind of slaughter remains an intrinsic part of the foundation of the Christian faith: the bible, for in Deuteronomy XIII.12-16, the faithful are instructed as follows:
If thou shalt hear say in one of these cities …, Let us go and serve other Gods …; then shalt thou surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein. … And thou shalt burn with fire the city and all the spoil thereof every whit for the Lord thy God. … And it shall be a heap forever; and it shall not be built again.
Today the Christian faith appears to be more benign, but as can be evidenced from recent events in the Middle East, innocent people continue to be slaughtered in the name of some god or prophet or another. One might claim that this kind of action has nothing to do with the religious beliefs themselves – and that they are misused when wielded as weapons of murder and destruction. No – it is precisely the unsubstantiated and irrational nature of these beliefs that allows them to be used in this manner. When you think you have the creator and eternity on your side – all your actions are justified; you cannot be wrong! Until we shake off the influence of these dangerous beliefs, our species will continue to be murdered for them.
This leads me to say that to believe in the existence of a god or other kinds of super-natural beings is terrible affliction and a seemingly endless source of human tragedy. Because – while in principle these are nonsensical and hence harmless beliefs– it is at the same time the sickly smell of centuries of savagery and senseless slaughter of thousands of people in the name of such beliefs – and primarily in the competition between such beliefs. And when you read up on human history and listen to the news today, this shall be revealed and – in my mind – made abundantly clear: “Religion is the Scourge of Mankind”.