Unmasked Religious Bigotry
February 22, 1999
By Corey Gilkes
"If you are a Christian and believe in the Bible you cannot accept other religions as genuine". Thus sayeth the leader of the Thusian Seventh Day Adventists [assuming that he wasn't quoted out of context]. So here we have it, unmasked religious bigotry, meted out to all non-Christians and especially dedicated to the Hindu community. The late William Miller must be proud.
Frankly, I am not surprised that it has come to this; I had foreseen it, written about it, other people much more qualified than I am have spoken about it, only to be ignored.
Religious fundamentalism, especially Christian fundamentalism, in a cosmopolitan society such as ours, is dividing our already sensitive society. Ignorance, arrogance and contempt is disguised as "god's work" as the pious go about their proselytism.
This divisive aspect of our society has always been with us, however; during the colonial period, the various Christian denominations were subtly and openly contemptuous of the belief-systems of Asia and Africa. This psychological [and occasionally physical] violence was augmented by the American evangelists via the radio, television, and the many crusades.
Therefore, the current arrogance of the Thusians only represent the extreme of Christian [read Eurocentric] prejudice, an extreme that has its roots not in the American evangelists, but in the older European faiths. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some people but the evidence is plain to see in a study of Europe's history.
To understand this, one must examine the history of Christianity long before the existence of the numerous contemporary Christian groups, that is, Constantine's Rome. Constantine halted Christian persecution on the grounds of political expediency, nothing more. This had nothing to do with piety or divine inspiration. The unity and the consolidation of the Roman Empire's conquests were of paramount importance; there could be only one form of government and he needed a religion that could be used to unify the Roman Empire. All the other belief-systems were tribal and nationalistic and could not be used to achieve this goal and in any event could not be extensively "doctored". Christianity, however, fitted the bill and he found many of its bishops to be willing participants. Even while it suffered persecution, however, Christianity was wracked by schism as diverse Christian sects fought each other.
The infamous Council of Nicea only served to codify this intolerance and when Christianity was finally adopted as the state religion, all alternative belief-systems, creeds, and philosophies were ruthlessly suppressed in spite of the fact they all once co-existed peacefully. The Church also attempted to erase all traces of its "pagan" origins and virtually blanked out inquiry up until the time of the Lutheran Reformation. Note, however, that Luther, Calvin and other "reformers", simply wished to clear up the corruption in the Church at the time, not form new religions, though they were eventually forced to do so.
Therefore, when they did, they maintained many aspects of the old Roman Church, including its dogmatism. Indeed, they quickly proved to be more dictatorial and dogmatic than their Catholic forbears and dealt with dissent with a ruthlessness almost unmatched by the ancient regime. This ruthlessness and dogmatism has been carried over into every one of the new faiths that eventually sprang up in one way or another.
The passage of time changed nothing, only [sometimes] methodology. Since for the European [and Euro-American] religion is just another tool used to assert European hegemony, Christianity has been and is still being used to undermine the belief-systems of many peoples. The old ethno-centrism still exists and is perpetuated by the same people who are the objects of their contempt, albeit with the best of intentions.
Religious arrogance still exists in ALL Christian denominations, make no mistake about that, the Thusians are only the extreme in much the same way that the Ku Klux Klan and the German National Socialists [Nazis] were the extreme of European egocentrism.
Anybody remember the incident with the jhandi on the Petrotrin compound?
I am sure that the intentions of the Thusians are good, but it is sorely misguided and if left uncecked can be taken to even greater extremes [God forbid!]. There must be more dialogue, correct education and open-mindedness. Some unpleasant historical truths MUST be faced including the bogus exclusivity and historicity of many Christian myths and writings, for these have always been used to justify the murder and exploitation of African, Asian, Native American and aboriginal Australians, and the denigration of the belief-systems of these peoples.
If we do not want this country to descend into the hell of open religious conflict we must find the courage to finally address these issues in the proper manner [the Thusians may be an insignificant nuisance group now, but so were the National Socialists at one time].
The passing of Equal Opportunities Act or the amendment of the law against blasphemy may do more harm than good [if anything, the blasphemy law should be scrapped not amended] And if all this is not done before the Hon. Minister of Education re-imposes compulsory Religious Education in schools [!], then those two words will remain a sick contradiction in terms.
In light of what is taking place in the country, any form of education that does not educate and enlighten us about the many belief-systems in our land and in the world in such a way that we FULLY understand and appreciate these belief-systems, should be consigned to waste along with the religions and ideologies which thrive on conflict. So let us get to work and stop pussyfooting.
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