“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”
― Voltaire, Questions sur les Miracles à M. Claparede, Professeur de Théologie à Genève, par un Proposant: Ou Extrait de Diverses Lettres de M. de Voltaire
“He is as far away from Islam as he can be.” said Saad Mohammad, the Islamic Society’s director of news and information in Oklahoma City. He was speaking of Alton Nolen, a man accused of beheading a woman at Vaughan Foods in Moore, OK. Nolen claimed to be a “searcher” of spirituality in churches, synagogues and through Buddhism. After being fired from his job at Vaughan Foods, Nolen’s search for spirituality ended with his commission of an atrocity.
“That’s not really _____________” If you’re a believer, go ahead and fill in the blank with your religion, because that is exactly what you do every single time someone commits an atrocity in the name of your particular religion. It’s a statement of denial. Of course, there are many variations of this denial on behalf of the “real” or “true” version of _____________. But, no matter how it’s phrased, the stated absolution of the particular religion from any responsibility for the atrocity is crystal clear. The “real”, “true” religion is innocent. How ironic is it then when the person/s who committed the atrocity loudly proclaims that their interpretation of the religion is the “real”, “true” religion, and that they were simply carrying out the edicts prescribed in their holy book? This certainly creates a great deal of confusion and begs the question… “What’s the “real”, “true” religion?” Ask anyone who believes and they will say “MINE!”
Mining for Scriptural Gold
It’s not just a matter of whose religion is the “real”, “true” religion. It’s also a matter of mining for scriptural gold to justify the claims of a “real”, “true” religion and anything else under the son/sun. A scripture has immense value, of course, if it supports any emotion, feeling, idea, or atrocity. As far as Islam goes, Alton Nolen was reportedly actively evangelizing Islam at work, trying to convert the infidel. Apparently he was unsuccessful. With Islam rejected by his co-workers it’s possible that Nolen found his scriptural gold in this edict from the Qur’an:
4:89 They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them.
(How many scriptures in the Qur’an call for the killing of infidels? Lots! You can find them here.)
Of course, Nolen may have just been looking for revenge after being fired. But, his atrocity does bring into question the role of religion in the daily lives of the faithful. How many folks use their religion to justify any act of bigotry, discrimination, condemnation or violence (including murder) against anyone who doesn’t believe at all, or doesn’t believe as they do? We know that there are many issues at the forefront of the news that are religion based. Marriage Equality, Woman’s Reproductive Rights, Evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design, Racism, Terrorism… These are just a few of the issues that are deeply staining the parchment of our Constitution, and challenging our freedoms. From these few examples alone it’s obvious that the religious are striking the scriptural gold mother-load! But how? How do they find the rich veins of bombastic prose in their holy books? In one word… Alchemy.
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog?
1. A form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
2. Any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.
Believers, ALL believers, are Alchemists. When they read their holy books, even just a few scriptures, they automatically receive their PhD in Alchemy and immediately become their own ultimate authority. True, some will still consult with more experienced alchemists within their particular religious community, but they still consider themselves die-hard authorities on the subject of religious alchemy. With black pots of all sizes and shapes hanging over flames licking at their charred bottoms, the faithful stir briskly together the right ingredients (emotions, political ideologies, bigotry, biases, fallacies, etc.). When the time is right (and only they know when that is) the faithful will dip their ladle into the pot and pull from the boiling, frothy, stench ridden brew, exactly what they desire! Platinum, gold, sliver, bronze, diamonds, rubies, gems… Immensely valuable scriptures to justify anything! With their pointy black hats defying gravity and tilting severely to the right, these masters of malice laugh aloud as they hold their creations high and demand all to yield to their magical power! But, what these purveyors of poison think is a universal solvent for science, logic and reason, and the elixir of life, is really nothing more than the sludge of ignorance, despair, self-righteousness, hollowness, ego, anger, and hate.
The religious, alchemists, witches… all one and the same. They all seek to promote their wicked, greedy agenda by concocting ways to control everything, and bend the world to their will. And because they are truly powerless, they must delude themselves and others into thinking they have control over the natural world in unnatural ways. So beware! Someday a christian alchemist may brew up a justification for your head. Oh, and Happy Halloween. BOO!