Religion the root of all evil?

Cruentus

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I just thought I would link an interesting article and book reference on how Zen Buddhism was used during WWII to enable soldiers to do horrific and unpeakable acts to civilians.

http://www.darkzen.com/Articles/zenholy.htm

A quote from Iris Chang's book on what is known as The rape of Nanking:

The Japanese invaders took full control of the city on December 13. In seven short weeks, they engaged in "an orgy of cruelty seldom if ever matched in world history." They brutally murdered, raped and tortured as many as 350,000 Chinese civilians. In this bloodbath, more people died than at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. For months, the city was filled with piles of rotting corpses.
Nearly 80,000 women were raped and mutilated, many gang-raped. Soldiers disemboweled women. Fathers were forced to rape their daughters, sons their mothers. All kinds of inhuman torture were practiced without remorse. Children and the elderly were not spared. Thousands of young men were beheaded, burned alive or used for bayonet practice.

Also an account from a German Nazi as cited in the book:

The barbarism was so intense that the Nazis in the city were horrified, one declaring the slaughter to be the product of a "bestial machinery." Chang recounts the following incident:
"In teaching new Japanese soldiers how to behead Chinese civilians, Tominaga Shozo recalled how Second Lieutenant Tanaka instructed his group. "Heads should be cut off like this," he said, unsheathing his army sword. He scooped water from a bucket with a dipper, then poured it over both sides of the blade. Swishing off the water, he raised his sword in a long arc. Standing behind the prisoner, Tanaka steadied himself, legs spread apart and cut off the man's head with a shout, 'Yo!' The head flew more than a meter away. Blood spurted up in two fountains from the body and sprayed into the hole. The scene was so appalling that I felt I couldn't breathe. "

I quote this stuff because I am a Contemplative Christian (to put a term to it) who follows the Catholic faith, and who is a student of Buddhism (mostly Rinzai Zen and Tibetan). I was doing some searches for something unrelated when I found this article.

I cite it because I have heard and have been told in an accusitory tone how Catholics or Christians are responsible for countless amounts of violence and attrocity in the world. I have always held the position that it isn't the fault of the religion in particular, it is the fault of certain people who will use religion and twist the belief system to fit a violent and immoral agenda.

This twisting often occurs on a mass scale with the marriage of religion and government. Those in power are enabled to use religious/spiritual beliefs to mold and control the masses.

This occurs regardless of faith, or lack of faith, for that matter. It is the need to philisophically justify attrocity that is being filled here; something that would occur regardless of the existance of a particular religious faith. The Christian faith has been used for this, as has Judism and Islam. And as has other philosophies not rooted in any religion at all.

Yet, people seem to always want to blame a particular religion for these crimes when religious faith is involved.

Well, this account of the use of Buddhism in WWII Japan, a faith of which people have often cited as being the most peaceful religion and not responsible for any of the worlds violence or wars, is a prime example and undeniable proof that it isn't ones religious faith that is responsible for attrocity; it is always the fault of those individuals who would choose to use a religion to develop a philosophy to justify state sanctioned horror.

I am reminded of that south park episode where "Ms" Garrison meets with that famous athiest, and Cartman goes into the future to find that the whole world is athiest and fighting and killing each other over which version of science is correct. The apparent truth in that alligorical episode makes me smile...

:)
 

Steel Tiger

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It is a sad fact that in its fourth incarnation (Zen) the message that Krishna presented, "action without attachment" (the Bahagavad gita) has been so twisted. Of course this is by no means the only religious message that has been bent out of shape to suit some political or cultural agenda.

In some cases this modification is coming from within the religious organisation itself. Some good examples are the deadly sins/cardinal virtues and the writings of Thomas Aquinas. I think it is clear that the intention of these "religious" writings was to confirm the power and position of the Church in society not to reveal some new aspect of religion to guide the people.

When it comes down to it power corrupts and those with power like to hold on to it.
 

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Given Oradour, Rotterdam, Coventry, Tulle, Guernica, Lidice, countless villages in Belorussia, Warsaw........ Babi Yar, Treblinka, The Jewish Ghettoes...... the ovens of Auschwitz........ one has difficulty imagining German Nazis sickened by either an uncontrolled rampage of murder or extermination by machine like methods. If anything, the lessons were sent home to be copied in a thousand other places...... and that regime did not love the Christian God, though it tried to exploit it whenever possible.

Evil people, be they Nazis or 9/11 cannibals, are often too weak to take responsibility for what they do. So they embrace and exploit religion as an excuse for their murders. They would have one believe Allah put out a contract on the WTC and Treblinka was the Lord's work.... BS!

I do not think Christianity by nature is evil......nor Buddhism........nor Islam. Their supposed servants sure are a rogue's gallery, though.
 

tellner

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Spiritual training of one sort or another has always been part of the warrior's world. In order to do the terrible things that are necessary without being damaged one must train the mind to deal with them. A common part of this is learning to detach who you "are" from what you do. There are pathological ways to do this. There are also constructive ways. In Japan Buddhist techniques have been part of this from quite a while ago. According to Draeger's monographs - available from the International Hoplological Society - esoteric Buddhism such as the mikkyo variety was often employed.

Further West the Bektashi dervishes trained the elite Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire.

The classical education of a Kshatriya in India involved spiritual practices which taught him how to endure privation without complaint. On one level the Bhagavad Gita is religious instruction for a warrior. Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna how to do what he must with detachment and compassion even as he cuts down his own relatives.

The Apache have special rituals to prepare men for war. They also have rituals designed to reintroduce them to normal life, to put down the lance and become human again.

My whole attitude towards religion is undergoing a bit of a change right now, so it's difficult to use terms "religion", "spirituality" or similar. Let's just say that cultures all over the world have learned a thing or two about the mind and the putative "soul" over the centuries. There are technologies to modify them temporarily or over the longer term. We use sloppy terminology such as calling them all "religion" without being clear about what we think we mean or without distinguishing them from other things.

Like all technologies they can be used for good ends or for bad ones. And what is praiseworthy one set of conditions can be terrible in another.

My first Silat teacher taught me a couple traditional meditations. One of them, the Warrior Chained, is a pretty horrible affair. It teaches you to let The Thing in the Cave out and become a terrified, pitiless, conscienceless creature. It's really really bad for you physically and psychologically. But when you're outnumbered, outgunned, hurt, scared or taken by surprise it does a damned fine job of making you very dangerous very quickly. Good or evil? Healthy or pathological? It's all a matter of how it is practiced, to what ends and how the training is conducted.

That's why the relation between Guru and Chela, Shaykh and Murid, Rabbi and Chessid is so vitally important. If the teacher is incompetent or amoral the results can be terrible. If he or she is moral and skilled and a good fit for the student it can be life transforming. It's also why the great spiritual traditions are full of cautionary tales.

Four of the last great rabbis in the time of the Temple went to the Garden and performed rituals which in a subtle sense brought them directly to the seat of Divinity, to the Merkava or Chariot of G-d. One loved the Light too much and died. Another was a flawed vessel who could not contain it and went mad. A third feared it and became an apostate. Only one returned Enlightened and transformed.

The esoteric practices of the Orthodox Church have taken some very odd turns, and I'm convinced a lot of them were appropriated from Siberian shamen - who were incidentally brutally suppressed by the czars and the Communists. There were always strict controls on who could learn them, how instruction was monitored and so on. By all accounts Grigor Rasputin was a partially trained mystic. He was able to access great skills, insights and powers but did so without restraint. With his intention unpurified the new tools were destructive as often as they were benign.

The great Sufi mystic Manur al Hallaj, in a fit of Divinely inspired madness lost himself and said "I am the Truth!" and was torn apart by an overly pious mob. Centuries later a wise Shaykh, speaking to a seeker said "Many whose vision exceeds their capacity have said 'I am G-d' and have been destroyed for blasphemy. One can say with perfect safety 'G-d is I.' "

Further East, the Vedas tell of demons who gained power to rival the gods through austerity and spiritual discipline. In Indo-Tibetan traditions the Tantras are considered a perilous but important method of progress. The Tantras aren't just the popular conception of cool exotic Oriental sexual techniques. They are a way of breaking down barriers and of demonstrating detachment and freedom from artificial constructions by transgressing normal morality and patterns of thought. A shortcut to Enlightenment, a final exam for the spiritually mature or a fast-track to damnation by a supremely dangerous individual who has power but lacks all restraint or moderation. All are possible. As the Sutra says "The Enlightened One may without blame steal the last scrap of food from a starving man."

Religion is what we make of it. The religious impulse in the larger sense is built into us like the desire for sex, food, breath or play. It can be expressed, developed and satisified in many ways. Some of them are good. Some of them are evil. Most often they are used to keep people asleep and obedient for the benefit of their masters. Sometimes they are used to wake people up and prepare them to find the transcendent.

Let's go back to the original example, Zen. Zen or Ch'an taught one way makes the practitioner more peaceful, compassionate and aware. If it is taught in a perverted fashion it can lead to an artificially induced dissociative personality that makes a good stab at psychopathology. I've known military veterans who saved themselves from the horrors of what they saw in war by practicing Zen and gaining peace and perspective thereby. I have known others who simply became more competent bastards who screwed people over without conscience or remorse because they were able to separate themselves from the consequences of their actions and view people as things rather than sentient beings. I don't want to get too Muslim here, but it all comes down to whether you wish to let the nafs (lit. 'breath'; the desires, the urges, the components of the lesser self) master you or whether your desire is for the Most High. Unfortunately most rulers do not want people to be awake, aware and really conscious. So they use the technologies to excite the nafs and keep people stupid, distracted, fearful and obedient. And religion is one of the tools they use to do so.
 

Andrew Green

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I imagine it's easier to convince people to do horrible things and to put themselves into positions that they are likely to be killed in if they believe there is something more, after death.

If you look at these things from a logic, reason and compassion perspective, they are horrid. Not things a person could internally justify doing. So you need to get around that, suspend a persons logic, reason and compassion by putting something more powerful in front, overrulling that.

Christians have done horrid things believing it was there religious duty.
Muslims have done horrid things believing it was there religious duty.
Buhhdists have done horrid things believing it was there religious duty.

Same for any religion.

Men are mortal and can be questioned. For a person to follow those types of orders the power has to be greater then a mere mortal. It has to be something more powerful, something that cannot be dissobeided without very severe consequences, something that by obeying any internal moral issues can be bypassed.

Religion gives that, as do a few other things.

As far as people curropting religion, people created religion. Some people have done good with it, others have done bad. Everyone makes it and uses it for what suits them. Religion is a means of control for those in power, sometimes it is used to get people to be good, other times it is used to get them to be bad. But either way, they are left feeling as though they have done the only thing they could have to be good, whether that thing is good or evil. That's a dangerous power to have over people.
 
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Cruentus

Cruentus

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It's important to note, that it isn't religion that gives people grounds to do horrible things. It is people who wish to do horrible things that find things to justify actions and persued others to follow. When you look at communism, for example, they claimed to be deeply anti-religious and pro-science, yet Stalin and many others used the philosophy to commit attrocity all the same.

So my point in citing the Buddhist example is that it is always the fault of people twisting a religion or philosophy to suit their agenda.

Furthermore, I should mention that I am not talking about the soldier who uses their own religious beliefs to overcome the horrors of war. If anything, that would be a positive use of religion/spirituality. I am specifically refering to the idea that any one particular religion (or all organized religion) leads to attrocity or is intrinsically "bad." It is not, as we can see from countless examples of these philosophies used for good or evil.

In a nutshell, the user seems to be more impacting the what is being used here.
 

Andrew Green

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They didn't so much use communism as they used capitalism, and the threat of once again falling into a worker class. Much the same way the french revolution took heads of aristocrats, Stalin justified taking heads off capitalists. This gave them a personal interest in the fight, avoiding opression at the hands of capitalists. Same as religion, except no God involved. But without that personal interest, if it was purely rich people fighting for control of money or land, or things that really don't directly influence soldiers, would there be as many willing to fight?

But you are right, it is not just religion. Religion is the means to an end for those in power, used to control people and get them to do things they normally wouldn't do.
 
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Cruentus

Cruentus

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They didn't so much use communism as they used capitalism, and the threat of once again falling into a worker class. Much the same way the french revolution took heads of aristocrats, Stalin justified taking heads off capitalists.

But you are right, it is not just religion. Religion is the means to an end for those in power, used to control people and get them to do things they normally wouldn't do.

Right... my point was just that under the communist philosophy they were simply able to use secular reasoning to justify attrocity.
 

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Tellner, that was one of the most informed and intelligent posts on "religion" I've seen in a long time. Thank you it made interesting reading but I won't quote it as it was so long.

People use the word "religion" to make excuses for the most selfish and indescribable things. They read into the texts and extract proof from them for what they want to prove, and use it to do whatever they want to do. The texts and the organised religions are not the problem, it is the dark side of the humans that interprete them in this way that is. When you use the word "religion" people will follow like sheep, they loose their capacity to think for themselves and follow blindy wherever they are led. Up to a certain point, with most, it's true that the morals kick in and the vast majority these days at least, will say "hang on that's wrong", but the few that just do what they are told cause enough damage to give the rest a bad name. It's been the same all through history, for instance when Christianity came over to England, they wiped out all the Pagans they could by saying they were evil, giving Witches a bad name and performing atrocities on men, women and children in the name of a lord who would have cried at the thought of it.
A lot of people still believe now that they were right because the propaganda they spread was so powerful. They were unleashed monsters.

When you let that monster out of the cage, you have to be completely sure, beforehand, that you can cage it again, and in quite a lot of instances, the person isn't strong enough to fight the dark side of thier spirit/mind so it wins over. People are/were taught, mostly by peers, to let that monster out, but usually they aren't taught how to put it back, let along TO put it back. I fear these days, this happens in abusive families, gangs, the workplace, school... in fact anywhere that someone can follow an example of another person.

One of the reasons that I wish more people would do a martial art, is that part of our training, is (or should be) to control that monster, to keep it chains while we defend ourselves against others including unleashed monsters, and, in the worst cases, like has been said previously in this thread, how to unleash your own monster and to cage it again once it has been used for it's purpose. I hope that no-one on this board ever has to do that, I've witnessed it and it was horrible.
 

Brother John

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Humans have never needed THAT big of a lie or excuse to be cruel and Horrible to other people.
EVERYTHING under the sun has been used for that.
Religion more than most.


....shame really ........

But it doesn't make "religion" the root of all evil, or even evil....
that's Our job.


Your Brother
John
 

Andrew Green

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It's a tool which can be wielded for good or evil. This is like the gun argument. Are guns evil?

Very true, religion is not the root of evil, as it is a tool used for evil. Nuclear weapons are also not evil, but using them to bomb cities out of existance is. Nuclear bombs where created to destroy things and kill people. Was religion?
 

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Cruentus

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tellner

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Second the recommendation for The True Believer. He tells the truth and does it succinctly and clearly. That is why he is disdained by orthodox political scientists and despised by fanatics.

I do have to make one note, though. It's true that the Nazis carefully vetted normal applicants for Party membership but put former Communists on the fast track. The converts were already Believers who were capable of switching the focus of their loyalty. But it must be said in fairness to the Communists that they did not reciprocate. Former Nazis who suddenly wanted to become Communists were viewed with the greatest suspicion.
 
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Cruentus

Cruentus

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Very true, religion is not the root of evil, as it is a tool used for evil. Nuclear weapons are also not evil, but using them to bomb cities out of existance is. Nuclear bombs where created to destroy things and kill people. Was religion?

Hmm...

I am not sure if this is setting up a shot against religion, or guns. In either case, they are both fundamentally different then nuclear bombs.

Religion and Spirituality are not fundamentally designed to enable to people to do violence, or control the masses. They are just used that way by the morally currupt.

Guns are equalizers, giving innocent people the ability to defend themselves against a lethal threat, regardless of oh physically outmatched they may be. They are also used for recreation, collection, hunting, and so forth. Sure, one could use them to do evil, just as much as one could use them for good (protection, recreation, etc.)

Nuclear weapons are fundamentally designed for violence, and no one collects them for hobby, and thank goodness no one hunts deer with them. They cannot be used to protect against or "stop" a lethal threat. All they can be used for is to cause damage to another country, or to threaten to do so.

So, one can certainly make the argument that nuclear weapons are evil or at least can only be used for evil and destruction a lot better then one could make that argument for guns or religion.
 

Andrew Green

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No, I switched guns to Nukes to avoid that argument, American based board and all ;)

Of course Big bombs could have uses, suppose a meteor was going to hit us, and a really big Nuke could divert it? Not evil then.


Religion and Spirituality are not fundamentally designed to enable to people to do violence, or control the masses. They are just used that way by the morally currupt.

I'd seperate the two, religion and spirituality as they are not the same things.

Are cults used to control? To enable to enable behaviour that otherwise would not occur? If yes, what is the difference between groups called cults, and larger groups called religions? Can a cult turn into a religion if it reaches a large enough size?
 
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