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The Death of God
Looking back over the decade, it’s hard not to hone in on the shocking crimes against humanity that have been committed by those who are religious.
Dermod Moore, 05 Mar 2010
The ideas that initiate warfare and cruelty have always been excuses, but they remain nevertheless potent enough to seduce the disaffected and the greedy, those whose sense of self is shaky enough to seek aggrandisement with the heady fix of allegiance, whose sense of satisfaction with the real world and its compromises is slight enough to fall victim to the seductive religious fantasy of an afterlife. Religion, when it is manipulated by unscrupulous people, becomes the most potent idea of all to inflame people to behave in the most appalling way.
Tribalism has invariably been a feature of our lives, since we were apes, if warring chimpanzee communities are any guide. Nationalism is the natural extension of tribalism, and people are all too willing to kill and to die for a flag, a monarch, a homeland.
However distorted notions of national identity may be, they tend to stick to territorial boundaries. Of course we in Ireland are painfully aware of the wound of a physical border. However, religion features strongly in the split on this island too. Indeed, the idea that monarch and god are separate is a relatively recent concept. Our conflict could be seen as one of the last imperial flare-ups from the last two millennia: the Roman Empire lives. Paisley and his loyalist forebears had a point, after all: Home Rule was Rome Rule. The Reformation was as much a religious schism as it was an old-fashioned territorial war.
As we have been reminded recently, the Vatican still wants to be regarded as a nation state, rather than a spiritual organisation. When the Murphy Commission’s requests to obtain information on the cover-up over the rape and abuse of children by priests were rebuffed and ignored, the reason given was telling. “Diplomatic” channels hadn’t been used. That’s not a complaint about which postal service was employed to deliver the letter. It is an outdated insistence that the Church is accorded all the trappings of the nation-state, to appear far more powerful than it is. The Vatican is, after all, a city state of only 800 people.