Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What counts as "religious tyranny"?

My friend Ed commented on yesterday's post that
There are many in this country that would go along with the killing of anyone that wrote against Jesus. Two months in the desert with only the Bible and I could have these same people blowing themselves up for the faith.
I don't think Ed means to say that he has actual experience exploiting certain "religious vulnerabilities." I think he's just pointing out that those vulnerabilities do exist, and they can be exploited. (Actually, the vulnerabilities may be a good deal more available than the religious context implies. "The Milgram Experiment" of the early 1960's* showed that there were enough ordinary people in the State of Connecticut to man all of the Nazis' concentration camps. That is, ordinary people could be manipulated appropriately to think that what they were doing was acceptable.)

So, the question I have now is whether all tyrannies involving people who are correctly categorized as religious are "religious tyrannies." I suspect that more than a few are, rather, cynical manipulations of religious people by other people whose motives are anything but religious. Do all of the "suicide bombers" among the Palestinians and the Sunnis blow themselves and their "enemies" up from truly religious motivation, or have they been hoodwinked by people whose true lust is for...political power...or revenge...or nationalism...or...?

Ditto for the Bush administration's cynical exploitation of the religious right wing's vote. The lust of Bush and Cheenie and Rove and DeLay seems to have been to establish a Republican Party hegemony lasting "for a thousand years" (to echo an appropriately fascist precedent).
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* Written up recently in the Yale Alumni Magazine.

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