When humans put their beliefs before their humanity


A few specific incidents recently, the general occurrence of which has been going on for a long time, has left me in no doubt that we humans value our ideological beliefs more than we value human life.

I take it for granted that everyone is capable of kindness, love, compassion and goodwill towards other human beings. But it plagues me that humans can and will without hesitation abandon all of this when certain of our beliefs are challenged.

And it seems to me the most culpable belief that humans will defend, with total disregard to cost and consequence, is religious in nature. And the greatest cost is life off course.

Boko Haram (figuratively meaning “Western education is sin”) is an Islamic terrorist organization which has been laying siege to Northeastern Nigeria since 2002, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 10 000 people (quite possibly much more). At the most basic level, they kill innocent people to further their insane religious ideology. Recently they kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls whom they still hold captive, although reports indicate some have been sold into slavery or as child brides.

The fate of these schoolgirls is still uncertain, while the politicians vacillate. Which off course is quite normal for politicians. Political chicanery easily has the same disastrous effect as religious ideology, and indeed, when the State and Organized Religion conspire together, it usually ends in tragedy.

Take Sudan for instance. It is one of a growing number of countries (especially in Africa and the Middle East) that have no qualms about persecuting and even killing its citizens, to satisfy (invariably misunderstood) religious edicts. In Uganda, you will face imprisonment or even death for being of the “wrong” sexual orientation. Wrong is decided through belief, inspired by archaic religious text.  In both countries the politicians have no problem agitating its citizens who harbor demented religious beliefs, into tormenting, even killing those who even vaguely seem at odds with said beliefs.

Only recently Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a pregnant Sudanese women who has just given birth in prison, was sentenced to death (but not before receiving a 100 lashes as well) for apostasy. Her crime was to fall in love with a Christian man. It is an exercise in futility pointing out to these demented ideologues that a benevolent God would not take kindly to such an insane act of pettiness. They would probably stone you to death.

Which was exactly the fate of Farzana Iqbal of Pakistan. Farzana whilst also pregnant, was stoned to death by members of her own family, including her own father for marrying the man she loved rather than the one her family had chosen for her. Honour killings are the direct result of ideological beliefs, most likely rooted in culture and religion. And that opens up another can of worms…

Culture and tradition can be as bad as religious beliefs, and quite often is. It is quite sad that in the modern scientific world, archaic cultural beliefs can still hold sway over abundant evidence to the contrary. In some societies, any or all activity that is at odds with cultural norm, can get you hurt or killed.

What will these purveyors of insane belief systems do if they eventually manage to wipe the rest of us off the face of the earth (not likely, but worth considering)? Will they then turn on each other? Will the purveyors of the surviving (insane) belief system then sit back and twiddle their thumbs, waiting for the rapture (or similar curious belief)?

Will the God that you believe in, accept them into heaven ( or similar curious belief)? Do you still think such a God is good?

The only reason culture is sacrosanct, is because you say so…

I have in fact said this before, but not in those same words.

Well, at least one other person believes the same thing. Online editor Chris Roper, writing in the Mail & Guardian about football culture, sums it up pretty nicely in his opening paragraph:

A useful rule of thumb is to avoid anybody who uses culture as an excuse for doing something stupid. From wearing neckties to picking brides out of a line-up of bouncy little breasts, from showing respect for your elders to hunting a whale, it’s all a bunch of bullshit. Yes, I’m sure your culture is vitally important, and we have the right to practice whatever nonsense we want, but really. The only reason it’s sacrosanct is because you say so.

The rest of the article mostly makes reference to Manchester United players, one of which goes like this:

Park, Park, you’re an ugly fuck, you’ve got a face like a crispy duck; could be worse, you could be gay, getting bummed by John O’Shea.

Football culture aside, if you want your culture to not be ridiculed, leave it at home where nobody else can see it or be bothered by it. It goes without saying that it is not deserving of any respect.

Just pull out that culture card…again

I read a letter posted to an online newspaper today. Yay! No wait! It was interesting, in the way it showed up the ignorance about culture.

This guy, David Lucas was writing in response to a presumably white women who expressed her disgust at the penchant of the local Zulu population to slowly and ritually kill an ox with their bare hands, to satisfy a traditional custom known as Ukweshwama. Well, he basically called her a racist and berated her for questioning the culture of non-white people, supposedly while her own race indulged in similar bloody practices.

He goes on to cite Spanish bullfighting, the bull running in Pamplona and the Rodeo in the USA as examples of bloody practices that whites indulged in. He states that if you ask the Spaniards, Italians [?] or Americans why they “do this to animals,” they would respond that it’s part of their culture.

And that folks is where the problem is. Not only are these Spaniards, Italians [?] and Americans idiots, they responded that way [if this idiot, David Lucas is to be believed]because of years of indoctrination in protecting one’s beliefs. The bloody sporting activities described by David Lucas are no more cultural than picking one’s nose. It’s just become very convenient to protect one’s crazy beliefs and desires under the banner of culture, just as one protects one’s crazy supernatural beliefs and desires under the banner of religion. Culture and religion – a great place to hide and protect craziness.

These people know that once you classify something as religious or cultural, you will enjoy the protection of the clergy, the politicians and the state. It’s that simple. Really David, you dumb fuck, it’s wrong whether you’re black or white or fucking alien green; race has nothing to do with it.

And David, I’m non-white and I have this sudden strange desire to practise the Aztec ritual of  ripping out still-pumping hearts from the chests of my fellow humans. It’s bloody yes, but I feel the need to proliferate this great cultural tradition once more. I’m sure I can count on your support, if some frigging white person has the temerity to object…

The price of culture

I have always suspected that tradition and culture are confused and used interchangeably. I tried to Google the difference and came up with even more confusion, but I think the following definition from rediff Q&A seems to make the most sense, or it’s the closest to the way I understand it:

Tradition is way of living, expected to be blindly followed, no questions asked!
Culture defines that way of living and seggregates it from other ways of living by giving it a unique space to thrive on

In short it would appear that ancient traditions that are passed down from past generations, are either adopted as is, or modified in some way to eventually become the culture of the present generation. There are undeniably good traditions such as fun dances and huge family get-togethers. There are also unbelievably bad traditions such as beheadings and other gruesome methods of torture and killing, and others mostly associated with religion.

Modern democracies seem to think it necessary to protect cultures (and religions; although why an all-powerful god cannot protect his own conduit for adulation, has not been successfully explained yet) and hence it becomes constitutional. Effectively, a whole lot of bad traditions which have found their way into present cultures, become protected by law. Thus we have the absurd situation where cultural groups can pretty much behave in ways that are repulsive to other cultural groups, but will receive protection from the state. Society then functions by enforced tolerance – we all hate each others way of life, but there isn’t a damn thing we can do about it. Such a society certainly cannot be a healthy society.

Which brings me to the reason for this rant: It’s been reported in the press today that our President, Jacob Zuma’s three wives and 20 children (at last count) costs the South African taxpayer in the region of R15.5million to support annually.

Polygamy is a tradition that has no relevance in modern society. I don’t care if the women involved in polygamous relationships think it’s fine or fun, but in the modern world, this practice is an insult to women in general. And any man who tells me that marrying multiple women is doing them a favor, is either a filthy liar, or a total idiot. Yet, in South Africa, and probably many other countries too, the government demands that it be tolerated, because it enjoys protection as a fucking cultural practice.

It’s bad enough that I have to tolerate religion and culture, but it’s downright outrageous that I have to pay for someone else’s fucked-up sense of responsibility too.

What about culture?

Photographs of many foreign dignitaries (and their wives), standing outside No. 10 Downing Street have been published over the years. So what’s wrong with this picture?

Source: Mail & Gaurdian Online - 05 March 2010

The British have been bending over backwards for a while now, to accommodate all sorts of religious demands, so why not cultural demands too? Don’t you think it’s time they widen the doorway at No. 10 Downing Street to accommodate at least three more wives of any visiting dignitary who is culturally more demanding?

Is this the world’s most lethal coctail?

While pursuing the Taliban discussion on-line yesterday, the topic of ancient cultures arose. A question was raised as to why we celebrate ancient cultures from deep in the Amazon and darkest Africa, but find the culture of the Taliban so repulsive. Which got me thinking (yes, that heretical process that gets religionists all riled up :)).

Most ancient cultures that have been kept hidden from the world, are a mystery to us (modern man) and to satisfy our curiosity and the need to learn, we naturally seek them out. These cultures have remained hidden, simply because the adherents, having no beef with the modern world, value their privacy and isolation (and would have remained blissfully isolated had they not been discovered). The striking thing about these cultures is that there is no impetus to force their culture upon the modern world. In effect they pose no threat to modern man, or his civilized values. Therefore, the civilized thing to do would be to “celebrate” these cultures from afar, and leave them the hell, alone. But modern man feels the overwhelming desire to “help” these people, and thus have we destroyed many ancient cultures forever.

However, every once in a while we come across old or ancient cultures that possess certain cultural traits that are in conflict with modern values and morals. One such culture is that of the Taliban; old yes, but loathsome, backward and just plain loopy by modern standards. They are not so mysterious, because we have read and interpreted most of their written ideology; what remains a mystery though is why they themselves have such wide interpretations of their own writings. Such a culture is ripe for manipulation by wily politicians, with self-serving agendas.

Now consider that culture’s evil partner is religion. Nothing stirs the emotions and gets people into a frenzy, like religion. And consider that all you need to marry these evil partners, is a crafty politician. What better politician than a cleric (an  imam in the case of the Taliban); and he has the “god-given” power to consecrate the marriage too. In this combination, we expose probably the world’s most lethal cocktail: politics, religion and culture. When these three elements come together, death and destruction and sorrow, always follow.

Take away the politically deviant cleric, and the morally bankrupt religion, and the Taliban would be just medieval delinquents, with their puss-filled culture slowly rotting away in the stinking desert, and the world would have, not only been none the wiser…but even safer.

Religion, Politics and Culture or Religionists, Politicians and Culture. What’s the Connection?

A heady mix, especially religion and politics. Most people don’t recommend discussing either when in polite company; or in any company for that matter, especially when alcohol is available to lubricate the tongue. But where does culture fit in, if at all? Recently I came across a post on a social networking site which claims that religion and culture are one and the same. So, if culture is related to religion, is it also related to politics; and is politics for that matter related to religion. If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to attempt to uncover any connection, relation or association between religion, politics and culture, through a logical or mathematical approach.

Apart from the observation that nearly everyone has an opinion on religion and politics, and seem to want to assert that opinion, both are connected in other, rather ignominious ways. If you accept that regulation of  policy is derived through politics and that politicians formulate and administer, said policies, then it follows that politics revolves around politicians. What’s that got to do with religion? Well, Comedian, George Carlin commented that “When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.” In truth, politics (and politicians), like religion, thrives on false promises and exaggerated, even absurd, claims. There’s your first connection, right there.

The second connection between religion and politics may not be that obvious, but it’s real, even if contentious. Religion owes it’s continued existence to it’s ability to enthrall poor, needy and desperate people. A politicians career also depends on his ability to mesmerize the poor, needy and desperate (with, yes you guessed it; false or exaggerated promises). Obviously, education also plays a role, but it goes without saying that generally, the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be scammed by religious and political scumbags (in other words, Evangelists and Right-wing Conservatives).

What’s the connection between religion and culture? Although some people assert that there is not much difference between the two, there actually is. The fallacious association is made when one examines how they both evolved and were adapted in different parts of the world. The reason one may find them indistinguishable from each other, is because religion and culture have merged to such an extent over time. However, when you look at the origins of religion and culture, the distinction is obvious. Religion is associated with base, primal instincts. It evolved out of a need to make sense of the world, in the absence of philosophy and science. Culture is associated with advancing civilization, and a more sophisticated, philosophical, even scientific way of life. It is safe to postulate that culture set in when religion stopped providing all the answers. The problem with religion is that it is a nasty, vicious animal, and won’t lay down and die. To ensure it’s survival, religion has crept so far up the ass of culture, they’ve become locked into an indistinguishable mess.

And what about culture and politics. Is there a connection? Well, all I can really say about this, is that the culture of politics is to perpetuate lies and deceit, and the lust for power at all costs. Enough said…