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Meditation 1357
Sic Semper Tyrannis

by: Manny

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I just read a fine little volume titled "On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder. While written more from a political perspective and outlining the threats that, left unchecked, will bring democracy to a state of totalitarianism, it has nevertheless a number of salient points that apply to religion as well.

At the beginning of the chapter titled "Believe in Truth" Snyder writes "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom." It is ironic that so many Americans trumpet their right to personal freedom, then hand this freedom over to religious and political leaders who take this personal freedom away. Snyder states that "You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case." He goes on to quote Victor Klemperer, who asserts that "Truth dies in four modes."

Snyder writes, "The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality." Religion bombards us with one claim after another, none of which are subject to objective verification. "Holy" scriptures may (or usually may not) contain an internal consistency, but using the words of the Bible to prove the words of the Bible fails the test of objective verification. Religion and political leaders tend to discount facts, particularly scientific facts. So don't think for yourselves, people, just believe what I'm telling you because you can trust me. I wouldn't lie to you, would I?

The second mode is shamanistic incantation. It's a short ride from the rote recitation of "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" to a mob shouting "Build that wall!" and "Lock her up!" I once had a friend who was heavily into selling Amway who described one of their conventions in glowing terms, how exciting it was to have a convention hall full of people all shouting slogans in unison. While it was only a sales convention, the use of mob mentality to brainwash people has many forms. And once established, this mentality can be used in many ways. As history has shown, and continues to show, not all of the uses are benign and ennobling.

The third mode is magical thinking. Can there be a better example of magical thinking than religion? As George Carlin said, "Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there is an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day." If "God" is in control of everything, you get a free pass on having to take responsibility for your own life. If there is a divine plan, nothing you do can ever be your own fault because it was meant to be so according to the plan. So you really aren't free at all.

The final mode is misplaced faith. Instead of believing in evidence-based reality, some people put their faith in certain bad-haired, small-handed politicians who claim to be the only one who knows how to fix things. Belief is handed over willingly without the need to be given a single specific on how things will be fixed. Education has been gutted and denigrated to the point where the unthinking masses elect leaders who further exploit ignorance to keep these masses ignorant. More people can tell you who was "voted off the island" or won the latest American Idol/The Voice/Dancing With the Stars than can tell you who their city council representative or state legislator are, or point to Portugal on a map. The media are called "scum" and the sentiment is parroted by the unthinking.

Religion has been used repeatedly to advance political agendas. Same sex marriage was used in the 2000 and 2004 elections as a means of energizing the Christian right. Never mind that the government doesn't belong in anyone's bedroom. Or as I like to say, "If it ain't your penis, your anus, or your uterus, it ain't your business." But just try passing that bit of wisdom along to the "Love thy neighbor" people. eh? Institutionalized racism and intolerance are the price we pay for our unwillingness (and increasingly our inability) to think.

As the second Article of Faith of the UCTAA states, "If there is a Supreme Being, then that being appears to act as if apathetic to events in our universe. To quote the estimable George Carlin again, "This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude."

Keep thinking!



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