Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Following God Into War

New reporting strengthens the claims that former President Bush was driven by theological fancies in his pursuit of the Iraq war:

In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France’s President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.

In Genesis and Ezekiel Gog and Magog are forces of the Apocalypse who are prophesied to come out of the north and destroy Israel unless stopped. The Book of Revelation took up the Old Testament prophesy:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle … and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”
Bush believed the time had now come for that battle, telling Chirac:
“This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”.
It may be that people will find rationalizations justify whatever they're inclined to do, but it still remains true that religiously-based rationalizations are a particularly noxious and dangerous instance of this. The person who manages to convince himself that his reasons and goals are god's reasons and goals will naturally regard his opponents as quite literally evil, or at best acting in the unknowing service of evil. If the religious believer is Christian or Muslim, the creed itself readies him to accept and expect that the world will be hostile since the world is fundamentally corrupt, and will explicitly demand steadfast devotion to god's truth no matter the obstacles (stubborn facts, valid arguments, cogent reasoning, experienced judgment, etc.). The creed conditions Christian and Muslim believers to expect strife, hardship, persecution, ridicule, and setbacks that are, to all appearances, calamitous.

This elaborate buttressing structure is rarely if ever matched by the kinds of everyday, garden-variety ideological attachments that motivate people.

Secularism is a response to this danger. Secularism demands that religion and state stay as separate as possible, and insists that political leaders assess their choices and pursue policies based on public reasons, evidence, and experience, not those of revelation or personal communion with unseen authorities. It's little wonder that secularism is, to many religious believers, a literally satanic force.

1 comment:

larryniven said...

It's also pretty depressing to think that Bush went around drumming up support for the war with totally different reasons abroad than here at home. I mean, yeah, that particular reason is mind-blowing in its stupidity and dangerousness, but this isn't Ocean's fucking Eleven where it doesn't matter how you get the gang together so long as you get the gang together.