Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Nonsense As Social Control

Most religions and ideologies contain elements which don’t make any sense. Not just those due to ignorance, but beliefs that are irrational, even downright bonkers. The sort of stuff that even a bit of common-sensical thinking would lead one to question. Examples? Well, try transubstantiation, (1) bodily resurrection, match-head size embryos as babies, or the world as 6000 years old. Let’s not just pick on religions – there are lots of secular nutbarbarisms too, try the idea that Jews control the world or that some raving psychopathic killer is The Great Teacher of The Proletariat.

If you wish to belong to the group, whether church, cult or political party, you have to accept these crazy aspects. With religions, in a whole-hearted fashion, for if you secretly question one of these beliefs you are guilt of a mortal sin.

The idea behind this is, accept one bit of lunacy and you are softened up to accept other lunacies. Accept whoppers like bodily resurrection or transubstantiation and you will be ready to cheer when heretics are burned at the stake. Once you weaken the power of human reason, once you allow an irrational belief to take hold, you open the door to further irrationalisms. Get the individual to distrust his-her reasoning power and they will be open to manipulation by church or state. Accept the initial nonsense, you have begun to doubt your reasoning ability and will allow others to manipulate you with beliefs that have no more logic behind them than “ It is a sin, crime, treason, to believe otherwise. For the sake of the Church, Nation, The Leader, you must believe this.”

Thru this understanding of the power of nonsense we get a further insight into the insanity of the 20th Century. The men who went off cheering to WW1, the people who turned in their neighbors to the Nazis because they were Jews or leftists, those who happily rounded up the “kulaks” or the “Trotskyites” - all these poor saps had been softened up well in advance. They already had their heads stuffed with church irrationality and the non-believers among them had their own set of crackpot notions like eugenics, social darwinism and “race science”.

Given this brain-softening, it’s easy to accept a Fuerher, A War To End All Wars, or The Infallible Leader of the Proletariat. And in the United States today, it is no coincidence that 40% of the population support the invasion of Iraq, the same percent that think the world was created in 4004 BC.

1. The belief that during Communion the bread and wine are not just the symbols of the blood and flesh of Christ actually BECOME the blood and flesh.


Blogger Pat Murtagh said...

Dear Larry,
I agree with you totally, and I guess that I have ever since I left the Holy Church of Rome at the age of 15, but...
I find this discussion very apt amongst "us", but I would not want it to become part of a general "anarchist propaganda". As I get older I find fewer reasons to attack religion qua religion and many more to make common cause with religious believers. As an atheist I could make the arguments that you have made to say a member of the Catholic Workers' Movement and still have a working relationship with them, BUT I could not make the same arguments to somebody who wasn't of a pre-existing libertarian bent and expect them to listen to anything else that I had to say.
It's a matter of tactics rather than strategy.
Pat the M.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I agree that we have to be tactical about this and I certainly wouldn't want this to be part of any program or general propaganda. Nor would I (or do I) single out religion alone for this problem - secular ideologies have their own brands of luncacy which have been perhaps even more murderous than religious ideology.

Perhaps there are more subtle methods propaganda-wise of dealing with irrational belief, other than going after it hammer and tongs as I have, and this leaves room for further thought...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

I've had leanings toward Catholicism myself, so I don't have a problem with transubstantiation or bodily resurrection. Whether you buy them or not, they're at least internally consistent and have been fairly stable over the centuries.

What I find really bizarre, though, is churches that abruptly reverse their doctrine nearly 180 degrees, and expect their membership to change direction just as abruptly--while insisting that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia. The best example I can think of is the Jehovah's Witnesses' practice of shunning members who insist on clinging to what they call "old light" (i.e., actually remembering what the "Governing Body" said last week). ("Why don't you have the 1975 volume of the Watchtower?" "Oh, we just sent it back for rebinding.")

They are about the closest approximation I've ever seen to the Party's practice of deliberately making up absurd doctrines as a way of enforcing buy-in to even more absurd doctrines in the future.

10:47 AM  
Blogger werner said...

Propaganda changes over time. For a period before 1861 the Vatican did not oppose abortion as generically as in the present time. The dogma of "quickening" was dropped at this time although most Catholics wouldn't know this.

5:26 AM  

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