Subject: AIDS, Anthrax, and Religion
From: Tom Keske (email@example.com)
THE SINS OF RELIGION
I can anticipate the day when Americans will be seeking
answers to questions like these: "Now, what kind of fool does
it take to launch an anthrax attack on New York City? What
kind of fools would it have taken to start an AIDS epidemic,
I also anticipate what I think is the most probable answer to
the question that has not yet been asked: Specifically, I
think that it is most likely to take religious fools.
Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, "To do evil a
human being must first believe that what he's doing is
To continue this train of thought: What is it that most makes
human beings imagine that evil deeds are good? It is not
merely "ideology", so often as it is specifically religion.
An article of faith that is virtually unquestioned in the
consensus view of America is that religion is a positive,
constructive force within a society. It is a moralizing and
civilizing influence, something to bring strength and comfort
during life's hardships, something to lead us to deeper
truths. When there are counterexamples, these tend to be seen
as instances in which religion is "misrepresented" or
"misunderstood", but rarely are such counterexamples viewed as
reflecting problems and tendencies that are inherent to
An "inherent tendency" is not an "inevitability"- this
observation is not intended to tar all religion. Still, an
"inherent tendency" is exactly that, a serious enough of a
problem to cause us to reevaluate the pedestal on which
religion has so long been placed.
A case in point is the recent "odd couple", uniting a church
leader and a white supremacist in alleged germ war plots.
The charges against Larry Wayne Harris and William Leavitt
were dropped, but this should hardly be taken as proof of
innocence. Harris, the white supremacist, had boasted of
having enough anthrax to "wipe out the city of Las Vegas".
Leavitt, the former bishop of a Mormon Church was described as
"meek", "a devoted husband and father", someone who was "a
dupe to Harris's devil".
It is a nauseating lie, from sheer denial. Harris had been
previously arrested, his story and his biowar boasts were all
over the internet, he was known to be an Aryan Nation member.
I knew all about Harris, long before this news story made a
It is unthinkable that Leavitt could have been bankrolling
Harris with such huge sums of money, without knowing exactly
who he was.
Why the denial? I recall how Jeff Jacoby, a religious
conservative columnist, was glowing about the Mormon Church,
how wholesome they were, when Mormon Mitt Romney was running
The CIA supposedly has a preference to hire Mormons because of
this same "wholesomeness" that conservatives crave so much.
Of course conservatives, in their lust for wholesomeness, look
down on gays as if they are walking, talking, living,
breathing pornography videos. Little do they concern
themselves with how the Mormon Church preaches that gays are
"possessed by demons", or still electroshock gays, or how some
of their prominent clergy openly encourage for gays to be
What turns meek and wholesome family men into monsters?
Let us consider some of the sins that are basic to the very
essence of religion:
* 1) Excessive self-certainty
One of the most valuable assets in seeking truth is the
ability to question oneself, to revise and reevaluate one's
beliefs. Religious history reveals mostly an all-out, frontal
assault on this vital ability.
When one has God on one's side, one is as infallible as the
Pope on a downhill roll, with a strong wind behind him. After
all, if God is infallible, then God's chosen (or
self-appointed) representatives must also be infallible.
* 2) Obliterating shades of gray
Much of the real world exists in ambiguities, in people and
things which are both good and bad, neither good nor bad,
alternatively good or bad depending on circumstances and
context. There are issues and ideas on which the best minds
of the world could never agree as to the good or bad, in any
amount of time.
It is inherent to religious thinking to tend to obliterate
such subtleties and ambiguities. There are two pigeonholes:
you are with God and are good, or are against God, and are
Consequently, many evils are consecrated, much good is
maligned and oppressed.
* 3) Demonizing opponents
Not only does religion tend to turn gray into black and white.
The black is very, very black indeed, and the white is very,
very pure and white indeed.
When one is "against God", then one must be a serpent, a
viper, a devil. Fit to be killed.
The meek religious man knows that New York city is an evil
place. It is not what God wants. Therefore, it is VERY evil.
The meek, religious man knows that Sodom burned. Therefore,
it is ok to hit New York with anthrax, no matter the millions
of innocent people who actually live there.
When one is "godly", then one must be wholesome, cheerful,
loyal, shining, a paragon of virtue. Therefore, the meek and
wholesome, religious family man could not possible be a
monster who would have consorted with a man who wanted to hit
New York city with anthrax.
* 4) Inability to negotiate or compromise
The art of compromise is what made this country possible, and
that art is becoming a lost art.
Why should one compromise, when one has God on one's side? To
compromise at all is to compromise with evil.
* 5) Lending the cloak of respectability to primal urges
As part of our evolutionary heritage, we all share an instinct
for cruelty, for violence. Of course, religious
fundamentalists cannot comprehend this because they will argue
fiercely against evolution.
In the civilized world, we long for an outlet for our primal,
animal instincts. Like a cat, we wish to kill the bird, to
have a mouse to bat around and to torment.
A peculiarity of civilized man is the cultural inhibition that
we have developed against some of our own inner instincts- a
peculiarity that is vital to preserving our lives, or to
prevent us from having a life as brutish as an animal's.
In order to release the tension of our unsatisfied primal
urges, we need to feel a social sanction. Religion tends to
provide that very dangerous sanction.
That bird, that mouse, isn't just an animal with a life, that
feels pain, that deserves minimum respect as a living thing.
It is a devil-bird, a dirty rodent. It is a threat to all
that is good. Therefore, it is ok to purge it from the world.
The religious mind does not make decisions by doing research,
evaluating the pluses and minuses. The religious mind tends
to send out invisible, mental questionnaires to God, by
mental telepathy that we call "prayer", seeking "guidance".
The religious mind fantasizes its own replies. How
convenient, that God has instructed and ok'd our doing exactly
what we had impulses to do, in the first place.
And the first impulses that we had were the ancient impulses
of our savage evolution from the animals. From the depths of
the lowest, we consecrate to the highest.
* 6) Contempt of rationality
Shortcomings of these kinds might be plainly visible from any
kind of rational analysis. Look at history, see what kinds of
things have been done, then look at yourself, and see what you
are doing now? See the connection?
Look at other religions, see how they act, then look at
yourself, see how you are similar.
Think about what really makes for morality. Does a homosexual
break your leg or pick your pocket, cause you any material
Such efforts at rationality, one of the last hopes of avoiding
violent conflict, are frequently wasted on the religious mind,
because rationality itself is viewed with contempt.
"Heaven's reasoning is not the same as Man's reasoning!", I
have heard TV preachers proclaim. "Send me your best debaters
and philosophers- I will make mincemeat of them", they
There don't have to be REASONS why something is evil. The
Bible says so, that's the end of it. And that's the end of
hope for peaceful coexistence.
"Let us reason together". How bitter these words become, when
the very concept of reason itself is viewed with suspicion and
* 7) Superstitious blindness to risk
How could someone start a biological attack that could destroy
huge numbers of innocents as well as the ungodly, the heathen
savages and the "depraved"?
What psychological factors make a religious mind impervious to
a rational analysis of risk?
The religious mind believes that it has a special "destiny",
has been groomed for greatness. Hitler had such a
superstitious and strong belief about himself. He could only
envision himself dominating in the end, not his own country in
Hitler is sometimes characterized as a "pagan", but that is
probably a kind of denial, a defense of the institution of
religion. He had been a choir boy, attended a religious
school, sometimes characterized himself as a devout Catholic.
He made respectful references to religion. His notions of a
"thousand year" Reich seem highly reminiscent of Christian
ideas, in his own perverted form.
It not so much that he was into "occult" or "Satanism", as
religious apologists would prefer to believe, so that they can
disown an embarrassing one of their own.
It would probably be more accurate to say that he was simply
making up his own religion as he went along, which is what Big
Egos of Religion tend to do, little different from Hubbard,
Moon, or Koresh.
He probably saw himself as many Americans saw him- a good,
moral, non-nonsense person. He didn't smoke or drink, for
display debauched habits. He just didn't have much tolerance
for degenerates- a minor flaw to overlook.
When Hitler survived an assassination attempt, he saw it as a
"sign" that he was destined to win, despite the worsening
Little concern do we have when people that we trust display
similar patterns of thinking. Jimmy Swaggart, Ronald Reagan,
Pat Robertson, the Pope- many figures of our time, have all
displayed notions of being ordained as instruments of special
divine purpose, of being "saved" and "protected" from
assassination attempts, so that they could carry out those
Hitler had superstitious beliefs in astrology, in divination.
Similarly, we have seen Presidents influenced by things as
silly as astrology.
When one thinks in terms of Divine Missions, or thinks in
terms of black-and-white Evil Empires, one does not weigh
risks rationally. We are fighting a Great Evil. We have
Destiny to win the fight. God will protect us in the fight.
God has guided us in our decisions. It must be God who made
the necessary weapons available to us.
Therefore, it's ok if we send in the CIA to undermine and
dissolve an enemy nation. God approves, God will protect.
When the war was nearly lost, Hitler superstitiously waited
for "miracle" weapons. The religious/superstitious mind is
not prone to expect the most apparent and probable outcome.
The religious mind is conditioned to expect the most
IMPROBABLE outcome as the one that will happen, when the chips
How surprised the world would be, to find that the meek
church-goer, the family man, the friendly and helpful
neighbor, could ever become caught up in acts of sheer
How we fawn over the "strength" that "faith" gives us. Should
we praise the find character of the man who finds strength and
hope, from carrying his lucky rabbit's foot?
If this world is ever to be a saner world, what would be our
attitude toward religion?
How do we relate to astrology? Do we hate and torment
astrologers? No. Do we censor them? No, they appear in the
funny pages, their books are freely for sale in the
Do we feel compelled to let astrology go unchallenged, for
fear that it would be "rude" to question someone's "deep
convictions"? No, we consider it a positive thing, making for
a better society, when we try to debunk astrology.
When we are sane, if we are ever sane, we will continue to
have a humble respect for the mysteries than we cannot answer,
and the things that we cannot understand. We will simply try a
little less to fill in the blanks, to make up our own answers
for the unanswerable, and then fantasize that they are
Our major religions will take their rightful place with
astrology and voodoo- debunked but tolerated, regarded with a
certain amusement, uncensored but not perched upon an