December 24, 2020 Category: Religion


Justitia Fiat, Ruat Coelum

The more Progressive Judeo-Christian portrayal of the Abrahamic deity is that of a super-being that loves everyone unconditionally–and genuinely wants to help everyone.  However, in Islam’s holy book, we encounter an altogether different portrayal of the Abrahamic deity.  Instead of an ALL-loving entity, the Koran’s protagonist is an overtly sadistic, astoundingly petty, self-absorbed dictator…who, we are told, is actively seeking to damn a large portion of humanity.

Those of us who are intellectually curious might ask: What sort of super-being can have such contempt for a large portion of his own Creation?  Are we to spend a lifetime cowering in the presence of a pathologically vindictive, preening deity…with rather peculiar fixations?  Are we to devote our lives to groveling before a despotic overlord who moonlights as the manager of a celestial luxury resort?  Are we to be wary of a fallen angel who doubles as the proprietor of an afterlife concentration camp?  Is that REALLY what life is all about?

“Pay me tribute!” says the overlord, “Or I will be very displeased.” Is this REALLY the scheme that drives the entire universe?

Such a stunted worldview is a sure recipe for living a life in which one misses everything that is truly wonderful…and then dies afraid.  Lulled into a comfy–yet false–sense of security, votaries can remain smug in their hyper-dogmatism…even as their consolation is intertwined with chronic trepidation about an impending judgement.

An illustration of this scenario was Donald Trump’s ridiculously condescending television series, “The Apprentice”.  The show’s “set-up” is as old as human civilization:  Contestants scramble to appease a temperamental, navel-gazing despot in order to avoid being vanquished.  The proceedings are a test of their dedication to the cause.  Life, then, is primarily about groveling before a vindictive (cosmic) impresario.

The “hope” is that, if the supplicants pander obsessively enough to an impetuous dictator, they might avoid the dire fate of being “fired”, and–if they play their cards right–end up “winning” (i.e. securing the prize at the end).  Film at 11.

This is the program that religious fundamentalists–both Christian and Muslim–deign to make, commercial free, without the constraints of Reality TV.  Indeed, the central conceit of this scheme doesn’t change when we map the presiding overlord from corporate executive to, well, a loftier station (that is: to cosmic proportions).  We’re still dealing with a petty, capricious tyrant (or, to be more specific: a smug, not-very-bright-yet-thinks-he’s-brilliant BULLY).

A contorted morality can’t help but ensue from this mental posture.  Under such conditions, the impression one is left with is: The worst thing that one can do is not–say–harm another person; rather, the worst thing one can do is displease the authorities (read: stray from the assigned path).

I once heard a devout Muslim ask (rhetorically), “How can you believe in god if you do not pray?”  Such a Kafka-esque query is enough to make once wince.  (That question was just as confounding as its converse: “How can you pray if you do not believe in [the Abrahamic deity]?” –a question I receive regularly from Abrahamic theists when it is brought to their attention that spiritual secularists like myself often pray.)  

And so it goes: Prayer is seen as not only something one must do IF one believes in god, but something one must do IN ORDER TO believe in god.  This fundamental misconception is both a pre-requisite and inevitably consequence of theism (mono- or poly-).

In reality, every “salat” is an instance of idolatry in that it is a profession of fealty to the deified object.  The incessant recitation of the assigned script can’t help but have long-term effects on one’s psyche.  That is, after all, the point of obligatory (“fard”) prostration.  Regular prayer (especially when highly choreographed) is an optimal program of conditioning.

Relentless glorification of ANYTHING can only ever delude the human mind, fostering obsession (and begetting some sort of fetishization of the implements used).  Yet, according to passages like 16:52, we OWE the Abrahamic deity “constant worship”.  In other words: You must worship him constantly because it is his “due”.  He demands that you show him appreciation by exalting him day and night (11:114, 17:78-79, 24:36/58, 52:49, and 73:20).  A super-being that demands to be placated more resembles a petulant child than a sagacious overseer.


Fear & Love In Abrahamic Lore

There is a queer relationship between love and fear in Islamic theology.  It stems from the notion that piety is a function of fear–as articulated by “taqwa”.  This peculiar term appears–in one form or another–over a hundred times throughout the Koran.  The ideation equates piety with fear (as in the imperative: “ittaqullah”).  Piety is important, we’re told, because it protects the supplicant from god’s wrath.  Thus Faith is primarily about PROTECTION FROM that which one worships.

Verse 76 in Surah 3 explains that god “loves” those who “fear” him.  This trope permeates Islamic theology.  After all, the intertwining of fear and love (under the auspices of “taqwa”) has a certain utility.  The trick is to instill trepidation, using anxiety as a tool of manipulation.  Those who are cowering are much easier to control.  When people are nervous, their critical faculties are attenuated; which is precisely what authoritarians count on. *

Here, adoration and unease are intertwined in a kind of neurotic exaltation.  By unifying awe and neurosis, votaries can be kept perpetually “on edge”; and thus “in line”.  The message is simple: “Cower and revere!”  This makes sense, as supplication and timidity are symbiotic.  And so it stands to reason that so much Abrahamic scripture is strewn with threats.  The theme of “Fire and Brimstone” is timeless; as proselytization is often made more potent by fear.  Note, for instance, Hawthorne’s tale about the obstreperous Puritan cleric getting young Goodman Brown to quaver.

No source that legitimately seeks to empower people operates in this manner; as intimidation is not consummate with liberation.

The Koran tells us that Mohammed of Mecca (as god’s messenger) was sent as “a mercy for mankind”; but–of course–this assumes that mankind was in need of mercy in the first place.  Redemption?  Redeemed from what?  Absolution?  For what, exactly, must we atone?  Some kind of reprieve?  From what?  From life’s travails?  Which ones?  In what ways?  From disease?  Nope.  From socio-economic injustice?  Nope.  From “jahiliyah” (a protracted state of ignorance)?  Perhaps; but most Abrahamic scripture only served to exacerbate that problem.  So that can’t be it either.  (Revelation is often passed of as a special kind of edification; but it has proven not to be anything of the sort.)

The answer, then, must be: From perdition.  Yet that begs the question: If god did not deign to damn people to begin with, then there would be no need for him to grant special dispensation.  (Such an arrangement only makes sense if damnation is the default condition of mankind.)  When it comes to promises of salvation, the broader question is: What is it to be saved?  Saved from what?  To what end?

The rules of the game here are relatively straight-forward: God is merciful; but one needs to plead for it!   And he needs to be placated.  To the degree one manages to appease him (by meeting his demands), one can save one’s own hide.

God offers grace, you say?  Sounds nice.  Yet the pressing question remains: Mercy to for what purpose?  Mercy based on what?  There is no “original sin” in Islam–so there is no tribunal in which humans are effectively indicted for the crime of being human (as in Christianity).  Yet we are thrown into this crucible of obloquy nevertheless.  Once throughly immersed in stupefaction, the godhead can then come to the rescue.

The gimmick is as old as time: Create the (impression of) a sickness; then offer the (purported) cure.

According to the theology proffered in the Koran, though mankind may not be afflicted with the stain of “original sin” (at least, not in the sense that it is posited in Christian cosmogony), we are–as it were–on furlough.  To wit: We are living a life of probation.  In this sense, the entire point of life is to be vetted for which fantastical destination each person shall be routed in the (imaged) hereafter.  Life is a test.  The test is based entirely on piety (rather than on probity).  Efficacy is a function of the degree to which the supplicant gives a vainglorious cosmic overlord his due.  (Mandates for worship mean that the godhead’s due is a continuous supply of unctuous praise.)

Essentially, the Koran prescribes a program of forced adoration–an odd directive if there ever was one.  The notion of compulsory love is a peculiar notion, indeed.  Sure, it’s still our CHOICE whether or not to give the Koran’s protagonist the devotion he demands; but this is true only in the myopic sense that opting not to revere Kim Il Sung is an available option in North Korea.  Of course, a North Korean citizen is free to NOT do so.  The issue concerns the CONSEQUENCES OF that choice.

Here, we might bear in mind that it is not freedom OF speech that characterizes a democratic society; it is freedom AFTER speech.  With a proverbial gun pointed at one’s head, there is–in the narrowest of senses–still a choice.  Prerogative only matters if it is is exercised without severe consequences.  One is free to rob a bank; but that is a decidedly obtuse way of thinking about freedom.

It is in the same sense that one is free to choose whether or not to be Muslim.  In any case, compulsory love (as articulated in passages like 53:62) is, by definition, not love.

So what of amity between human beings?  In what way does what the Greeks called “agape” (love for all one’s fellow man BECAUSE he is one’s fellow man) play a role in the “din” prescribed by the Koran?  None.  It is not devotion for one another that bonds “nas” (mankind)…or, at least, denizens of Dar al-Islam.  Rather, it is a shared devotion to the Koran’s navel-gazing protagonist that bonds them into an “ummah”.

In NOT EVEN ONE of the thousands of verses in Islam’s holy book did the Abrahamic deity see fit to urge good will toward all human beings.  Instead, the authors of Islam’s holy book focused on threats of hellfire…with some Earthly pleasures to tantalize the target audience.  (After all, the last message to mankind is sold–above all else–as a WARNING.)  Rather than appeals to love, they opted for fear.

The use of fear to control people en masse was nothing new when the “Recitations” were composed.  Nor was the glorification of those who instill fear.  The practice goes back to the Hebrew Bible (most famously, Psalm 11:6).  Shortly after 100 A.D., John of Patmos composed the phantasmagorical “Book of Revelation”, a tract brimming with “fire and brimstone”.  By the time puritan fanatic, Jonathan Edwards composed his lurid jeremiad, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (in 1741), the schtick was all-too-familiar.

Fearing the object of devotion is indicative of a commonplace dysfunction.  Psychologists often refer to it as “traumatic bonding”–operative in battered-housewife syndrome.  In such scenarios, one ends up revering an authority figure not IN SPITE OF an abusive relationship, but BECAUSE of it.  (Says the abusive husband to his cowering spouse: It’s for your own good!)  We thus encounter the theological version of Stockholm Syndrome.

The lexeme for “fear” in the Koran is “kha[w]f” / “kh[a]if”, with “-attaq-” / “-ittaq-” often appended as a suffix.  (The Semitic root is K-F.)  FEAR is used 283 times throughout the book–primarily pertaining to the godhead.  Beyond that tally, TERROR (“ruba” / “faza”) is used 9 times.  This is in keeping with the incessant use of the motif “god’s wrath” throughout the Torah and Book of Revelation.

Variations on the lexeme for “love” in the Koran include “habb[a]” / “habb[u] / “hibb[a]” / “hibb[u]” / “hubb”.  (The Semitic root is H-B.)  Love is used 53 times in the book.  Almost all instances of the lexeme pertain to god loving certain people (e.g. Sabirun, Muhsinun, Muttaqun, the pious, those who pray, those who fight in his cause; i.e. Muslims) and certain people loving god (i.e. Muslims).  The enjoinder for love in the Koran is almost entirely about reverence for–and devotion to–the Koran’s protagonist.  Other uses of the lexeme connote being enamored by some THING (e.g. food, wealth, etc.)  Love between people is only mentioned ONCE (19:25); and even then it is referred to contemptuously.  

This is downright bizarre, if not tremendously disconcerting.  One would think that the final message to mankind would be, if not ALL ABOUT love, then PRIMARILY CONCERNED WITH love.  No such luck.  There is not a single exhortation for all people–regardless of Faith–to love one another…or even to have compassion for each other.  The closest get is mention that helping the poor / sick / orphan / wayfarer is to be encouraged…even as we are told not to make friends with non-Muslims…and even to FIGHT them.

Thus: In only one instance does Koranic verse–obliquely–broach the topic of affection between people.  Yet none of this resembles the Ancient Greek “agape” (universal love of fellow humans qua fellow humans); what the ancient Chinese referred to as “ren” (Confucius) and “jian-ai” (Mozi).  The notion of universal love is distinct in several religious traditions around the world.  This stands in stark contrast to the Koranic notion of “love”: devotion to a particular object, be it the Abrahamic deity or anything else OTHER THAN a fellow human.

If the Koran’s protagonist intended to be as clear as possible in his message to mankind, he did a horrendous job of it.  Meanwhile, if different humans authored different parts of the book at different places at different times under different circumstances, this is EXACTLY the sort of convoluted vocabulary we’d expect to find.

The bottom line is that votaries are supposed to both love and fear the Koran’s protagonist, thereby achieving submission via intimidation.  (Subservience via coercion takes many forms, but the basic psychological apparatus involved is the same.  It is invariably a function of the master-slave relationship–as the Koran makes explicit.)

For a point of reference, let’s contrast the Koran’s incessant repetition of its myopic conception of “love” (devotion, strictly in the pious sense) to the more conventional conception of love found in the New Testament.  One of the better-known passages on the matter is in the fourth chapter of John’s first letter (verses 7-8): “Let us love one another because love is from god; everyone who loves is born of god and knows god.  Whoever does not love [each other] does not know god, for god is love” and then (11-12): “Since god loves us so much, we also should love one another… If we love one another, god lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.”  Verse 16 reiterates: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in god, and god abides in them.”  God is the engine of man’s love for his fellow man. 

The salient contrast comes in verse 18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”  This is the antithesis of the Koran’s message, as it divorces fear from love rather than unifying them.  The passage concludes: “We love because [god] first loved us.  Those who say, ‘I love god’ and hate their brothers are liars.  For those who do not love a brother whom they have seen cannot love god whom they have not seen.  The commandment we have from [god] is this: Those who love god must love their brothers also” (verses 19-21).

There is nothing anywhere in the Koran that resembles this.  It is not for nothing that the (Mohammedan) Last Revelation announces itself as A WARNING, whereas the Gospels announces themselves–quite literally–as GOOD NEWS.  The distinction here is very telling.  The Koran is based primarily on an INDICTMENT (and thus a threat) whereas the Gospel is based primarily on ABSOLUTION (and thus a promise).  In a nutshell: The former is a function of fear; the latter a function of (ACTUAL) grace.  Shorn of the incessant wrath propounded in the Book Of Revelation, the New Testament is inviting rather than intimidatory. **

We find that in both Christianity and Islam, supplicants are expected to approach the Faith-on-offer with some queer combination of terror and awe (thereby infusing compulsory exaltation with chronic anxiety).  Such an attitude melds worry with wonder–like a battered wife who reveres her abusive husband.  Thus: trepidation and devotion become two sides of the same coin–a sure recipe for dysfunction.  In such a situation, the battered wife’s abiding adulation of her spouse is in no way compromised by his constant undermining of every good reason for her misguided devotion.

One might refer to this condition as the spiritual equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome.  When Stockholm syndrome becomes communal, and engenders a kind of mass-delusion, it is sometimes referred to as “Oslo Syndrome”.  Theologically, this amount to a kind of existential extortion.  In any case, it is a gratuitously-induced, pseudo-spiritual neurosis that so many demagogues are eager to promulgate.

{*  The use of fear to cow people into submission is also found in Bukhari’s Hadith (4/52/220).  Mohammed of Mecca is famous for having said: “I am made victorious through terror.”  For more on the use of fear to control people, see my essays, “Nemesis” and “The Siege Mentality”.  I discuss the use of (false) hope to control people in “The Island”.}

{**  Bear in mind that I am no fan of the New Testament.  This is not apologia for Christian scripture, which has its own serious problems.  Rather it is a juxtaposition presented for didactic purposes.  Unfortunately, an auspicious Palestinian Jew’s message (the “Good News”) was eventually perverted by much of what came to become “Christianity” qua institution –a topic I explore in “Genesis Of A Church”.  This grotesque distortion rendered the Faith–more than anything else–a blueprint for escaping hellfire and gaining admission into paradise (a motif put into overdrive in the Koran).  Indeed, Nicene Christianity ended up being based more on the Book of Revelation than on anything Jesus of Nazareth actually said; thereby making piety [“taqwa”] primarily a matter of fire and brimstone (like the Koran) rather than about an exhortation to agape (universal love; i.e. what Jesus taught).  Just as Marx would not have been a Marxist, Jesus would probably not endorse most of what operates under the aegis, “Christianity”.}


Empowerment Via Subservience

Written on the gates of Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps was: “Arbeit macht frei” [Work sets you free].  What in heaven’s name could this possibly have meant?  Was it some Orwellian shibboleth that was unique to Nazism; or was it indicative of a larger theme?

Some concepts are awkward simply because they are not just ill-defined, but ill-conceived.  This is not to be confused with concepts that are perfectly coherent, yet are awkward simply because they are unfamiliar to us (e.g. vertical horizon).  Especially deranged is the notion that one can achieve spiritual emancipation by way of worldly subjugation; as this trope has been put in the service of many an odious cause.  This obtuse (one might say, harebrained) conception of civility can be found in all authoritarian apologia–from Hobbes’ “Leviathan” to Edmund Burke’s polemic against revolution.

According to conventional Islamic theology, supplicants are to be thought of as slaves to god (“abd-ullah”).  What, exactly, is this supposed to mean?  The paradoxical notion of enslavement AS emancipation is not unique to the Abrahamic Faiths.  It is, after all, the standard mentality of those who are seeking a master to obey.  Take, for instance, the primary Aztec god, “Tezcatlipoca” (“Smoking Mirror”), who was colloquially referred to as “Titlacauan” (roughly translated as “we are his slaves”).*  The idea, of course, was to propose a means of empowerment by expressing fealty to the deity-in-question.

The queer notion of emancipation via enslavement is flabbergasting to level-headed observers; as it amounts to: “We shall empower you by putting you in an existential prison.”  This is not uncommon when Reactionary thinking is afoot; and is especially prominent in fascistic / theocratic contexts.  One might even say that the modus operandi of any authoritarian regime is to propound subordination disguised as liberation.  Insofar as leaders are deemed proxies for the divine will, putting oneself at the mercy of “god” translates to putting oneself at the mercy of the figures who claim to act with his imprimatur.  The ruse plays right into the hands of those in power.

Both Nicene Christianity and Islam are predicated on the supposition that complete submission is the best way to “liberate” and/or “empower” oneself–presumably: by putting oneself in the good graces of the godhead (who would be remiss to doll out grace to those who fail to submit to his demands).  According to this contorted logic, subordinating one’s mind–nay, one’s very identity–to an authority is the optimal path to well-being….to wisdom…to righteousness…and ultimately to some kind of “salvation”.

The astonishing thing about this claim is not how obviously false it is; it’s that so many people have been bamboozled by it…all over the world…for centuries upon centuries.  Such dupes have generally misconstrued the actual effects (which are invariably dysfunctional) to be the sought-after virtues.  Hence the ILLUSION OF wisdom / probity / transcendence so often found amongst committed votaries in highly religious communities.

The prospect of being spared the burden of having to think for themselves is enticing to certain people.  Many eagerly jump at the opportunity to simply follow instructions…and simply call THAT “morality”.  “Right” is synonymous with “obeying commands”–what Nietzsche dubbed the “slave mentality”.  Only with this mentality could one see a symbol of oppression and subservience (the burka / niqab) and construe it as some kind of exaltation.  And only someone who is thoroughly indoctrinated can be convinced that such a woman has “freely chosen” her own degradation. **

Indeed, the abdication of (autonomy-based) responsibility can FEEL liberating…even exhilarating.  WHY?  As it turns out, the rapturous sensations that a religionist sometimes experiences when putting himself entirely “in the hands of” his deity is similar to that of an insecure toddler who allows himself to be swept up in his parent’s reassuring arms.  The same psychological mechanisms are at work in either case.

Presumably, the authors of the Koran adopted this delusive gimmick in an attempt to fashion a new-fangled Abrahamic religion that would “stick”…and serve their purposes.  Tragically, it DID stick; and so ended up serving their purposes staggeringly well.  Caliphates, as it turned out, were NOT a shining model of democracy.

Inculcation of the command-and-obey motif is a stratagem to keep people cowed / complaint–which means: disinclined to attempt disrupting the established order.  Such a ploy is as old as time.  The Roman Catholic Church has been using it with stellar success since the 4th century.  Failing to adhere to social norms (that is: refusing to stay “in line”) was deemed “heresy”; as it was a threat to incumbent power structures.

The “empowerment through subservience” sales-pitch was (and, unfortunately, continues to be) nothing but a ruse for engendering widespread obeisance.  It is a scheme to engender a chronic yearning to comply with diktats and conform to the prescribed “din”.

Note the timeless formula, used by con-men since time immemorial: Create (the impression of) the sickness, then offer the (alleged) cure.  The universal human predisposition for credulity makes us all ripe for being hoodwinked by this enthralling scam.  

Consequently, people can often be persuaded that their enslavement is really a FAVOR being bestowed upon them from the powers that be.  We should recall the prostration is a mental as well as physical act.  This is especially so with Islam, wherein propitiation is entirely about a show of supplication (“ibadah”).  The ensuing flood of serotonin (or rush of dopamine, as the case may be) is like an anesthetic for any cognitive dissonance that might be involved.  (Dopamine, we should bear in mind, plays a key role in gratification and reinforcement.  So it is the neuro-chemical basis for CONDITIONING.)

Sycophancy is not just submission of one’s station; it is a submission of one’s mind.  Think of the groveling, brainwashed lackey who gushes to his despotic master, “I am HONORED by the opportunity to serve you.”  Says the ruler: “I am doing you a FAVOR by enslaving you.  You should be grateful.  You’re all the better off for it.  TRUST me.”  Hence: subordination seen as a kind of liberation.

This peculiar inversion of logic actually has a long history, as it undergirds the rational behind authoritarianism.  The most well-known philosophical exponent of authoritarianism in modern times was the ardent monarchist, Thomas Hobbes–who, in the 17th century, argued that submission to a sovereign’s power is the best guarantee of personal freedom.  The more absolute the submission, the more powerful the sovereign is made, and so the freer the polis becomes.  Subjugation as emancipation.  A person’s “liberty”, then, can only be ensured through an authoritarian regime, which exercises power for–the contention goes–everyone’s own good.

The notion that there is dignity in religio-political self-abnegation is born of a kind of existential masochism.  Self-abnegation is not required for a prudent amount of humility.  Obsequiousness is certainly not required for the (measured) degree of humble-ness necessary to attenuate avarice and self-absorption).  Servility plays no role in transcendence.  The supposition that the human race is inherently degenerate, and can only be “redeemed” via supplication to a cosmic overlord, is inane.  Self-effacement is not a prerequisite for agape or to avert conceit.  The divine no more demands that we be a slave to it that that we be a slave to ANYTHING or ANYONE.  Slavery is inherently degenerate, not mankind.  We need to be redeemed from our own misdeeds, not from our shared humanity.

The Koran defines our ideal relationship with the divine as one of “ubudiyah” (bondage / subjugation) rather than as one of communion.  This is not only wrong, but deranged.  It is not through submission that we “get in touch with” the divine; it is through engagement.  We might also note the term, “ibadah” (colloquially used as “worship”) which is associated with the term for “slavery” (“abd”) and has connotations of obedience / submission…as if the relationship with the divine were primarily achieved via a disposition of obeisance / subservience.

It is not uncommon for Islamic apologists to attempt to make the (patently absurd) case that to ENSLAVE oneself to the Abrahamic deity is to LIBERATE oneself (that true freedom can only be found through admitting that one is god’s slave).  That such a preposterous statement is taken seriously by so many members of the Ummah is testament to how utterly deluded votaries can become.  (The argument often goes: You have to be a slave to SOMETHING, so it may as well be to the protagonist of this book.)  Recall that the relationship of human to the Koran’s protagonist is explicitly one of slave to master.  All things are thought of in these terms (which is, of course, unsurprising; as this was a standard mindset for the Dark Ages).

The perversity of compulsory adoration aside, if the Koran does not beseech its audience to spend their lives cowering in submission, groveling for approval, tripping over each other to placate an overlord that demands constant praise, scrambling in desperation to appease a pathologically vindictive deity, then what in heaven’s name DOES it beseech?  After we get past the repeated threats to torture large swaths of mankind for eternity (for the unforgivable infraction of insufficient supplication) and the incessant reminders of how awesome the book’s protagonist is, what are we to think?

Of ALL the horrific things the deity could have chosen to condemn, why such a bizarre choice of petty transgressions?  It is a rather peculiar thing when, in his purported final memo to all mankind, of all the pressing matters with which the human race was contending, the Creator of the Universe was so inordinately fixated on such things as slave-holding protocols, choreography for worship, and dietary habits.  (Keep slaves and conduct pogroms, he declares, but whatever you do, don’t eat the meat of an animal that died from falling on its head.  Meanwhile, ensure that you pay me tribute on a daily basis, lest I become extremely displeased.)

It is sycophancy the Koran’s protagonist demands, not what Kant called “maturity”.  Instead of “Saper Aude!” he says, “Be frightened enough to submit!”  Per the Koran, the most noble thing a person can do is cower in the face of their cosmic overlord while remaining wary of those who are outsiders.  It’s as if subservience were the natural state of a man, and divisive tribalism were the magical elixir that will make the world a better place.

What are those who “sign on” to this program thinking?

This effectively amounts to a textbook case of eleutherophobia (fear of freedom).  The phobia operates under the auspices of a noble aspiration to become empowered.  (It is how so many women in the Muslim world can be duped into covering their faces because “it’s for their own good”…even though the Koran instructs them to do nothing of the sort.)  Here, the thinking goes: “Well, we MUST submit to SOMETHING.  Therefore, we may as well submit to THIS.” ***

The ONLY alternatives for submission, the argument goes, are as follows: Whatever prevailing social norms happen to impinge upon us, an arbitrary human master, our own whims, or the protagonist of the Koran.  Pick one.  This false choice is as unscrupulous as it is self-serving, as it omits the other–and most obvious–option: no submission.  (Ref. Spinoza, Kant, Paine, Nietzsche, et. al.)

Put another way, the perfidious ultimatum offered here proceeds from the premise: It is inevitable that we are all going to be slaves to SOMETHING; so we may as well opt to be slaves to THIS (a super-being representing every positive quality extrapolated to infinity) rather than to, well, anything else.  This leads to a splendidly simple solution: Submission to said super-being is the only answer; and through submission we can be empowered.  Thus one can be a coward while at the same time enjoying the illusion of empowerment.  It’s a sweetheart deal that’s tough to turn down.

The stratagem of a scam like this is to persuade participants that surrendering to its demands is “for your own good” and the only viable alternative.  “So get with the program…or you’ll be sorry.”  Translation: KNOW YOUR PLACE…and do as your told.

The sales-pitch proceeds accordingly: “It’s inevitable that we’re going to be slaves to SOMETHING, so we may as well make it to the purportedly BEST thing.”  This theological scam is compelling.  The upshot is a romanticized “abd-ullah”: enslavement to the Abrahamic deity.

The credulous and insecure are easy targets for this semiotic swindle.  After all, when someone feels cornered (and the stakes are so high), what other recourse might they consider than that of acquiescence to the prevailing narrative?

It should be noted that the misapprehension of construing subservience as a form of empowerment is commonplace in contexts other than religion.  Indeed, we find this ruse operative in most systems based on top-down control–and, for that matter, characterized by systematic manipulation / exploitation.  It is, after all, a (deviously) effective way of getting people to SURRENDER…and thank you for the pleasure of doing it.

Viewing subordination as some kind of emancipation is a dysfunction if there ever was one.  The tragic psychic phenomenon could be accurately labeled, “Theological Stockholm Syndrome”.  It is a diabolically brilliant way to persuade people that servility is the best way to have dignity; and that daring to think for oneself is a capital crime.

In reality, transcendence is realized by COMMUNING with the divine, not by “surrendering” to it–as if an inferior power to a conquerer hellbent on domination.  It is not a master over us, it is a life-force that infuses us.  Subservience only makes sense in an authoritarian context; not in a spiritual one.  It demeans us; it does not uplift us.  Servility doesn’t abet our connectedness to the divine; it attenuates it.

{* Another moniker for “Tezcatlipoca” was “Ilhuicahua Tlalticpaque”, meaning “possessor of the heavens and the earth”.}

{** We find that the “empowerment through subservience” meme is the rationalization often used by women who are brainwashed into believing that wearing a burka / niqab is somehow GOOD for them.  Alas, the vulgar idea that one can garner dignity by being overtly demeaned is commonplace in cults of all stripes.  Pace masochism, no mentally stable human–male or female–would freely choose to routinely cover his/her face.  (Nowhere in the Koran does it actually direct women to garb themselves in such a preposterous manner.)  In any case, the degree to which women in much of the Muslim world are subjected to this depraved practice is proportional to the degree to which domestic abuse increases–an irony that is usually entirely lost on Islamic apologists.  It is no wonder that in the more theocratic regions of the world, incidence of harassment, rape, and abuse SKYROCKET (whilst reporting of such things is heavily discouraged), regardless of the brand of theocracy.  The doctrine of “veiling” thus has the exact opposite effect of the one used to rationalize it.  (It’s like mandating cigarette smoking in order to mitigate lung cancer.)  One would think that an omniscient super-being would have foreseen this.}

{***  How else to persuade women that covering their faces is “for their own good”?  It’s the same way tens of millions of otherwise sensible people can be persuaded that they must engage in a highly-choreographed “salat” five times each day in order to curry favor with a cosmic overlord.  Keeping a vengeful deity placated is evidently what life is all about.}

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