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Memo To The Barbarians:
Drop your Kalashnikovs, Osama and Khalid! The Pope says love is the answer!

Posted by aalkon at April 11, 2004 9:46 AM


Seeing the pope offering his messages of love, I thought I'd pass along this piece that was the cover story for Britain's Freethinker magazine a couple of years ago. Be warned, it's rather long, and covers not only the pope, but mother teresa and Ghandi as well. But being easter, with the hills alive with religious love, I couldn't think of a more appropraite time.

A Brahmin, Mahatma and John

In a world that seems to desperately need and even deify
heroes I thought it might be interesting to audit three of
its big box office icons a little more closely. The three
mentioned here continue to be universally loved, adored and
idolized throughout the world, with seldom a discouraging
word. And this, with the backdrop of the current
proliferation of religiously based wars, disputes and
terrorist atrocities, seems all the more germane.
When Time magazine set about nominating their people
of the twentieth century, as you may surmise, they didnt
consult with me. For shame and alas. If they had I would
have had a wee bit of a bone to pick with at least three of
the nominees.
The John alluded to in the title is Pope John Paul 11.
Mahatma is naturally Mahatma Ghandi and the A Brahmin I
refer to is Mother Teresa. Although a Catholic nun, she
practiced in India where the clergy are referred to as
brahmins. This word stems from the Microsoft-like, religious
monopoly of India, known as Hinduism. You know them, the
friendly peace loving group of devotees who, when
competition arrived, the Buddhists, ran them out of their
country and, shall we say, eliminated many of Buddhas
Well in light of these past nominations, and more
importantly, their continuing world wide adoration and
influence, I thought we might take a brief look at these
three holy people again and see if by some abnormal
occurrence we can do a better job in selecting people the
next time we compile these great people lists.
Let us inaugurate our voyage with our A brahmin
Mother Teresa. One brief caveat here. For an in depth
examination of the aforesaid nun, read the very talented
Christopher Hitchens work regarding the mother. I just have
some random thoughts here that I would like to add to the
public discussion, for her adoration carries very tangible
weight in the hearts and minds of humanity.
Recently Im motoring down the road here in Los Angeles
and I see a public service billboard extolling the virtues
of compassion. Of course there was a mammoth picture of
Mother Teresa in the ad to emphasize the point. Mother
Teresa has come to symbolize compassion throughout much of
the world. She won the Nobel prize for her work with the
orphans of India. She is billed as a selfless, compassionate
saint who selflessly(theres that word again) sacrificed her
entire life in the service of others. I can only ask at this
point, and quite seriously I might add, is the whole world
In my humble opinion, Mother Teresa and people like her
are among the most selfish, megalomanical, ego-consumed,
corporate profiteers on this planet. Mr. Potter of Its a
Wonderful life fame,(Jimmy Stewarts nemesis) could take
lessons from her. Am I mad? Well, thats beside the point.
Lets take another gander at the mother without the usual
litany of specious sophistry shall we?
Mother Teresa was an employee of the most powerful
corporation in the world, the Catholic church. You thought
it was Microsoft, oh please. Like any corporate employee,
her charge was to benefit the corporation, bring in money,
profits, recruits, positive PR. She goes to India to
minister to the orphans, a.k.a. in the corporate sales
world as opening up a new territory. India was woefully
Catholic-free as far as the Holy Roman church was concerned.
By sending missionaries into these regions they can pump up
the piteous numbers of local parishioners. Why are numbers
important? Well, money, power, clout, influence. Lets face
it, the more people you have, the more power. In fact, if
you could monopolize the religious numbers, you could
effectively control the world.
Ah but I can hear some of my detractors now. What good
are the poor starving orphans of India? What can they
contribute? Well folks its really just one big TV
commercial. The orphans, comparatively speaking, dont bring
in the big dough, but the rewards are tremendous throughout
the rest of the world among the more shall we say, well
heeled peoples of the Americas and Europe. Those are the
prized cash cows which need to be continually hooked up to
those shiny automatic cow milking machines.
But now, back to the mother. She is still in India,
tending to the orphans. She is against birth control,
against abortion, against anything that would stop the flow
of orphans because without orphans where is your ministry?
She goes about her business recruiting and converting as
many Indian people to her corporate sponsor as possible.
What was ever done to actually aid, empower or educate these
people? What was done to help them stand on their own feet?
Nothing. All that was done was to substitute one set of
fictions and mythologies for another one. The people were
kept ignorant, superstitious and weak, but then again, they
had to be, because how can you peddle your religious
fictions to people who are strong, independent and think for
themselves? And so for all of this saving they got a few
crusts of bread to fill their stomachs for another day, but
never once got anything for their heads. All of this is made
all the more ironic when you consider that the endless cycle
of religious misery and agony is what created these
situations to begin with. What was and is needed here is
just the antithesis of what people are taught in these
various religions. Stop praying to nothing, stop dreaming of
other, better lives to come, and begin to strengthen and
empower yourselves with science, rationality and simple good
old-fashioned reason. And dare I say it, humanism here and
now, not the non-existent supernatural. This is the only
long term effective cure for the world and the myriad of
problems religion has been kind enough to ordain for us. In
the end a cruel, heartless game of numbers and money and
nothing more.
But what of the notion that the mother was such a
selfless, self-sacrificing saint? Well, as previously
stated, I see it altogether differently. To the religious
mind, when the Ted Turners and Bill Gates and Rupert
Murdochs of this world build their greenback pyramids of
vainglory to themselves, they are merely amassing secular,
temporal fortunes that will come to an end upon their deaths
at the end of a 70 or 80 year span. Thats peanuts dear
friends, chickenfeed, nickel and dime, penny ante stuff at
best. When you serve God, no lets try that again, when you
are one of Gods chosen, when you are one of his
representatives, what do you have? Well simple...all of
eternity. These people have simply made a bargain, a
calculation, a business decision. You sir, shall in time
pass away, and maybe even burn in hell, but we shall live
forever and forever, and having done Gods good works, we
will sit at the right hand of God. Thats a far sweeter
deal than anything being doled out on this grubby floating
I would state, believe and argue that this is exactly
what these religious so-called self-sacrificing people do.
Their entire time on earth, are they really sacrificing, or
are they building up brownie points in the big God, eternity
sweepstakes? You buddy, your face will probably be eaten by
worms, but I shall sit on Gods throne, break bread with
him, slap him on the back, tear at large legs of buttered
mutton and sip carefully aged and refined ambrosia, ah yes,
the 1937, a very good year. Is it really sacrifice, or just
angling for the bigger enchilada at the end of this veil of
Before moving on I leave you with one story regarding
religious conversion in India. It is told by the Bhagwan
Shree Rajneesh. Yes, the guru in Oregon who had the 70 Rolls
Royces. It is from his early days in his native India.
Quoting Rajneesh, A Christian priest was talking to the
aboriginals. I listened, sitting at the back: a cold winter
night, so there is a bonfire, and in that light-that is the
only light and the only warmth-those people are naked and
shivering. And the Christian priest takes out from his bag
two statues, one of Jesus and one of Rama. Those aboriginals
believe in Rama, the Hindu avatara, the incarnation of God,
according to Hindus.
He has a bucket full of water by his side and he says,
Look, I will do a simple thing for you. This is Rama and
this is Christ. Both statues look exactly the same. He puts
both statues in the bucket of water. Ramas statue drowns,
of course, because Rama never walked on water. Jesus statue
remains floating and the aboriginals all clap, and they say,
And the missionary says, Jesus saves. How can Rama
save you? He cannot save himself. You are seeing it in front
of your eyes...
I had to stand up, and I said, Wait. I asked the
aboriginals, Have you ever heard of a water test?
They said, No.
Have you ever heard of a fire test?
They said, Yes. Fire test is the only real test. When
Rama had to test his wifes purity, she had to pass through
I said, Okay, the bonfire is there, now bring both
those statues. The priest started hesitating. I said, You
stop, and dont try to escape from here. The fire test has
to be taken-because I can see the statue of Jesus is of
wood and Ramas statue is of steel. I threw both the statues
in the fire. Of course, Jesus, poor Jesus burned; Rama came
out alive. And the aboriginals were very angry; they were
ready to beat the priest. I said, No, there is no need to
beat him.
So again I would broach the simple question, are these
people there for humanity or are they there for themselves
and their own purposes? You tell me.
Now lets move on to the Mahatma. I got my weekly
edition of The Nation and I read an article once again
praising the Mahatma for his non-violence and his liberation
of India back in 1947. In fact, Ghandi is known the world
over as the poster boy for non-violent protest and victory
over ones oppressors. Richard Attenborough made a film of
him, in which, of course, he praised and lauded the Mahatma.
It all sounds pretty dag-gummed peachy now dont it just?
But is that the real story? The full story? In the interest
of fairness, cant we have a little equal time?
If I was a TV executive and was looking for a show to
put the Mahatma on today, alas dear friends, Im thinking
Americas Jerry Springer show. Hed be a natural. Why?
Because every idea the man had was absolutely anti-human.
Here is a man that refused mosquito nets to himself and his
subjects. Why, because the nets were born of science and
technology. Ghandi then found that by spreading kerosene oil
all over yourself, the mosquitoes would stay away. My what a
surprise. In the name of asceticism and spiritual discipline
all manner of things were done. He and his wife and sons
were regularly cleaning toilets to achieve spirituality. He
once threw his pregnant wife out of the house for not
cleaning latrines. He refused to let his children be
educated. Why? Because, of course, he was against science,
technology, medicine and education in general. Why? Because
the aforementioned disciplines all lead to intelligence,
intellect and questioning attitudes. Where is your corporate
religious sponsor when this occurs? His son Haridas managed
to escape the cult. Why? He wanted to be educated. But this
was a great sin. His son eventually converted to Islam.
Ghandi was further enraged. It seems the Mahatma, who had
regularly preached that all religions were one, was
suddenly not so tolerant.
One could go on, of course, for virtual volumes of
tales, but lets look at the big picture for a moment. In
India you have a people that had been living in misery and
poverty for thousands of years. Certainly not all, but many.
Why? Because their various religions have all been teaching
that everything is a product of past lives. Poverty is a
virtue. Kill the body, live spiritually. So what happens?
Once again you have large masses of people that have refused
to live in this life here and now and live in their dreams
of the future. So to them the situation is unchangeable
anyway. Because if your current state, poverty, misery, is a
product of bad deeds in some imagined past life, then how
can it be changed? You are getting exactly what you
deserved, so lie back and take it. These are the teaching of
a great man? Am I missing something?
But Ghandi is still praised. Praised especially for his
non-violence. Lets look at that. He and his people overcame
three hundred years of British rule in 1947. This was a big
triumph for which he was universally lauded. What people
fail to mention is that it was this very system, these same
religions that put India in this position to begin with.
Consider this hypothetical. Instead of annexing India
to the British Empire, the good ol Brits had decided to
move into mainland Europe. They moved into Germany and
Russia, to name only two. My question is this, would the
Germans and the Russians have stood by for three hundred
years of occupation? One thinks not. And these countries all
pale in population to India. India is huge in land mass and
currently at over one billion people, is the second largest
nation in the world. Now how can a country of this size be
ruled for over three hundred years by men that sip tea from
cups being held in lace enshrouded hands and whose pinky
fingers appear to have erections? Simple, because if you
believe that this life means nothing, and that anyway,
whatever is happening to you is the product of a past lifes
bad deeds, then what can be done about it? If you further
isolate yourself from science, technology and education in
general, what chance do you have?
Now these are the principles that have been taught in
India for thousands of years. Ghandi comes along as merely
its latest proponent. So once again, people completely miss
the point. These religions and aesthetic beliefs strongly
helped shaped this situation in India to begin with, but
then its current practitioners are praised for ending a
misery that they were paramount in creating in the first
place. Not that the expulsion of the Brits, helped their
plight. These woeful situations are still obviously
prevalent throughout the country. And Ghandi, with his,
torture the body aesthetics, this life means nothing, you
are getting what you deserve from past lives, poverty
praising, anti-science, anti-medicine and anti-technology
beliefs is seen as a great man. He could very well have
been Time magazines person of the century.
Lastly we come to the current head of the Catholic
church, Pope John Paul ll. Now of course I or any other
heretic could introduce a long laundry list of issues that
we would disagree upon. But let me merely toss a few
subjects up in the air here.
There has recently been a higher than usual number of
cases involving priestly misconduct relating to sexual
matters involving children. Also known as child molesting in
less politically correct circles. What was the pontiffs
reaction? To condemn the priests? Well not exactly. He
denounced the scandal itself. It was hurting the Catholic
church and that was what he found objectionable. Another
legion of Catholic priest child molesters sweep under the
already crowded papal rug? You tell me. Simply
However the main thing that caught my eye and got me
thinking about an article such as this was the following
from Reuters news service in February 2002. It was titled
Pope Has performed Three Exorcisms. Now this news item
seemed to just kind of come and go, but I thought a little
examination might be in order here. It seems that as late as
September, 2001, the pontiff performed an exorcism on a
20-year-old woman. According to father Gabriele Amorth, the
girl is still undergoing treatment. The pope later said in
an address, The devil, the prince of this world, even
today continues his insidious actions. Who can argue with
At this point I really dont feel that any commentary
is our should be necessary. What is there to say? I hope the
young woman in question at some point in these festivities
falls out of the hands of the devil and into the hands of
someone with an M.D. behind their name. But of course in the
end its really not about the young woman anyway. Its about
the hundreds of millions of followers who from time to time
need to be reminded just how important it is to be good
contributing members of the church, lest these types of
vexing vicissitudes be visited upon your first born.
In a world that is constantly crying out for heroes and
leaders, because people have been so enfeebled and weakened
by their anti-human religious beliefs to begin with, are the
aforementioned three really the best we can do? Returning to
one of my opening themes, thankfully, mercifully, Albert
Einstein was chosen the person of the century and rightly
so. His contributions in science transcended his field and
ushered in the century of science and technology. He had
very long and sweeping coattails indeed.
In the end, what we have here is the age old battle
between science vs. superstition. It was and continues to
be, in my estimation, the most important battle raging on
our planet today. By far and away.
As we proceed into a new century, we can only hope that
by this centuries end the forces of science, technology,
rationality and humanism will have been able to effectively
exorcise at least some of the age old, debilitating
superstitious and religious beliefs that have so terribly
crippled this planet since the very beginnings of
civilization. Im not holding my breath, but one can hope.
Havent we as a people had enough misery inflicted upon us?
Will our sadism and masochism never end? It is all so
terribly unnecessary.
By idolizing holy people such as these we simply
further their perhaps well meaning, but insidiously
enfeebling superstitious beliefs and notions. And we as a
people, and a press, and a media, have an obligation to
speak out on issues such as these, (if we dont agree with
them,) regardless of our personal consequences in the
matter. I think it was best said by John Stuart Mill, who
stated, The time appears to me to have come when it is the
duty of all to make their dissent from religion known.
Perhaps at the end of this century we will be a little
wiser in who we choose to worship and lionize in both press
and the media. And do I have any suggestions as to who might
make a suitable candidate for person of the century next
time around? Well...yes, but.... modesty prevents me from
writing anything further.

Posted by: chris at April 11, 2004 2:51 PM

Well, Chris, you did muck it up just a bit at the end!...but other than that, brilliantly put. Of course, I don't believe in the religious version of "redemption," but you've redeemed yourself secularly -- and then some.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 11, 2004 3:06 PM

Well Chris, just when I had you pegged as,umm, well let's say, "off the deep end", you write quite a thought provoking piece. Almost redeems your crashing and careening craziness of a few nites ago with your paranoia about email address conspiracy.

Posted by: Rojak at April 11, 2004 6:04 PM

My my my, I guess you're trying to be nice, I don't know. However when you say redemption there is an implication that someone has done something wrong and now needs to redeem themselves. If you're alluding to our disagreement of a week or so ago, I stand by what I said, defended what I said, and still believe I was absolutely correct. No need of redemption needed.

Rojak-People like you really are truly sad. You mention the word redemption as well, which I already resoponded to and then go on to say that it was paranoid-the p word. People like yourself, people that are shall we say, intellectually challenged, always use this paranoia line. meaning, well I can't factually defeat your argument, but I'll call it paranoia and try to discredit you with that brush. Really it's just a sophisticated way of calling someone an ass. It's an ad hominem attack.
I'll go slow for you. The email thing was not paranoia, I state again. ON other blogs and boards Iv'e been on, people create phony personas all the time. Why? A few reasons. One is to create phony experts that supposedly come in and back them up. Secondly, well, let's let Amy herself explain it, shall we? In reading Amy's letter about spano, I went over to LA Observed as Amy suggested. Over there apparently a Mr. Ricey was badgering Amy. Then Amy writes back, "Once again, Mr. Ricey is on the job, apparently posting under a fake name, to start the snitty personal attacks flying, not discuss substance. Quote unquote. So if I am suffering from paranoia, apparently so is the goddess. Gee, I wonder where she got the idea from?
I'm not criticizing Amy as being paranoid, she's probably right. Ricey probably is some kind of jealous fake, just as i believe the doctor was on this blog. Amy's not wrong in her observation, just coming around to the reality of these blogs. Without having to put in valid emails all kinds of creeps loonies and weirdos can make up all kinds of phony personas.
So in summation Rojak, your observations are simply silly and carry no weight. It is the typical ad hominem attack that has become so frequent on these blogs.
But of course if you post on these blogs it comes with the territory. I have literally received 1000's of attacks (primarily from my anti-religious writing, but not exclusively) on blogs, emails, snail mail and in person, with people throwing fists. None of it dissuades me in the least. But do your best.
One question? Is it possible to move on and not revisit the past? We can if you want, and I will defend my position unwaveringly, but what's the point?

Posted by: chris at April 11, 2004 7:12 PM


Posted by: Lena at April 11, 2004 10:05 PM