It has long been my belief that the modern world is cursed by religions of war, in part because we no longer have sensible gods like the ancient P’an Chin-lien who was the Chinese goddess of prostitutes.
Prostitutes, who have always been murdered, beaten and raped at the highest per capita numbers for any profession, are in need of understanding as much as anyone, and P’an Chin-lien offered the ancient prostitutes of Cathay hope that they might achieve an afterlife in one of the thirty-three heavens instead of one of the eighteen hells.
Ancient gods around the world also provided hope to farmers in need of help with crops, hope to those with horrible illnesses in search of cures, and assistance to those troubled by a need for spirituality.
The early gods were mostly beneficial gods who provided hopefulness to supplant the travails which beset mankind, the most famous of whom in various forms, is the one we call Mother Nature today, called Gaia by Ancient Greeks, Nokomis by Native Americans. Phra Mae Thorani in Indochina, and Jord by Northern Europeans.
Today there are the monotheisms of Judaism and her two primary offspring, Christianity and Islam, often competing at murdering around the globe to prove which is the true faith (although modern capitalism has replaced Christianity for most of those who profess to be practicing Christians). These three represent god of war faiths, as established from viewing the history of the last millennium. when millions died in their name.
How it all began
I have often wondered about how the first gods were invented. I created a story to describe how that may have occurred, following.
There once was a human named Godda. He may have been an early homo sapiens, or a preceding species of the genus homo. He traveled in a band called the Sunrise Clan. One day Godda was hunting and fell, breaking his leg. Since a member of the band was of no use with a broken leg, Godda realized that soon, when the clan needed food, he would be eaten.
Godda stayed awake that night plotting what to do to save his skin, and the next morning spoke to the band about a god of thunder who would bring his wrath on any people who ate human flesh. He had noticed rain clouds moving their way in the distance, and sure enough, as members of the clan scoffed at him, chanting that the gimpy one would be eaten soon, an outbreak occurred of roaring thunder and flashing lightning.
Godda had made his point, and after that people listened to him, as he told them that the god of thunder spoke to him in his dreams, and he was a priest representing the great god. God demanded that he be fed and cared for, and thereafter religious leaders were cared for by their flocks.
When anything good happened, the gods were given credit, and the religious leaders were held in even higher esteem.
The rise of subsequent dieties
After bands of humans transfigured into city states, it became possible for megalomaniacs in power to inspire citizens to go to war, in order to conquer neighbors with which to amass larger fortunes by taking their possessions. War, however, is not embraced by the masses, who do the suffering and dying for the elites that profit from it, so religious doctrines were added to offer rewards to the masses for participating. Elites concocted ethereal reward systems which had the advantages of offering both fruitful premium, while costing the elites nothing.
The most famous of these was the promise of Elysium, a paradise where heroes, fallen in battle, lived out eternity, cared for by beautiful maidens. All a Greek soldier had to do to attain this, rather than be sent to the more dreary Hades, was to die heroically in battle.
Vikings encouraged their young men to die in battle for their lords by providing them with the myth of Valhalla, a paradise where fallen heroes go, again, to be cared for by beautiful maidens who provide for their every need throughout eternity.
In some South Pacific cultures there was a special heaven for the fallen heroes who die in battle, located above the heaven where others go after death. Those in the under heaven may suffer somewhat, as those in the upper heaven defecate on them throughout eternity. Who would not wish to go to the higher heaven?
It is clear that many religious myths are intended to inspire young men to fight to their death in combat. Such a thing encourages a strong military force representing the city-state or nation, enriching the elites who rake in the spoils of war.
The lies continue
Today we have cinema and television action tales to motivate young men with martial incentives. The “news” media do all they can to help promote this, inviting retired generals as guests to discuss war, never a member of the peace community to provide the other side of the debate. The propaganda is tightly rigged to go one way, in support of every war.
Video heroes gun down terrorists and other “bad guys” in our action films, inspiring young men to join the military out of a sense of patriotism. Television networks and Hollywood should be paid for this massive recruiting effort. In fact, the Pentagon has provided payment to the National Football League for patriotic propaganda.
Some Isis/al Qaeda fighters themselves (dubbed “terrorists” by opponents) have fictionalized a version of Islam in which those martyred in battle will be given a number of virgin maidens to care for their needs throughout eternity, much like the ancient religions.
In Israel, it is the ancient battle of Jew vs. Muslim, somewhat disguised by the Tel Aviv government, as the slaughter of Muslims is not universally condoned by Israel’s Western enablers. This is done in the name of god, and the Judaic god is said by them to have given the land to the Jews and supports the taking of the land at any cost from the Arab peoples. No evidence need be presented when one has god on one’s side.
The Muslims identified as “terrorists” by the US government and its allies see the Western offensive as an attack by Christians, although it is not that simple, with capitalism, for many, replacing the old religious dogma. Crusaders from the West entered the holy lands and massacred thousands of Muslims, leaving hatreds burning to this day. It was said in that time Crusaders even slaughtered Muslim women and children in the name of the Christian god.
The capitalist god
The West has itself fallen under the spell of the god capitalism, with a plethora of myths to support it. Capitalism is the only economic system allowed to be favorably covered in the mainstream media, and is given credit for providing for the needs of the masses as would a diety, even though it obviously doesn’t do this. After all, to make American capitalism work, it requires the world’s largest prison system, thousands to die each year for a lack of health care, and millions homeless and hungry, more than any other major industrialized nation.
When something happens in the economy which cannot be explained by rational evidence, as though it is a god we are told that a supernatural “invisible hand” of capitalism is responsible. College courses are constructed to make it appear that the benefits of capitalism go to all, ignoring reality.
Capitalism, like the ancient gods, benefits the plutocrats and oligarchs at the top of the system in an elaborate pyramid scheme. Wars are not fought in the name of Jesus, but for capitalism, as massive profits are made from the selling of weapons and materials to the taxpayers, the profits mostly going to the oligarchs and plutocrats who run the planet like a private plantation.
The center of the capitalist religion is the Pentagon, so supreme that it is not required to have a budget. This way, routinely, billions of dollars may disappear, as though by magic, and there is no way to guess where it might have gone. Every decade or so a member of Congress gets upset and tries to figure out where the money went, and is told there is no way of knowing, it just disappeared, perhaps taken by the “invisible hand” of capitalism.
American capitalism requires some 800 foreign military bases, more than any past empire, to go after enemies conjured up by the elites, and to protect global commerce representing the elites, largely at the expense of everyone else.
Capitalism’s defenders say, “Oh but it provides jobs,” as though such a thing is not considered to be offensive to the capitalists, who lay off millions at the drop of a hat when the true purpose of capitalism, the production of profits for executives and investors, is not providing the required excessive wealth. The pretense is to suggest that the providing of jobs is somehow beneficent of the ruling class, when in fact, it is the workers in those jobs who provide the production leading to the profits, and if all of the ruling class were to die, the economic lives of the workers would actually improve.
The religion of capitalism is most avidly supported by the mainstream press, which is always faithful to promoting wars and any military expenditure, on behalf of the investment portfolios of its owners, board members and advertisers.
The unsuspecting public are told that not Jesus, nor Muhammad, nor the Buddha, but capitalism provides, and if you die in its now eternal wars, you will be called a hero in the mainstream media and revered. To follow the mainstream press, one might conclude that it is heretical to question the invisible hand. More than a thousand cable channels are without even one representing socialism.
Millions of citizens, calling themselves fundamentalist Christians, cheer the slaughter of Muslims by our government and its allies, and cheer a Christian god embracing capitalism, ignoring their Biblical Jesus who is quoted, “What you do to the least of them, you do to me.”
Jack Balkwill has been published from the little read Rectangle, magazine of the English Honor Society, to the (then) millions of readers USA Today and many progressive publications/web sites such as Z Magazine, In These Times, Counterpunch, This Can’t Be Happening, Intrepid Report, and Dissident Voice. He is author of “An Attack on the National Security State,” about peace activists in prison.