The Solution We Aren't Considering

By David Swanson

There is a solution that most of us are not seriously considering but should be. We are all increasingly aware of the problem: a world that lacks peace, democracy, an equitable distribution of resources, and practices that can be sustained without risking the viability of human life.

We can shift blame to the powerful, but were we all willing to do a bit more, we would ourselves become the powerful. There are no excuses. We must look at ourselves and our neighbors and ask what it is about us that allows us to tolerate such injustice, cruelty, and destruction of resources needed by future generations.

There are habits of thought that prevent us from putting up a sufficient fight for life and decency, habits that can be dropped much more easily than we can create a democratic media or put some spine in the Democratic party or end the war on Iraq. In fact, if we drop these habits of thought, each of those tasks and many others will become much easier.

The habits of thought I have in mind include the habit of imagining that “this” life is of relatively little importance, the habit of allowing others to tell us what to believe, and the habit of assuming that things happen for the best because they’re part of a plan.

Things don’t happen for the best. Increasingly they happen for the worst.

Wake up! If there’s a plan it’s a plan for mass suicide with torture and humiliation along the way. The United States is now controlled by an individual who openly declares himself above the law and willing to routinely violate it in order to spy, imprison, torture, attack sovereign states, use chemical weapons, employ depleted uranium, or bomb civilians. Do we need something more before we can rise up and create a democracy?

Yes, apparently we do.

But there is something we can do that would change things. And we can start in this most religious of nations. We can immediately cease going to church, synagogue, mosque, palm-reader, astrologist, or crystal rubber.

This is a choice we must make. We are not willing to face it, but we must, or we must perish. We cannot have a sustainable energy policy and religion. That has become very clear. We can base our lives on “faith” and destroy life, or we can drop these primitive fantasies and become “pro-life” in the sense of acting so as to protect and improve lives. By “primitive fantasies,” I mean, most prominently, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

I realize this cuts against the grain of accepted political wisdom, which holds that progressives must prove that they can kneel as low before God as a committed fascist, because then people who would otherwise be attracted to fascism will vote for progressives. And, of course, progressives can kneel that low, but it’s not as easy, it doesn’t work in American politics, and in the long run it is destructive of all hope for a better world – a better world in THIS world, the one that – for now – actually exists.

Scratch the oil barons running this country, the ones whom much of the world see as a threat to peace and prosperity — scratch them and you will find religion and little else. Bush says God told him to do what he is doing. And we have not locked him in a padded cell! That is an indictment of each of us.

And the Bushies’ religion is matched by the religion of the Bin Ladens, by the religion of the right wing in Israel, by the religion of every single group on this planet that is engaged in killing or colonizing.

More importantly, it is religion that allows good, caring, thoughtful, loving Americans to vote Republican, or to stay home, or to vote for the lesser of two evils and do little else. It is religion that drives acceptance of the status quo, however grotesque it may become. And I do not mean simply that people swallow the bait and switch of God-Gays-Guns campaigning followed by Greed-Grab-Gitmo governance. I mean that people go to church on Sunday and hear statements to the effect that “Life is a rehearsal,” and they shrug it off. They shrug off LIFE.

I am perfectly serious. I heard a preacher this weekend say that life is a rehearsal. Those were his words. Well, all right then. Let’s just make sure not to torture anyone when we get to the real performance.

And people hear that events have been caused by “God.” Whew – and I was worried that maybe I was responsible for something! Glad to know the buck stops at God. Does it really matter, then, that it never stops at George W. Bush?

And people hear things that make absolutely no sense, and believe them. Every Sunday morning.

Then they turn on the network and cable news and hear things that make absolutely no sense:

–War makes peace.
–War is good and government bad (although the majority of our government spending is now devoted to war).
–The candidate who appeals to the minority loyal to the other party is more “electable” than a candidate who appeals to the majority.
–We owe it to the Iraqis to occupy their country.

And they believe those things. Every day millions of people believe those things. They have been trained to allow someone else to tell them what to believe. They have been trained in church.

Do some overcome it? Are the majority of peace activists also religious? Are the members of the Christian Peacemakers Team some of the bravest and most effective? Indeed, don’t their fantasies about not dying probably encourage them in their work?

Of course. But these are exceptions. The rule is that atheists are far more likely to vote progressive and to act progressive. The rule is that countries that are more religious are more cruel. The rule is that the more religious people are, the more destructive they are. And most religious people doing good work are not doing it because of religion. Mostly they are doing it despite religion, which has become the greatest threat to human life.

If you must be religious, then for the sake of the world, please keep it to yourself — like you would your cigarette smoke. Please actively encourage others to do without.