Whether it’s God or The Bomb
“Whether it’s God or the Bomb,
It’s just the same,
and it’s only fear under another name.”
– Max Q – 1989
For the whole of human history, there are examples of people who would like to have control over others. Some do it for the increased fighting power of numbers, while others may do it simply to keep themselves and their institutions safe from dissidence from their peers. This also can have the added effect of bringing people together under a banner with some kind of feeling of kinship, as we see in nationalist movements, religions, war movements, political parties etc. But whatever the reason for the need for power over people, the most effective tool to bind people under one power is fear.
Political and military leaders use fear to motivate the people of their constituency to move as one against another group, an idea, or a perceived common threat. It is best if they can use some kind of looming threat from outside, one that threatens the ranks of people from afar, because it is easier to spin propaganda about something if the person your are spinning it to is ignorant of the facts. Examples of this in current society can be seen everywhere.
Here in Australia, the fear of “invaders” illegally entering our waters by boat currently seems to be powerful enough to make or break a political party’s chances of reelection (even if the facts show that less than 2000 people arrived here by boat in 2009, and the numbers fluctuate around that figure, hardly a threat to Australian society.) All it takes if for one person with a political agenda and a loud media voice to make spurious claims about whatever the threat may be, and the rumours abound about just how horrible the threat actually is. And the less tangible the source of the fear, the easier it is to distort the facts surrounding the fear.
The idea that the “Christian majority” will be overrun by jihadist Muslims and that our “Christian” way of life is at threat is motivation enough for people to be fearful, but this is nothing new. Of course the numbers above show that this is not possible, but regardless of the truth, fear of outsiders is something primal, something that is part of humanity at its core. Once upon a time, the fear of outsiders helped humans to protect their tribe from other outside tribes who wished them harm, in this day where the tribal boundaries are blurred, this xenophobia is used as a way to create fear and insecurity.
The Cold War, which sprung up after World War II, when the Soviets and the Americans realised that their one-time allies were a potential threat, was used as a political tool for nearly 50 years, and it fostered feelings of looming peril for people worldwide in the form of nuclear destruction. In the USA this fear reared its head in many ways; McCarthyism, the Red Peril, political witch-hunts, the Reds under the Bed, informing on your neighbours, trust nobody etc. After 9/11 the same fear could be seen worldwide, with “Be alert, not alarmed” campaigns, and a motivation to go to war in the Middle East. Fears arising from the Cold War and 9/11 are somewhat justified. The nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union was real, and there are currently people who wish to do harm to the people of the West. But there are always people who will use this to their advantage, propagating fear in the people. A scared population is more easily controlled.
But this is not a political discussion. This goes much deeper than just politics.
Politicians are mere amateurs at the game of fear mongering when compared to the fear tactics used by religions. The whole of the doctrines of Christianity and Islam are based around the premise of fear. And the thing they fear most is not only an invisible fear, but an unprovable and unfalsifiable hypothesis; if you don’t do what the books and leaders say, your soul will burn in hell for eternity.
This is not just some dream someone came up with, nor the inspired word of God. This group of fears (for this one simple idea leads into a myriad secondary and tertiary fears) is actually very carefully crafted in such a way to control people, and not by the divine words of God, but by the decree of military leaders. Emperor Constantine was leader of a great dynasty when he ordered the council of Nicaea where the books of the current-day Bible were decided with the exclusive purpose of bringing the people under Constantine together under the banner of one solid version of Christianity (and thereby giving Constantine a much more coherent and powerful military force). Likewise Mohammad was a besieged warlord when he dictated his words to a scribe, and did so from the perspective of a man trying to rally troops behind him. Whether either of them truly believed in the words they compiled or wrote is irrelevant, both the Koran and the Bible were written not as a way to offer the invisible soul a “way out”, but as a powerful umbrella proclamation over mankind to control their actions, and to increase the numbers of their hordes as an easily controlled and malleable entity to be reckoned with.
People claim that their religions are about love compassion and peace, but the underlying message is one of toeing the line, obeying the laws of these books, under the threat of eternally burning in the pits of hell. Eternity is a long time, and because the idea of a soul springs from our own understanding of consciousness (the only thing we ever know and experience in life), the weight of what is apparently at stake is staggering to the average person. The threat of hell is like the atomic bomb of religion, a deterrent against questioning the “ultimate authority”, and very very handy for motivating people, especially in times of hardship. After all, if one follows the doctrines to the letter, the reward is living forever in eternal peace, right?
When one is aware of the potential power of fear, the way it is used to gain political and military power, and way fear is propagated in society, it paints a very different picture of the history of the world than the one we are shown in the history books. From this perspective, I hope it allows people to see much deeper than just the story on the surface, and maybe ask why political and religious campaigns exist, what their real intended outcome might be, and whether the fear they foster is justified.
“Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” – Bertrand Russell