A few days after commemorating 9/11, America is at war again, this time against ISIL. Again, freedom is pitted against a familiar enemy.
Freedom is God’s most precious gift to humanity. And it has to be guarded from dark forces that reject it and refuse to coexist with it. Such is what crawled out of the caves of Afghanistan and sneaked into America like a coward and did it’s worst. Thirteen years later, it descended on peaceful communities in Iraq and Syria to unleash terror yet again.
Obviously, not all Muslims should be painted with the same bold brush. There will always be murderous psychopaths on the fringes of any religion. At least with Christianity, much of that has been dealt with in the Reformation of the 16th century. It’s by no coincidence that after that, the Enlightenment and the full flowering of the Renaissance followed and swept Europe. Since there’s always room for improvement, Catholicism is still being tweaked here and there by Pope Francis.
If Islam had followed suit and done its own reformation of sorts, the beheadings and other outrages by ISIL wouldn’t have happened, at least not in the name of God. Which is why I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters not to wait 16 centuries as Christians did, and to do it in their own personal capacity. No need for grand gestures à la Martin Luther who famously nailed his defiance on the church’s door, or ala Emperor Hirohito. More on Hirohito later.
On their own, individual Muslims could take a long hard critical look at the excesses of Islam. For starters, they could look at supposedly divine revelations that segregate people between believers and infidels, assign less value to the latter, and justify discrimination by the former. Couldn’t we just regard each other as all children of God and of equal value to Him regardless of religion?
Why diversity would be forbidden by any religion, given that God designed a universe teeming with diversity, is beyond me. Biology teaches us that diversity is in fact the key to the survival of the species, including homo sapiens, so what could be so bad about it? If He preferred uniformity, He would have gone there. But He didn’t, so why should we? Or do we know better than God? Talk about human arrogance!
To all fundamentalists and literalists of all religions, think about that. Speaking of which, God also gave us the gift of critical thinking. Surely He wants us to put it to good use. Accordingly, some smart aleck whose name I forgot came to the conclusion that one’s beliefs should conform to reality, not the other way around. Works for me, but apparently not for those who insist they speak for God. Ask Galileo and Darwin.
In varying degrees, religions generally represent God as irrational, masochistic, demanding, intolerant, petty, vengeful, bloodthirsty, etc. Looks as though man has made an inventory of his worst characteristics and attributed them all to God, who is also cracked up to be in constant need of being worshipped, apparently because he has an insecure ego, too. Go figure.
Speaking of human imperfections, given his penchant for hate and destruction, man is probably God’s biggest disappointment ever. Hopefully, the likes of Chopin, Einsten, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Galileo and Darwin are enough to redeem us all in His eyes. But on the debit side is man’s insatiable appetite for mayhem. Leave it to him to find — or create — a rationale for it.
Coincidentally, the rationale for both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 is the same: religion. One is Shintoism, the other is Islam, both of the extremely radical variety.
Radical Shintoism deluded an entire people into believing they’re the divine race mandated by the living god (Emperor Hirohito) to subjugate inferior races in the Pacific. But first it had to neutralize the only military power that could stand up to it. Hence the preemptive strike on Pearl Harbor. The rest is a history of man’s unbelievable capacity for cruelty to his fellow man when driven insane by religion, not unlike 9/11 and ISIL.
By Hirohito’s dramatic act of renouncing his divinity in 1945, Shintoism had it’s own reformation. That, coupled with MacArthur’s separation of shrine and state, surgically excised Shintoism of a ticking bomb within it. Soon after, Japan flourished into the world’s second-largest economy and a force for good, evocative of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance after the Reformation. Imagine what other wars Japan might have dragged the world into if Shintoism hadn’t been reformed, considering the numerous wars it waged before Pearl Harbor.
With respect to Islam, the ball is in its court. When airplanes are hijacked and turned into missiles of death under its banner, that religion has a serious problem and should have been dealt with immediately by its followers. And when, 13 years later, marauding barbarians descend on innocent civilians to decapitate them and brag about it under that same banner, reform is too late.
But better late than never. I see cause for hope.
There are parts of my own Catholic faith I’m mighty proud of, there are parts I’m not. Others are likewise struggling with theirs and they’re online firing the first salvo for reforms. They’re scientists, academics, writers, artists and activists. One is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, another is a remarkable teenage heroine for girls’ education. And they’re all devout Muslims.
So to all Muslims around the world, especially the young, for the sake of our common humanity, please listen to the reformists among you and spread on social media what they have started. Indeed, you’re just a click away from Islam’s own long-overdue, long-awaited reformation.
M.V. Melendez is a resident of Camarillo.