The old trap: fighting extremism with extremism
All this violence in the name of religion, in Germany, France, Turkey, the Middle East, et cetera, reminds me of an idea that came about when antiquities were reported to be looted in the aftermath of one of the wars in the Middle East. Not just were lives lost and productivity stifled by conflict, but chunks of historical record taken away by burglars. Could the reverse be done?
Imagine that a bus gets lost in a storm and they chance upon a peculiarly shaped mound. It turns out to be the remnants of a tower, buried in the sand. Excavations by archaeologists reveal a set of bronze plates with the totality of the sacred works of a given religion. As the plates are of great vintage, they represent the original version of the instructions of the central figure of the given religion. This original version is similar to the current text, except that it explicitly confirms human dignity and individual liberty, and has commandments like “tend to your teeth thrice daily, and be nice to people, including homosexuals and infidels”, “anyone who tells you to attack unarmed people is not to be regarded”, and “this too is good — hugging, kissing, smelling flowers, dancing, tolerance and equality”, all in appropriately classic language, and anything else held desirable for a free society. As a bonus, throw in advice as to the most ecologically sound practice in disposing of the death, and similarly modify all prescribed rituals. Finally, get rid of stuff that encourages slavery, the subjugation of women, or the demonization of foreigners.
There, problem solved.
Obviously, it would be an elaborate deception. Multiple carbon-dating laboratories, journalists, politicians, popular TV hosts, and linguistic experts would have to collaborate, and some prominent religious leaders cajoled, bribed or distracted — all perfectly feasible. Obviously, it would have to be kept secret. Repeat for other religions and bloodthirsty political philosophies, as needed. It would be a lot cheaper and more effective than the current wholesale militarization of our societies. And more fun than dealing with exploitative supply chains, climate degradation, support to tyrannical regimes, police brutality, corruption, barbaric systems of punishment, discrimination, war, famine, disease, systematic racism, and absence of social support.
Alas, this sort of thinking is perhaps how the things we are trying to fight originally commenced. A bunch of people believing they know the right way to live, who feel empowered to take decisions for others, who are willing to lie, deceive, manipulate and threaten, as long as the final end is desirable, in their opinion. Snowden, that benefactor of mankind, showed us that the perpetrators of such horrors do not all have beards, or are bereft of expensive college education.
Perhaps the only acceptable commandment is: “question everything”. Only skepticism can save mankind.