Religious intolerance is an idea that found its earliest expression in the Old Testament, where the Hebrew tribe depicts itself waging a campaign of genocide on the Palestinian peoples to steal their land. They justified this heinous behavior on the grounds that people not chosen by their god were wicked and therefore did not deserve to live or keep their land. In effect, the wholesale slaughter of the Palestinian peoples, eradicating their race with the Jew's own Final Solution, was the direct result of a policy of religious superiority and divine right. Joshua 6-11 tells the sad tale and one needs only read it and consider the point of view of the Palestinians who were simply defending their wives and children and the homes they had built and the fields they had labored for. The actions of the Hebrews can easily be compared with the American genocide of its native peoples - or even, ironically, the Nazi Holocaust. With the radical advent of Christianity, this self-righteous intolerance was borrowed from the Jews and a new twist was added. The conversion of infidels by any means possible became the newfound calling card of religious fervor and this new experiment in human culture spread like wildfire. By its very nature, how could it not have? Islam followed suit, conquering half the world in brutal warfare and, much like its Christian counterpart, it developed a new and convenient survival characteristic: the destruction of all images and practices attributed to other religions. Muslims destroyed millions of statues and paintings in India and Africa and forced conversion under pain of death (or by more subtle tricks: like taxing only non-Muslims), while the Catholic Church busily burned books along with pagans, shattering statues and defacing or destroying pagan art - or converting it to Christian use. Laws against pagan practices and heretics were in full force throughrout Europe by the sixth century and as long as those laws were in place it was impossible for anyone to refuse the tenets of Christianity and expect to keep their property or their life. Similar persecution and harassment continues in Islamic countries even to this day, officially and unofficially.
Richard C. Carrier
From birth to death and further onAs we were born and introduced into this world,We had a gift hard to express by wordAnd somewhere in our continuous road,It kind of lost it sense and turned.There was that time we sure remember,When everything was now and 'till foreverChildren with no worries and no regrets,The only goal was making a few friends.But later on everything has changed,By minds that had it all arrangedTo bring the people into stress,Into creating their own mess.We have been slaved by our own mind,Turned into something out of our kindSlowly faded away from the present time,Forced to believe in lies, in fights and crime.They made it clearly a fight of the ego,A never ending war that won't just goThey made it a competitive game,To seek selfish materialistic fame.They turned us one against eachother,Man against man, brother against brotherDividing us by religion and skin color,Making us fight to death over a dollar.Making us lose ourselves in sadly thoughts,Wasting our days by living in the pastDepressed and haunted by the memories,And yet still hoping to fly in our dreams.Some of us tried learning how to dance,Step after step, giving our soul a new chanceSome of us left our ego vanish into sounds,Thus being aware of our natural bounce.Some tried expressing in their rhymes,The voice of a generation which never diesThey reached eternity through poetryLeaving the teachings that shall fulfill the prophecyOthers have found their way through spirituality,Becoming conscious of the human dualitySeeking the spiritual enlightenment,Of escaping an ego-oriented fightingScience, philosophy, religion,Try to explain the human origin.Maybe changes are yet to come,And it shall be better for someDeath's for the spirit not an end,But a relieving of the embodimentSo I believe that furthermore,We'll understand the power of our soulBut leaving behind all we know,And all that we might not yet knowIt all resumes to that certain truth,That we all seek to once conclude.
Virgil Kalyana Mittata Iordache
The North Korean capital, Pyongyang, is a city consecrated to the worship of a father-son dynasty. (I came to think of them, with their nuclear-family implications, as 'Fat Man and Little Boy.') And a river runs through it. And on this river, the Taedong River, is moored the only American naval vessel in captivity. It was in January 1968 that the U.S.S. Pueblo strayed into North Korean waters and was boarded and captured. One sailor was killed; the rest were held for nearly a year before being released. I looked over the spy ship, its radio antennae and surveillance equipment still intact and found photographs of the captain and crew with their hands on their heads in gestures of abject surrender. Copies of their groveling 'confessions,' written in tremulous script, were also on show. So was a humiliating document from the United States government, admitting wrongdoing in the penetration of North Korean waters and petitioning the 'D.P.R.K.' (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) for 'lenience.' Kim Il Sung ('Fat Man') was eventually lenient about the men, but not about the ship. Madeleine Albright didn't ask to see the vessel on her visit last October, during which she described the gruesome, depopulated vistas of Pyongyang as 'beautiful.' As I got back onto the wharf, I noticed a refreshment cart, staffed by two women under a frayed umbrella. It didn't look like much—one of its three wheels was missing and a piece of brick was propping it up—but it was the only such cart I'd see. What toothsome local snacks might the ladies be offering? The choices turned out to be slices of dry bread and cups of warm water.Nor did Madeleine Albright visit the absurdly misnamed 'Demilitarized Zone,' one of the most heavily militarized strips of land on earth. Across the waist of the Korean peninsula lies a wasteland, roughly following the 38th parallel and packed with a titanic concentration of potential violence. It is four kilometers wide (I have now looked apprehensively at it from both sides) and very near to the capital cities of both North and South. On the day I spent on the northern side, I met a group of aging Chinese veterans, all from Szechuan, touring the old battlefields and reliving a war they helped North Korea nearly win (China sacrificed perhaps a million soldiers in that campaign, including Mao Anying, son of Mao himself). Across the frontier are 37,000 United States soldiers. Their arsenal, which has included undeclared nuclear weapons, is the reason given by Washington for its refusal to sign the land-mines treaty. In August 1976, U.S. officers entered the neutral zone to trim a tree that was obscuring the view of an observation post. A posse of North Koreans came after them and one, seizing the ax with which the trimming was to be done, hacked two U.S. servicemen to death with it. I visited the ax also; it's proudly displayed in a glass case on the North Korean side.
Christopher Hitchens