If one looks hard at the lingering prejudices that haunt the Judeo-Christian traditions, one discovers embedded in their ancient tales and pronouncements these vile dispositions.

In a current conversation with a member of a list I have been arguing that anti-Semitism is not the worst of the manifestations of cruel xenophobia although it is one of the longest lasting and with the Holocaust one of the most devastating. All brutality towards humans is IMHO is destructive and not to be quantified as worse than others simply because of its range in space and time.

Having said that one discovers that all the above evils range back to our earliest religious sources where local prejudices were incorporated into allegedly divine pronouncements. We still see this process continuing in the Roman Catholic Church and right wing evangelicals who select evils or even make them up as they go along (e.g. abortion).

Had I not studied theology for three years back when, I would not have been aware, as most are not, both of the original religious texts that put forth such prejudices and the horrendous history of torture and murder by particularly our Christian forebears. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is archetypal in this regard with its murderous contempt for gays and unconverted Jews, call upon Roman authority to slaughter them — which they proceeded to do — and claimed that even the cruelest political authorities were instituted by G-d and to obeyed in all matters to avoid divine wrath.

I was appalled to discover such things and redirected my career away from theology back to philosophy — but with the useful knowledge of the sources of a number of our biases in philosophic ethics taken for granted, but really embedded in the ancient (and all too often barbaric) religious sources. As a teacher I tended to down play such evils and to stress the obvious good ethical proposals emanating from our world religions. But particularly in times of stress the murderous elements all too often emerge to attack blindly ‘evil enemies’. One cannot understand a George Bush and America’s war policies without this background. Note that two of the 3 of the axis of evil were Muslim and the third was a repressive communist (i.e. anti capitalist) regime.

And so it goes. The only good demon is a dead one — right G. W. and David P.? Note the daily reports along these lines that slide easily off the lips of our media commentators.

And so it goes with Amerika today.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]
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