An octogenarian’s thoughts about religion (Part 3)

Regrettably, there is a core component of religions which can be, and often is, divisive; when there is no reason for it to be so.

Religious beliefs can arise spontaneously in very widely separated regions of the globe. Some of the beliefs evolve into belief systems, aided by the thinkers within each faith community. Some of these thinkers may have been influenced by the traders and travellers with whom they have come into contact. By and large, relevant perceptions and knowledge are transferred between communities by a slow process of cultural diffusion.

It is unexceptional for the priests and other leaders of a religious community to seek to bond more closely their followers through some explanatory claims they have conceived about origins, links with the numinous, and so on. Separated by geographical space, each religious community can go about its business without interference; theological differences with other religious communities do no harm when religious communities are not close to one another.

However, aggression through war and colonialism against other people seem to have engendered a need to denigrate the religious (as well as other cultural features) of those conquered. Aggressive priesthoods and ambitious royalty have also seemingly added fuel to unwarranted religious wars throughout history.

When will those responsible learn that their ambitions or folly mean nothing after their Earthly demise?

The following extract from my first memoir ‘Destiny Will Out’ (Chapter 16) is, I believe, pertinent.

“ All religions have an explanatory component too – which offers us, with varying degrees of clarity, a story about man’s relationship with his Creator, his place in the universe, and the way the universe is (and was and will be). It is in this area that wars between men usually commence. It is in this area that men who seek to rule as much of mankind as possible claim the superiority of their faith – by means contrary to the ethical teachings of their own faith.

Expediency is just, killing in the name of Christ, butchery in the name of Buddha, massacre in the name of Mohammed, horror upon horror in the name of Hinduism, are also just, allegedly to gain favour with God. A God of Love supposedly condones, if he does not want, the slaughter of his Creation by self-chosen preachers of God’s Love. I fear an anthropomorphic God.

We are a blood-thirsty, power-hungry species of animal left to find ourselves by a Creator who merely set up the mechanism and let the details evolve. We cannot blame God for what happens, or what we do. Neither can we justify our actions by blaming God.”

Advertisements

Merchants in the temple

Gianluigi Nuzzi’s ‘ Merchants in the Temple: Inside Pope Francis’ secret battle against corruption in the Vatican’ (published 2015) is, according to the author, based on confidential information to which he had been given access.

The back cover says: “Based on confidential information – including top-secret documents from inside the Vatican and actual transcripts of Pope Francis’s admonishments to the papal court about the lack of financial oversight and responsibility – Merchants in the Temple illustrates all the undercover work conducted by the Pope since his election and shows the reader who his real enemies are. It reveals the instruments Francis is using to reform the Vatican and rid it, once and for all, of the overwhelming corruption traditionally entrenched in the Roman Catholic Church.”

The cover also shows these reviews. “A truly shocking, shameful story of waste and corruption within the vast network of Vatican finances … a provocative work of dogged investigative research.” (Kirkus Review)

“The author’s analysis of the numbers and account of the byzantine internal politics are thoroughly convincing … These revelations should make the need for urgent reform obvious to the world outside the walls of the Vatican.” (Fortune)

The book includes the role of Australian Cardinal Pell in the Pope’s efforts to effect change.

The book concludes with the question “Will the Pope win the battle?” and the statement “… Italian prosecutors who are expert in organised crime … have repeatedly expressed their fear about threats to Pope Francis’ safety.”

An incredible amount of detail is available in the book, and its ‘Notes.’ Yet, under the heading “Where does the money for the poor end up, the book states  … we know how much has been collected from the faithful but not how it is spent.”

“In other words, of the 53.2 million taken through Peter’s Pence (2012) – to which we would add 3 million in interest payments – a good 35.7 million (67 percent) was spent on the Curia and another 6.3 million (12.4 percent) was not used, set aside as reserves of the Peter’s Pence fund.” “In practice, to date, the offerings for the poor are still a black hole: absolute secrecy on how the money is spent …”

(A fascinating book. But, “corruption in the Vatican”? By religious leaders? Of the largest institutional religion in the world? Whose theology dominates Australia’s social policy?)

Hiding from the actuality of history

“Instead of the cultured Chinese, instructed to “treat people with kindness,” it was the cruel, almost barbaric Christians who were the colonisers. Francisco Pizzaro gained Peru from the Incas by massacring five thousand Indians in cold blood.” So wrote Bruce Pascoe in ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’

As Gavin Menzies has pointed out, when the Chinese sought to cement trade ties in the 1950s, they took envoys back to China, treated them royally, and then returned them to their homelands.

Pascoe: “… the Portuguese used Chinese cartography to show them the way to the East. Then they stole the spice trade, which the Indians and Chinese had spent centuries building. Anyone who might stop them was mown down. When fifteenth-century explorer Vasco da Gama reached Calicut he told his men to parade Indian prisoners, then to hack off their hands, ears and noses.”

I recall Nehru in ‘Glimpses of World History’ stating that Vasco was shown the way to the East via the cape at the southern of the African continent (the Cape of Good Hope) by 2 Indian sailors he had met in Lisbon. (The Indians obviously knew the west coast of Africa). So much for Vasco’s gratitude. I have always wondered why the Christian explorers and buccaneers of the period were so blood-thirsty.

Pascoe again: “Invaders like to kill the original owners of the soil they intend to plunder, but even better than that, they like to humiliate them. Once that work is over, their grandsons re-write the history of the re-named land and paint their grandfather as a benevolent visionary.”

In contrast, the Bradshaw paintings in the Kimberleys in north-west Australia show a Chinese junk, and people dressed in the traditional long gowns with long sleeves. There has obviously been trade between the Aborigines and Chinese during the 15th century. Yet, modern Aborigines have no memory of such contact. In those circumstances and against the foolish claim that Lt. Cook discovered Australia relatively recently, these paintings may somehow not become known.

As Pascoe said, the “history of colonisation is dense with examples” of fabrication. He continues: “The urge to legitimise occupation is compared by McNiven and Hull to the warping of history and archaeology by Nazis to justify extermination of the Jews. In thinking of the effects of colonisation on Australia, contemplation of the workings of the European mind of that era is inevitable. There were other colonists from other continents, but it was Europeans who attempted to dominate the world, sometimes by dominating each other. “ (Is it any different now?)

“It seems improbable that a country can continue to hide from the actuality of history in order to validate the fact that, having said sorry, we refuse to say thanks.” (Pascoe)

Comment: I wonder how the foghorns on radio and other white supremacists will react to Pascoe’s well-researched words.

An Aboriginal writer on Aboriginal culture

The plight of Australia’s Aborigines is so sad that I was pleased to hear about Bruce Pascoe’s book ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ A retired school teacher drew my attention to this valuable book. Have our media paid any attention to its findings?

A book about pre-invasion Aboriginal culture, written by an Aborigine, is far more credible than writing by even a sympathetic non-Aboriginal writer. Pascoe’s sources are journals and diaries of (white) pastoralists, explorers, and the like. His sources are plentiful. When British beneficiaries of invasion, killing, and despoliation of native culture say honestly what they saw and experienced, one would expect Pascoe’s narrative to be accepted by one and all.

Not so! A retired Anglo-Aussie school teacher told me that she did not find the book credible. I repeat a belief I uttered way back in the racist 1940s and 1950s: that the oldest generation of (British) Aussies had to join their Maker before the lives of Asian students in Australia would be easier. That did happen.

Those supremacist white Australians who will not even accept that their indigenes are First Nation People, or who are unwilling to allow the Aborigines to have a say on policies to ‘bridge the gap’ in life expectancy, health, education, and a jail-free life have to leave us – in my view, as soon as possible.

Pascoe’s report also suggests that the behaviour of settlers generally, and some explorers, was decidedly despicable and un-Christian. Pascoe’s book also confirms what the redoubtable Dr. Coombs had earlier written about the Australian Aborigines. Their lives had all the hallmarks of a settled people, an organised polity, and a civilisation; and they had spiritual values of a high order, as well as a view of the Cosmic order.

Would not any intelligent person expect that a people who had survived this harsh land for 35,000 to 60,000 years know how to relate to Nature and to heavenly bodies? I doubt that modern man does. He wants control, not balance.

British settlement turned a settled people with agriculture, aquaculture, solid buildings, and a co-operative way of life into nomads. Being converted to Christianity did not protect the indigene from exploitation for more than two centuries. Now, they are expected to be ‘like us.’ Some already are; what about the rest?

Multiculturalism policy permits, even encourages, ethnic communities in Australia to identify themselves as identifiably separate; but not our indigenes. Why so?

A settled First Nation People

Australian Aborigines were a settled people long before the invasion by Britain, contrary to the crap peddled after the invasion, killing, and societal and cultural despoliation (destruction). Clever administrators looked for a fresh dumping ground for those disadvantaged by their government’s cultural cleansing, since North America was no longer available.

Rapacious settlers ‘cleared’ the land they occupied so ruthlessly. Pseudo-historians turned historiography on its head by finding no documentation in Britain authorising the settlers to take whatever they wanted by killing the natives; therefore, no killing had occurred.

A settled people, who had survived in a harsh land for thousands of years, were now made nomadic by Britain. Terrible things were done to the women and children. The behaviour of some explorers casts doubt on their morality. While missionaries were busily gathering black souls to the bosom of their coloured Saviour, one has to wonder at the depth of belief in Christianity within the white communities.

And, quite naturally, white men were opportunistically busy creating a creole (hybrid) people. That seemingly led officialdom to believe that black skin could be bred out in time; “Fuck them white” was reportedly part of the policy encouraging the natives to “become like us.”

Now, an aboriginal researcher and writer, Bruce Pascoe, has recently published ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ He has drawn upon the journals and diaries of explorers. The bibliography listed in his book is vast. The superior-white ‘foghorns’ (on radio) and their acolytes in politics and elsewhere will have great difficulty in countering Pascoe’s book.

My impression, after 70 years of a highly interactive and contributory life in Australia, is that ordinary people are more tolerant and understanding about the plight of their indigenous people. A retired history-teacher friend of mine bought a copy of Pascoe’s book for each of her many grandchildren. Truth will out!

In this context, it is worth noting that the redoubtable Prof. Henry Reynolds has pointed out that Australia’s Aboriginals had never ceded their lands, or their sovereignty.

From the back cover of Pascoe’s most impressive book: “If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely that we will admire and love our land all the more.” – Bruce Pascoe.

Reviews of the book were most positive.

Extracts from Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“The main body of the book began with a description of the ways in which Classical, Hellenistic and later pagan Greeks from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD saw their distant past. I attempted to trace their own vision of their ancestors’ having been civilised by Egyptian and Phoenician colonisation and the later influence of Greek study in Egypt.”

“… up to the 18th century, Egypt was seen as the fount of all ‘Gentile’ philosophy and learning, including that of the Greeks.”

“I went on to show how at the beginning of the 18th century the threat of Egyptian philosophy to Christianity became acute. … it was in opposition to this 18th-century notion of ‘reason’ on the part of the Egyptophils that the Greek ideal of sentiment and artistic perfection was developed.

Further, the development of Europocentrism and racism, with the colonial expansion over the same period, led to the fallacy that only people who lived in temperate climates – that is, Europeans – could really think. Thus, the Ancient Egyptians, who – though their colour was uncertain – lived in Africa, lost their positions as philosophers.”

“In this way, by the turn of the 18th century, the Greeks were not only considered to have been more sensitive and artistic than the Egyptians but they were now seen as the better philosophers, and indeed as the founders of philosophy.”

“The same period also saw the Greek War of Independence, which united all Europeans against the traditional Islamic enemies from Asia and Africa. This war … completed the already powerful image of Greece as the epitome of Europe. The Ancient Greeks were now seen as perfect, and as having transcended the laws of history and language.”

“With the intensification of racism in the 19th century there was increasing dislike of the Egyptians, who were no longer seen as the cultural ancestors of Greece but as fundamentally alien.”

“The status of Egypt fell with the rise of racism in the 1820s; that of the Phoenicians declined with the rise of racial anti-Semitism in the 1880s … by the Second World War, it had been firmly established that Greece had not significantly borrowed culturally or linguistically from Egypt and Phoenicia and that the legends of colonisation were charming absurdities, as were the stories of the Greek wise men having studied in Egypt.”

(Comment: Historiography, being subject to politics, prejudice, and pride, results in history being a movable feast. Then, we have the staunch defenders of the prevailing paradigm, the status quo.

We also have modern regurgitators of historical pap. For example, there seem to be Indian writers who, like Eurocentric British writers, continue to refer to the Aryan invasion of their territory – a proven non-existent event.

Westernised Asians, whether former colonial subjects or not, and who are not aware of the writing of their own people, are likely to be misled by racist bias by white supremacists camouflaged as reporting or even learning. )

Reviews of Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“How did the wise Egyptians, admired until the Enlightenment as the friends of philosophy, religion and mathematics, become transferred into a dead and death-loving people incapable of abstract thought, who built the pyramids by some kind of accident?” (Margaret Drabble, ‘Sunday Times’)

“The value of the book lies in his massive and meticulous demonstration of how suddenly views of the past are moulded (and repeatedly modified) by the changing political environment in which scholars pass their lives.” (London Review of Books)

“… a swashbuckling foray into the very heart of racist, Eurocentric historiography. He shows a thorough grasp of every relevant discipline and is formidably well read … and has at his fingertips the results of all the latest scholarly research in the diverse fields he has mastered …” (City Limits)

“Racism made it intolerable that Hellenism could owe anything to Africa … The political purpose of ‘Black Athena’ is … to lessen European arrogance …” (Times Higher Educational Supplement)

(Comment: Bernal is a very impressive scholar. Relevant extracts will be presented in another post. Racism underpinned the glorification of the Greeks by Eurocentric writers from the 18th century.)