Monday, February 23, 2009

Holy Wars

“In a short space of time all the people in the Delhi fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, and all the goods and effects, the treasure and the grain which for many a long year had been stored in the fort became the spoil of my soldiers.”

Taken from the Tuzk-e-Taimuri, Timur’s (alleged) memoirs recount a fateful day of “ethnic cleansing” as he looted and plundered and amassed wealth and a haraam harem. I could see Timur being an egotistical, religious maniac, exaggerating his escapades to sound impressive; to furnish a permanent place in the annals of lunatic murderers. But in spite of his bloated ego, Timur’s intent is clear. The infidels must be purged. Allah’s will be carried out.

Elsewhere, less than a couple of centuries away, the French Religious wars raged on, 36 years, probably desensitizing a couple of generations of brie lovers to violence. The culture shock the French must have faced was thankfully short lived. Nearby, less than 20 years later, the Germans and the British would start one of their own wars based on their inability to agree on the details of what god “instructed” some random asshole on some remote mountain over a millennium ago. Over these 66 years… and one day, an estimated 15.6 Million people would be wasted away at god’s command1.

Almost instinctively, the apologist is certain to point fingers at the murderous tendencies of prominent “atheist” mad men, Hitler2 and Stalin3. While this argument has swiftly and effectively been rebutted by the “four horsemen”, I choose to show that the genocides and wars that raged from religious and theistic impetus have been far more gory, gruesome, blood curdling than the major wars of the 20th century, The World Wars.

In comparison, the two world wars overshadow the two major religious wars (that I can recall) by sheer volume of cadavers. With conservative estimates of 19 and 40 million chronologically, they far outyield the 15 million estimated of the religious wars.

Tanks, mines, missiles, gunships, bombers, fighter planes, submarines, and of course, Fat Man and Little Boy have made the body count of the world war’s possible; making wars a little more impersonal in the 20th century. The days of staring into the eyes of the enemy had been left behind in the medieval ages, to those who could stomach the blood and gore; to the pious. Technology in battle had the ability to delay the effect of battle, the effect waste of human life can have on a rational mind, only bringing it to the foreground post mortem.

But what the religious wars lose in body count, they make up for in sheer callousness and underestimation of human life. Staring into the enemy’s eyes, day after day, for decades together, mercilessly slaughtering, is a task that the religious masses seem to effortlessly pull off and master. Only god knows what devastation these armies would be capable of, if they had the resources of the 20th century, with enough enemy bodies as in the 20th century4.

1. These remain just the most obvious, bloody, and patent representations of religious violence. James Haught recounts other atrocities that have been committed by religion and the pious.

2. Hitler’s religious beliefs are still highly debated, and to this day, attempts to prove his atheistic ideology have been inconclusive. However, Hitler was a practicing Roman Catholic and remained one until his death.

There is an obvious rebuttal to this point of mine, and I will preempt it by offering my rebuttal, saving us some time.

Many claim that Hitler, an irreligious man (at least one who was against Christianity in his heart), used his ties with the roman catholic church to gain the sympathies of the catholics and protestants, and was nothing more than shrewd confidence trick. Having said that, it was the above mentioned churches that lent credibility to Hitler among the people of Germany, and more importantly, they were not against the bloodshed and means of the Nazis and Hitler. So as co-conspirators, the above mentioned churches are just as guilty as Hitler’s ideology (whatever it may be).

3. Hector Avalos, a scholar of the Bible, has in his book “Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence” claimed that Stalin “had a complex relationship with religious institutions in the Soviet Union.” I say claimed, as I have not read the book myself and rely on a source, while not completely reliable, certainly no worse than the monkey work contained in certain other texts.

4. The world population and its explosion has been a primarily 20th century phenomenon. During the period of the two world wars, the population rose from about 1.5 billion to 2.5 billion, in spite of the massive bloodshed in the two wars, of 131 million or 0.131 billion, or more importantly 6.5 percent of the mean population. While the world population during the 100 year period of the two religious saw a negligible rise from 427,000,000 to 500,000,000 and the death toll at 3.5 percent.

While that figure might seem to indicate the brutality of the world wars, it is limited, as almost all statistics are by the “big picture”. The big picture here shows of a zealous war, fought with no major technological assistance, in just a small portion of the earth (the world wars were fought by 35 and 68 countries compared to a handful during the two medieval wars).


Tazeen said...

first time on your blog.

you actually make a lot of sense

arun said...

Dude...write something about stuff that matters da! I was expecting your take on the slowdown or how being hopeful of Obama is hopless or something like that....

The Depressed Doormat said...

This stuff matters more than Obama and the economic meltdown, in the long run. Part of our economic woes are religion.

As for Obama's "changes" being hopeless, time will tell, but I think he can do only so much, and so far he has been more interested doing interviews than governing.