From Liberating Spirituality to Oppressive Dogma: The Politics of Religion

By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

Spirituality is intrapersonal. It’s a liberating and uplifting awareness. It nurtures personal growth. It inspires more conscious perceptions. But when personal spirituality is organized into a religion, an institution is produced and, as all institutions, it then produces a hierarchy who concoct dogma that has nothing to do with spirituality and everything to do with maintaining social and political control.

The Roman Catholic Church lied about and covered-up decades of child abuse by priests. When finally exposed, they responded by banning “gay priests.” But as Kathryn Conroy, assistant dean of Columbia University’s School of Social Work, pointed out in a New York Times piece following the Vatican’s ban on “gay priests”:

What is forgotten in all of the hysteria about priest sexual abuse is that pedophilia is about a sexual attraction to children (most often, regardless of their sex) and about access. …

Reliable studies show that pedophiles (those adults who sexually abuse children) are overwhelmingly heterosexual. In fact, homosexuals are statistically underrepresented as those who sexually abuse children. …

Further, women have far lower rates of sexually abusing children than men do. So if the church were really serious about protecting children from sexual abuse by priests, gays would not be excluded from the priesthood and ordination would be extended to women.

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Some Things You Need To Know Before The World Ends

" Thank you for not putting a bomb in your luggage."

"President Bush said the United States is still under the threat of attack and will continue to be right up until Election Day."
-- Jay Leno

Hand-in-hand with his threat warnings, Bush keeps telling us how his War on Terror has made us so much safer, bragging that there hasn't been a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years since the one of September 11, 2001. Marvelous. There wasn't a terrorist attack in the United States in the five years before that day either. But thanks to the War on Terror -- particularly the bombing, invasion, occupation, and torture of Afghanistan and Iraq -- numerous new anti-American terrorists have been created since that historic day. The latest confirmation of this, if any more were needed, is the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that "the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and ... the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."[1]

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A Journey Through The Mind Of Contemporary Conservatism: Clutching Our Values Aboard The Death Train

Day-to-day life within an empire consists of the deceitful leading the disengaged. Although when the artifice shielding a nation’s populace from the ruthlessness of their leaders begins to fall away, hysteria and displaced rage rises in the land. Ergo, in the American empire, we’re witnessing these demented days of congressional boy love and despotic rockets.

Day after day, the pace at which insane tidings arrive quickens: it’s as if we’ve become passengers on a high-speed train, commandeered by lunatics, that only stops at insane asylums in order to board more lunatics ... Naturally, the train has gone runaway, careening down the buckling tracks, blue spark spraying from its steel wheels, while any approaching curve becomes a threat to derail the whole hurdling madhouse.

For many years, these episodes of mass psychosis have been gaining velocity. Empires are inherently bughouse crazy, because, by their very nature, they grow conservative to the point of becoming totalitarian. After a time, the singular raison d'être of this form of pathological conservatism is to fiercely cling to the things it has gained through expansionist practices and policies. In addition, it must find ways to rationalize the brutal and deceitful means required to sustain itself.

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Read This Before You Vote

If one were to believe the hype, nothing less than the fate the civilized world is riding on the results of the upcoming midterm elections. American-style democracy, we're told, will step in and sort things out. Reminds me of T.S. Eliot: "An election is coming.  Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry." Not everyone is fooled, of course. "I think it is dangerous to confuse the idea of democracy with elections," says Indian novelist, Arundhati Roy. "Just because you have elections doesn't mean you're a democratic country."

 

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"Boiling Point" - Eroding Freedom: From John Adams to George W. Bush

Put a frog into a pot of boiling water, the well-known parable begins, and out that frog will jump to escape the obvious danger. Put that same frog into cool water and heat the pot slowly, and it will not react until it's too late. The survival instincts of a frog, we're told, are better designed to discern abrupt changes. Gradual transformation‹like the measured raising of water temperature‹can sneak up on the little croaker.

I was reminded of the proverbial frog as I considered how the recently passed Military Commissions Act (MSA) managed to get lost in a shuffle of naughty e-mails and bipartisan accusations.

 

This isn't meant to downplay the MSA. As Michael C. Dorf, a professor of Law at Columbia University, explains: "It immunizes government officials for past war crimes; it cuts the United States off from its obligations under the Geneva Conventions; and it all but eliminates access to civilian courts for non-citizens--including permanent residents whose children are citizens--that the government, in its nearly unreviewable discretion, determines to be unlawful enemy combatants." Nasty stuff, indeed...but since fiddling with human rights has long been a hobby for America's power elite, it'd be misguided to assign all the blame to the current administration. The erosion of freedom has been a slow steady process‹not unlike boiling a pot of water.

 

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Who killed Michael Moore? (Why and what's the reason for?)

(Inspired by the recent assassination of Russian journalist Anna

Politkovskaya)
 

There's no shortage of outrage on the Left. Plenty of marches and manifestos to go along with the myriad calls to change this and take back that. Toss in the occasional fighting words and the intermittent flirtation with property damage and the Left typically does just enough to get itself effectively demonized by the mainstream...thus making it that much easier for the police to get away with swinging their nightsticks at the next "anti-globalization" protest.
So, here's my question: What would those who identify as leftists do if one of their high profile icons were openly eliminated? For the sake of argument, let's say the U.S. government (or one of its proxies)‹with the full support of the corporate media‹overtly did away with Michael Moore for his political beliefs and anti-corporate activism.
 

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The Mushroom Cloud over the U.N.

 

The Bush administration has repeatedly rejected North Korea’s appeals for a “non-aggression” pact. Bush believes that he has the inherent right to attack whomever he chooses if it is in the national interest, which is to say, if it furthers his ambitions for global domination.

Bush has openly supported “regime change” in North Korea and placed the country on his axis of evil list. On a personal level, Bush stated that he “loathes” Kim Jung-il and has referred to him as “a pygmy”.

These provocations have been duly noted in North Korea. Kim knows that he’s a top candidate for a preemptive attack unless he develops a credible deterrent. Any sane person would draw the same conclusion even if they hadn’t been humiliated in public as “evil”.

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Text Sex and Context: Foleygate in Perspective

As'ad AbuKhalil (of Angry Arab fame) plucked out this bit of necessary context for the Foley scandal from a nugget buried deep in a long Newsweek examination of the affair. This is especially pertinent now that the right-wing has decided to divert the outrage of their "base" over the Republican leadership's coddling of a known sexual predator into a good, old-fashioned gay-bashing witch hunt, just like Mother used to make for Uncle Joe McCarthy when he used to come around for dinner with his little friend Roy Cohn:

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Coming to America: The Disappeared

Kissinger and The Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina: America on the Brink of Horror.

This blistering Buzzflash editorial deserves to be spread far and wide. The reappearance of Henry Kissinger as a top adviser in the White House dredges up horrors that have long been buried by time – but which are still fresh in the scarred hearts of millions of people. It reminds us of the complicity and cooperation of the American political elite in the South American mass murder campaign known as "Operation Condor." This earlier "war on terror" – which reached its apogee on that other September 11 terrorist attack,  in 1973, with the American-backed murder of Salvador Allende, Chile's democratically elected president – also featured unrestrained "unitary executive power" claiming the right to imprison and torture and permanently detain anyone arbitrarily declared a "terrorist" or "enemy of the state" on the most specious – or nonexistent – grounds. 

 

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U.S. Military Has Killed Up to 238,000 Iraqi Civilians

A just-released study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, published in the current issue of the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet, reports that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has led to the deaths of between 426,000 and 794,000 Iraqis. This is a substantial increase over the 100,000 dead that the same research group found through 2004, based upon a smaller survey, and it represents an astonishing 2.5 percent of the country's total population.


The grim news was widely--though not universally--reported in the U.S. media (my local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, blacked it out), but few news organizations reported the most disturbing finding of the study, which was that 31 percent of those killed were acatually slain by U.S. and "coalition" forces (actually by U.S. forces, since most of the other foreign forces working with the U.S., with the exception of the British, have not played combat roles, and even the British have largely operated in the south where fighting has been much less severe.

That means U.S. forces have, since the March 19, 2003 invasion, killed between 132,000 and 246,000 Iraqis. 


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The Dumbing Down of America

Something is amiss in the great nation called America. Ominous sirens warning this reality can be heard emanating loudly through invisible winds of change circulating our towns and cities. The American people are being strangulated; unbeknownst to the masses they are being transformed and conditioned, becoming the entity the elite have long sought, the culmination of decades of social engineering designed to make of hundreds of millions the slaves of times past and the automatons of the future.

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Swing Blades: Don Rumsfeld Bats Both Ways

In February 2003, I wrote a column for the Moscow Times detailing Don Rumsfeld's personal – and profitable – connection with North Korea's nuclear program. Today Greg Saunders at This Modern World notes (from a Guardian story from May 2003), that the Bush Administration continued to shove money toward Rumsfeld's corporate cronies, allowing them to help accelerated North Korea's nuke push – even as the Dear Leader (theirs, not ours) was kicking out weapons inspectors and withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

What I wrote more than three years ago unfortunately still holds true today. The nuclear blast test that North Korea conducted this week is not only the result of the Bush Administration's incompetent and sinister diplomatic philosophy – which seems to consist solely of provoking unfriendly regimes into countermeasures which can then be used as excuses for war-profiteering "regime change" assaults – but also stems from the overwhelming lust for loot that lies behind the noble rhetoric of the third-rate goons of the Bush Gang.

Swing Blades
(Originally published in the Feb. 28, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times; the version here excerpted from the book, Empire Burlesque.)
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