“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalise mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”
— Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason
Oppression of one sort or another is endemic among humans and includes parental bossiness; bullying; street violence; and systematic, institutionalised repression of groups and individuals for reasons as varied as ethnic and racial difference; intellectual superiority or inferiority; gender; religious beliefs; atheism; sexual orientation; wealth or poverty; perceived social class. Oppression matters because it diminishes us as humans and many sufferers never recover, becoming street-kids, dropouts, depressives, suicidal, substance abusers, criminals, insane…
Everyone in our society has been forced at some time or other into operating as both oppressor and oppressed. Until we understand the deeper nature of oppression, our struggle to end it will be in vain. We will continue looking for “the enemy out there” and thus carry on the long, sad history of desperate, bewildered human beings replacing dictators with tyrants; Kings and Queens with Presidents….
Parents must think carefully about their relationship with their children. If they present the world as a dangerous place with murder and hurtful people, along with a “That’s the way it is” attitude, they can instill a sense of powerlessness in children so that when they become aware of other forms of oppression, they will accept them without fighting back. No person would ever agree to, or submit to, being oppressed unless a pattern of oppression acceptance had been installed in early childhood.
Oppressors have usually first been oppressed and then manipulated onto the other end of the oppression pattern.
This is old human knowledge. For example: child abusers have usually been abused themselves as children. One becomes a member of the English “ruling class” by being taken away from parents at an early age and sent to special boarding schools to be tortured and systematically degraded in the most inhumane ways: being kept as “slaves” by the older students, running the gauntlet, etc. Then, as older students, being manipulated onto the other end of the pattern, forced to give the same vicious treatment to the younger boys in preparation for their “ruling” role.
Victims of oppression frequently internalise this and eventually oppress themselves. One of the most disheartening examples of internalisation is seen in homophobia. For centuries the oppression has been so severe that nowhere in the world have gays been able to respond freely, kiss and hold hands in an open atmosphere without fear, and thus have been forced underground like dissidents in the most totalitarian of countries. Seeing few positive gay role models around, young gays are unable to freely choose their true sexual identity. And so they end up loathing homosexuality before reaching adulthood, adopting and internalising heterosexual definitions of good and bad, and are forced throughout their lives into painful, futile attempts to ‘heterosexualise’ their lives with the same crippling effect on self-image as when blacks straightened their hair to “pass” as white. To avoid internalisation (or frequently suicide) they are forced to leave family and friends for exile in big-city ghettos not unlike traditional Jewish ghettos in Europe, Catholic ghettos in Northern Ireland or black ghettos in the U.S. Far too many suffer a slow death from internalisation in futile, destructive intermarriages with heterosexuals.
Most permanent damage done by oppression is done by its internalised form.
Throughout human history, commonsense and promotion of ‘the common good’ have never been the aim of governments. Control of human life has always been exercised by the bully who could control the most powerful militias, while the control of citizens’ minds has been perfected by organised religion. Rulers needed the approval of religious leaders to function, so laws have usually been based on religious precepts. The state protected religion; religion validated the state. Hand in hand, Kings and Bishops; Sultans and Imams; Chiefs and Witchdoctors, have trampled over the rights and bodies of their subjects. This situation still exists throughout Africa; in all Muslim countries; most of the Americas; and is increasing in the U.S.A. and Australia. After fifty years of attempting to avoid sharing the spoils of power with the Orthodox Church by presenting the philosophy of Communism as a religion, Russia has conceded defeat and once again shares power with the bishops and the country is again on the path to totalitarianism.
Without exception, every government that shares power with religion is more or less corrupt, cruel, indifferent to human rights, and persecutes those who get in their way, disagree, or displease them. The stronger the influence of religion – it doesn’t matter which one – the more oppressive the regime. Compare devoutly Christian Cameroon and devoutly Muslim Iran… there’s little difference. On the other hand, when Spain rejected seventeen centuries of Roman Catholic dictatorship, it changed from the most repressive and oppressive country in Europe, to the most liberal! The Dark Side of Faith
It seems that the least oppressive societies are those of Western Europe, Canada, Scandinavia, and New Zealand. South Africa is doing its best to reverse the years of oppression in every field – with laudable success. However, Australia, by slavishly following the U.S.A. in everything: – industrial law reform: ‘homeland security’; war games; education; health reforms; refusing equal rights to same-sex-oriented people; reduction of welfare; incarcerating refugees in prison camps; Leaving David Hicks to rot; consulting religious leaders when formulating policy; enacting laws to please Christians in marginal electorates…is becoming more oppressive, and can no longer call itself either Secular, Fair, or Just.
Look at the recent ‘debate’ on RU486. Just about every Christian male member of parliament voted against the removal of Roman Catholic Minister for Health Abbott’s right to veto its use, believing, as their religion demands, that women are inferior and should be subject to domination by males.
Howard won his last election on the lie that granting equality to same-sex-oriented citizens would undermine the state – a lie promulgated [in the face of mountains of contradictory evidence] by the powerful Christian lobby. According to Cardinal Pell and his Anglican and fundamentalist bedfellows, so great was this threat to national security that it took precedence over terrorism, the economy and all else, requiring a special session of parliament be convened to change the constitution to ensure that same-sex-oriented people can never have equality in Australia, and their oppression will continue – along with the hate crimes, murders, bashings, and suicides that are always the result of State-sponsored oppression. When the State oppresses, disaffected bullyboys to do their dirty work for them, crime proliferates, and a once-peaceful society crumbles.
How long is it since women were promised equal opportunity and equal pay? Why hasn’t it happened? Because our parliaments are stacked with Christian males.
And why does nothing change? Because over the last few decades taxes have been funnelled away from State Schools to religious ones, and governments allow Christians to preach their nonsensical propaganda in State Schools, brainwashing children into believing in supernatural hob-goblins and supermen, rather than learning to think! This is mental child abuse of the worst kind.
The philosophy of oppression has become so rooted in society that most people are not even aware of it and, as in the religious wars in Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, or the murdering of U.S.A. abortion doctors, whoever kills, thinks he does God a service.
France recently forbad the wearing of ostentatious symbols of religion in State schools, to preserve their secularity. Australia and the U.S.A. were quick to attack this decision. Why? Because we are already under the thumb of religion; Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The recent furore over a few cartoons is a scandalous attempt to demolish our secular freedoms – to subject us to the same restrictions as they suffer. No one, anywhere in the world in any country may laugh at their beliefs! Why not? Are they so fragile? Are they beyond criticism? It is heartening that Western European governments have refused to cower before Muslim anger. But Australia and the U.S.A. tremble and tell their people to obey Muslim law. I’ll repeat that in case the significance escapes you. By agreeing not to laugh at Muslim beliefs, we agree to obey Muslim law! How long before the sight of naked flesh on beaches is deemed an offence to Allah and is banned as it was by the Christians not so many years ago? Not long, if our inglorious leaders continue their discreditable appeasement. And before anyone whispers the word “respect”, think about what you are being asked to respect! Among hundreds of other things: – forcing women to cover all parts of their body except face and hands. Insisting on the right of men to have dominion over women. Demanding the stoning to death of women adulterers and same-sex-oriented men. Telling young men they will go straight to heaven and be given the services of seventy virgins if they murder or die while fighting in the name of Allah…
I respect honesty, truth, compassion, kindness, justice, mercy, tolerance, egalitarianism… but I can never respect anyone who espouses indifference, cruelty, hatred, intolerance and oppression.
The greatest threat to our increasingly fragile secular democracies is the notion that all cultures, no matter how bizarre some of their practices may be, are worthy of respect and support. All cultures have their roots deep in religion. Most are oppressive in their insistence on following unchanging custom. All value the group more than the individual. Amsterdam, once the most liberal of cities, a haven of commonsense, freedom and diversity, after forty years of determined multiculturalism, is now, in many areas, a dangerous place for anyone who displeases the Muslims. Women are abused, gays are hounded and beaten, clubs are picketed, politicians assassinated… all in the name of Allah. Denmark, once the most liberal, safe, and freedom-loving country on the planet, is now experiencing fear. Ethnic/cultural/religious violence and hatred stalk the streets along with fear of terrorists, and the imposition of oppressive laws – all in the name of respect for Muslim “culture”.
Despite these and other warning signs, Australia still promotes multiculturalism over pluralism. [Pluralism respects the individual, not the group]. Must we wait until we have no freedoms left before anything is done? I suspect we will be waiting forever, because the sole concern of governments is the profitability of business. Social stability is required for that, but stability is easiest to manage, particularly in the mega-cities that now sprawl across the globe like scabrous cancers, by Totalitarian government. There’s no profit in personal liberty, justice, or tolerance – they cost far too much and waste too much time. We know the air is becoming too poisonous to breathe, the land too degraded to grow food, the water too polluted to drink… but business can still make a profit and there’s no capital in proposing a reduction in the population, because all religions insist there can never be too many humans! That suits big business because unless the population continues to expand, the world’s Economies will stop expanding!
Meanwhile, there’s not much individuals can do except prepare for the worst while demanding that our elected leaders defend the freedoms our forefathers worked so hard and suffered for. It does seem pathetic that our ancestors died for our freedoms, whereas we are prepared give up those freedoms so we can live.
Personally, I agree with Patrick Henry: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it…! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Appendix: It is not surprising that oppression is the preferred means of control by religion. After all, the Bible and the Qu’ran are full of god’s commands to oppress. Here are a few. [You can find lots more unnerving information regarding the Bible, Qu’ran and the book of Mormon at this site: Skeptics Annotated Bible
* 7:4 God repeats his intention to kill “every living substance … from off the face of the earth.”
* 7:21-23 God drowns everything that breathes air. From newborn babies to koala bears
* 6:7, 17Solomon carries out the deathbed instructions of his father David by having Joab murdered. God is angry. He decides to destroy all humans, beasts, creeping things, fowls, and “all flesh wherein there is breath of life.” He plans to drown them all.
* 11:16 Joab (David’s captain) spent six months killing every male in Edom.
* 15:29 Baasha kills “all of the house of Jeroboam” leaving none “to breath.” This slaughter was done “according to the word of the Lord.”
* 20:28-30 God delivers the Syrians into the Israelites hands, and 100,000 were killed in one day. Of those that escaped, 27,000 were crushed by a falling wall.
* 21:23-25 Jezebel (Ahab’s “strange” wife) “stirred up” Ahab to “work wickedness in the sight of the Lord.” To punish her, God will feed her dead body to the dogs. (He also plans to feed the city folk to the dogs and country folks to the birds.)
* 22:43, 46 Jehoshaphat “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord” and ” exterminated the homosexuals”.
* 1:4, 17 Ahaziah was sick and sent messengers to Baalzebub to ask if he would recover. God was jealous of the attention given to his competitor and tells Ahaziah that he will die for asking the wrong god.
* 1:9-12 Elijah shows that he is “a man of God” by burning 102 men to death.
* 3:19-25 God instructs the Israelites, through the prophet Elisha, to implement a scorched earth policy on the Moabites. “Strike every fortified city and every choice city, and fell every good tree and stop all springs of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones.”
* 9:33-37 God has Jezebel thrown off a wall. Her blood is sprinkled on the wall and on the horses, by which she is trampled. Her body is eaten by dogs and all that remains of it is her hands, feet, and skull. God says that she “shall be as dung upon the face of the field.”
* 10:7-42 Jehu murders every one of Ahab’s sons and family and followers – hundreds and hundreds then did the same to the followers of Baal. And God is greatly pleased with all of Jehu’s killings, saying “because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart [Jehu murdered them all], thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 10:30
* 15:16 King Menahem rips up all the pregnant women in Tizzah “because they opened not to him.”
* 17:25-26 God sent lions to devour the foreigners in Samaria because “they feared not the Lord,” and even worse “they knew not the manner of the God of the land.”
The Bible says to kill your wife, your daughter, your son, your brother, your friend, etc… if they worship other gods. (Deu 13:6-10 NRSV) If anyone secretly entices you-even if it is your brother, your father’s son or your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend – saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God, …
(Prov 23:13 NRSV) Do not withhold discipline from your children; if you beat them with a rod, they will not die. The bible says that beating people and inflicting wounds is good for them. (Prov 20:30 NRSV) Blows that wound cleanse away evil; beatings make clean the innermost parts. (Exo 20:5 NRSV) You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me.”
The Qu’ran is no better…
1. The curse of Allah is on disbelievers. 2:89
2. Disbelievers will be burned with fire. 2:39, 2:90
3. Allah is an enemy to the disbelievers. 2:98
4. Only evil people are disbelievers. 2:99
5. Those who joke about Allah’s revelations will go to hell. Theirs will be an awful doom. 45:9-10
6. Marry of the women two, or three, or four. 4:3
7. Males are to inherit twice that of females. 4:11
8. Lewd women are to be confined to their houses until death. 4:15
9. You may not forcibly inherit women, unless they are flagrantly lewd. 4:19
10. Instructions for exchanging wives 4:20
11. Men are in charge of women, because Allah made men to be better than women.
12. Don’t pray if you are drunk, dirty, or have touched a woman lately. 4:43
13. Women are feeble and are unable to devise a plan. 4:98
14. When it’s time to pray and you have just used the toilet or touched a woman, be sure to wash up. If you can’t find any water, just rub some dirt on yourself. 5:6
15. A husband can accuse his wife of adultery with only one witness. 24:6
16. Believing women must lower their gaze and be modest, cover themselves with veils, and not reveal themselves except to their husbands, relatives, children, and slaves. 24:31
17. Allah will reward faithful Muslims after they die with “fair ones with wide, lovely eyes.” 44:54
18. If a man has sex with another man, kill them both. 20:13
Acknowledgement: some useful information was obtained from the following websites: –
By Peter R Taylor