In the world before Christianity and Islam took hold far more religions and philosophies existed than do now. Around the middle of the first millennium BCE Daoism, Buddhism and Zoroastrianism began to become established and quickly spread in Asia, no doubt impacting on already long established religions of the time but without such wide-reaching repercussions.
In this photo taken on Sunday, April 20, 2014, and released on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, checks a damaged church during his visit to the Christian village of Maaloula, near Damascus, Syria. Assad visited on Sunday a historic Christian village his forces recently captured from rebels, state media said, as the country’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch vowed that Christians in the war-ravaged country “will not submit and yield” to extremists. The rebels, including fighters from the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front, took Maaloula several times late last year. (AP Photo/Syrian Presidency via Facebook)
These new religions appeared in a world where a vast amount of religions already existed. The Mesopotamian religion, is the oldest known and recorded organised religion, consisting of worship of some two thousand deities. Although not explicitly tied to the state and rulers (as was the case with Egypt) it was deeply embedded in the culture of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian empires over some four thousand years, spreading its influence over a vast region and, it is thought, influencing Canaanite, Greek and possibly Egyptian and Jewish religions during that time.
Like many other religions it co-existed with others and was transmitted by cultural shifts brought about by war and trade as various empires expanded and collapsed. Whether it was state sponsored or the ‘official’ religion throughout its empire, as in Egypt, is unclear but it does appear that their religiosity was at the core of their culture. In Egypt, their polytheistic religion, although transforming over time was clearly tied to the monarchy (Pharaohs) and implemented by a highly organised, state sponsored, priesthood, deeply embedded within the social and political hierarchy. As a great imperial power, its religion had a significant impact on other cultures and religions such as Greek polytheism and possibly some aspects of Christianity. Certainly the cult of Isis was widespread across the Greco-Roman world, throughout the Mediterranean region and also in parts of Africa.
Although it is generally regarded that religious intolerance was the norm in antiquity, it was not always the case. In India Buddhism and Jainism, alongside Hinduism, were allowed to flourish in the Mauyra and Gupta dynasties. In China Buddhism coexisted with Daoism and Confucianism along with folk religion over two millennia with very little suppression an intolerance in that time period. In the Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great (after 550BCE), religious tolerance was enshrined in the laws passed, covering an area thought to contain half the population of the world at the time. Within the much later Sassanid empire(around 400CE) Judaism, Manichaeism and Christianity were tolerated alongside Zoroastrianism which was dominant in western Asia. During such times both the environment and people were able to prosper – free from the constant destructive onslaught of war.
Unfortunately the situation was not to last. Both Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, from being hugely popular faded into obscurity due to violent competition with Christianity and Islam. The political and religious union of the Roman empire following Constantine left little room for toleration of rival religions, including the Greco-Roman Paganism that had been so dominant for over a millennium. In Armenia and Georgia both Zoroastrianism and Paganism suffered as the state chose to enforce a policy of Christianity as the official religion, while at the same time centralising and consolidating economic and political influence. The 5th century ushered in a new era of religious persecution which also served to consolidate social and political power.
Islam quickly spread beyond Arabia following Muhammad’s death in 632, swiftly taking the Byzantine and Sassanid empires by storm, although Byzantium survived in gradual decline for another eight hundred years. Although current troubles surrounding Islamic extremism may lead many to think otherwise, Islam has historically had a more tolerant attitude to other religions than Christianity. Zoroastrianism, which was dominant in western Asia was persecuted by Islam and actively discouraged for a millennium. Despite this, today in Iran (often considered a pariah state) Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism coexist peacefully alongside the majority religion of Islam, albeit with less rights.
At the end of the 11th century Pope Urban II initiated a Christian war against Islam in defence of Byzantium to reclaim the Holy Land. Two hundred years of Crusades ended ultimately in failure and led to the destruction of Byzantium in 1453 and Muslim incursions into Europe thereafter. Apart from a few decades, the Muslim Ottoman (Turkish) empire was at almost constant war with Christian Europe, until its final demise at the end of World War I. During the Crusades, and up until the end of the 17th century, Christians took the opportunity to also persecute Jews, with mass expulsions and massacres throughout Europe during much of that period.
The Muslim world also came under attack from the Mongols during the 13th century, the low point of which was the destruction of the 500 year Caliphate and city of Baghdad – bringing to an end the Abbasid dynasty and what was considered the golden age of Islam. Most of the Mongols were Tengriist but Genghis Khan permitted and encouraged religious freedom across his new empire, so long as he faced no resistance. Tough resistance from Muslim rulers led to a typical Mongol response, a bloodbath across the Islamic world, which almost destroyed Islam in Asia. Freedom of religion generally allowed Tengriism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Manichaeanism, Taoism and Islam to coexist peacefully, although gradually three of the four Mongol Khanates became Muslim, with the Chinese Khanate adopting Tibetan Buddhism.
With the discovery of the Americas and subsequently the rounding of the Cape of Africa (Good Hope) in the 15th century, the Spanish and Portuguese unleashed a unprecedented wave of Christian oppression and religious intolerance far beyond it’s previous domains. Beginning with Columbus’ genocide in Hispaniola, religious persecution, enslavement, murder and environmental destruction took place across the New World and coastal Africa. Soon to be joined by other emerging imperial forces, such as England, a wave of colonisation, extermination and forced conversion took place, over hundreds of years. The repercussions of this are still very much in evidence today with continents environmentally ravaged and many peoples becoming extinct, diminished and relocated, with their indigenous cultures and religions completely or nearly destroyed.
Despite a gradual move towards secular governments throughout the world individual, organisational and state sponsored religious intolerance has continued to plague the world into the modern era. Some the most horrific religious oppression in history has occurred in the last century or so with the genocide of Armenian Christians by the Ottomans and the Nazi Holocaust against primarily Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Religious and social oppression of Australian Aborigines, Native Americans, indigenous tribes in South America, in Apartheid South Africa and throughout the former Soviet Union and China has all taken place within the last hundred years.
Even now, the world has witnessed the barbarism of Daesh (Islamic State) in the Middle East and the recent oppression and migration of the Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority. Although only recently re-ignited this new horror is part of a long conflict that originated during World War II. Having been on opposing sides during the war, the Buddhist regime and the Rohingya have been in sporadic conflict since 1947, culminating with the mass eviction (in 2017) of Rohingya people into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Currently there are estimated to be some ten thousand distinct religions in existence in the world, despite the eradication of many faiths during our tumultuous history. Unfortunately we have still not figured out a way to co-exist in peace both on an international level, between theocratic states, or within individual religious communities.
Part of the problem, no doubt, is created by the adoption of religion at a state level. Where secularism or at least state guaranteed religious tolerance is the norm the level and frequency of religious intolerance is lower. Throughout our sad collective history there have been brief islands of calm, religious plurality and toleration, instigated at state level, that prove that peaceful co-existence was and still is possible.
Many religions claim to have the right answers, to be the one true religion or to have the sole authority of the divine. Given that there are so many religions in the world, it seems rather bizarre that just one could rightfully lay claim to exclusive divine approval. In truth what religion a person adheres to is largely dictated by social and geographical factors – the community and location in which one grows up.
If one is able to put aside the correctness of polytheism, henotheism (many aspects of the one) or monotheism, all religions point to the hand of the divine in the creation of the universe and life within it. In a certain sense all religions can be said to be both right and wrong at the same time, in that they describe or allude to the divine truths of our existence, but in a way that can hardly be satisfactory to all.
All religions have ideas about morality and decency but these are not necessarily the same and indeed are quite often contradictory. For instance, murder would generally be considered wrong, almost universally, however there are circumstances such as ‘honour killings’ in some religious cultures that are considered acceptable. However, in some religions even to kill a fly would be considered a great sin. So, who is to decide what is correct and what is not, who has a divine mandate and who does not?
As human beings we are somewhat like goldfish in a small tank – with our limited perception we attempt to understand the world around us and ourselves, to discover the nature of life and the universe and to find meaning within the chaos and confusion of life. Like the goldfish we are limited by our intelligence our senses and our placement within a universe that is bigger than our imaginings. I believe that it is true to say that our ability to comprehend the mysteries of existence are very limited, perhaps more so than we can possibly realise.
The belief in one true religion has been the cause of conflict the world over or been the justification for it. Religion has been misguidedly been used to justify war and colonisation, economic predation and the ecological destruction that accompanies it. While humanity has been foolishly arguing, fighting and jostling for dominance in the world we have been distracted from the raging fires that now surround us, that we have created ourselves.
It is clear that the ‘end times’ talked of in many faiths could well be upon us, but if that is so, it is surely not due to an act of God but as a result of our own carelessness, stupidity and obsession with competing with our fellow humans. At this time, we have the capacity to destroy the world with nuclear weapons or to poison it for many thousands of years through the careless use of nuclear power. We have taken warfare to new depths with increasingly efficient ways to slaughter one another, even without the direct involvement of human soldiers any more. Worse still, through over-population and over-exploitation of nature we are pushing the world towards ecological collapse; which could bring extinction for many species including our own.
While our governments waste fortunes on larger and more dangerous armies economic hardships and poverty continue to plague the world – the poor suffer the ravages of climate change while a powerful minority continue to feed their insatiable greed for more. Instead of being united by faith, albeit of different strands, peoples are often divided and turned against each other to the benefit of their manipulators and to the detriment of humanity and the world at large.
In truth we have reached a great crisis for humanity and for the world – climate change, caused by our shortsightedness, is merely one of the symptoms of our disease. It is well past the time when we should put aside our religious and ideological differences and focus on the great problems of our time i.e. saving humanity from itself.
In the past empires and civilisations collapsed due to economic, religious and ecological factors in addition to military failures. Such collapses were localised not systemic, but now we no longer have the luxury of repeating the mistakes of human history. If we continue down a path of violence, destruction, vast inequality and intolerance then there is little hope for humanity. History has proven that times of peace, cooperation and toleration are possible. If we can overcome our differences, while there is still time, and truly work together in cooperation to transform our societies then we at least have a chance to save humanity from an avoidable tragedy.
Originally published on 2018-02-20
About the author: Luke Eastwood is a legal celebrant and writer in Ireland. You can view more of his work at www.lukeeastwood.com
Source: Global Research
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
So, here's how it is:
1) There is still no evidence - that has been presented to the public - that Assad ordered a chemical weapons (CW) attack.
2) Yes, that evidence should be made public, discussed and debated by Congress, and a vote taken before we use force. I acknowledge that the War Powers Resolution gives the President the authority to use force for 60 days - but the interests of peace and stability are better served through a debate and a democratic process as opposed to a unilateral decision made in secret, especially when the military action is punitive and ...
Here we go again. In yet another Pentagon precision strike, a residential building in Achin district of Nangarhar province was hit as a crowd welcomed home a tribal leader returning from the Hajj.
At least 13 civilians were turned into «collateral damage». The Pentagon of course does not «discuss the details of counter-terror operations», but it’s «currently reviewing all materials related to this strike».
Nothing obviously will come out of it – adding the civilian dead to the non-stop mounting toll of Operation Enduring Freedom (Forever).
Someone that actually is bound to endure his freedom in full splendor is former warlord, head of ...
Could Donald Trump already be the worst of all American presidents? In less than two years his record on the world scene has been frightening enough: U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accords, scuttling of the Iran nuclear treaty, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, unjustifiably punitive sanctions against Russia, Iran, and Venezuela, terror bombing of Mosul and other Iraq cities, bombastic threats against friends and enemies alike – not to mention a $54 billion gift to the Pentagon and stepped-up nuclear “modernization”. Hard to imagine much worse.
One article of faith among liberals and the corporate media is that ...
During the Kosovo conflict in 1999, military intervention by the US and NATO was precipitated by the use of outright lies and deceptions. The conflict was “ostensibly about preventing “genocide” on the scale of the Holocaust. This was the Big Lie. This was the Noble Lie. In fact, the conflict was about secession and separatism and the creation of a US-sponsored Greater Albania. Why was the Noble Lie needed? A deception was needed because US policy was supporting an illegal land grab, a forceful take-over of territory from a sovereign nation, Yugoslavia.
Why and how could such lies and deceptions occur ...
Editor: Little did I know when I posted a short news story about the ‘invasion of Hungary’ last evening that the situation in Kosovo has become untenable and a mass exodus was so advanced. ‘Pungentpeppers’ has again pulled many threads together to give us the big picture of what is happening in Eastern Europe. Is the US responsible? An Austrian political leader says so!
Mass exodus from Muslim Kosovo into Europe
~150,000 or more Kosovars on the move since summer
~Hungarian Police catch 1,000 Kosovars daily – a small fraction of the total
~Hungarian mayor calls for fence as Kosovars overwhelm village
~Austrian politician blames ...
What do you think of when you hear the name Colonel Gaddafi? Tyrant? Dictator? Terrorist? Well, a national citizen of Libya may disagree but we want you to decide.
For 41 years until his demise in October 2011, Muammar Gaddafi did some truly amazing things for his country and repeatedly tried to unite and empower the whole of Africa.
So despite what you’ve heard on the radio, seen in the media or on the TV, Gaddafi did some powerful things that are not characteristic of a “vicious dictator” as portrayed by the western media.
Here are ten things Gaddafi did for Libya that you may not know about…
1. In Libya a home is ...
The reaction to the Syrian gassing incident shows that the U.S. ship-of-state is being piloted by fools.
Fool-in-Chief is President Donald Trump, who has duly followed the Neocon script by leaping to the conclusion that President al-Assad’s Syrian government is responsible when in fact there is no evidence of an intentional attack. Even if Syrian planes hit a munitions warehouse, the gas had been stored there by anti-government rebels /terrorists. It would be impossible and contrary to common sense that the Syrian government could have done this on purpose, if they did it at all.
Fool-at-the-Podium is Sean Spicer, helplessly trying to ...
Whenever bombings and shootings escalate in the Middle East, Israeli propagandists say that Israel is exercising its right of military self-defense against indiscriminate attacks coming from the Gaza Strip. But as this article documents, the right to use force in self-defense is contingent on Israel ending its military occupation and blockade of Gaza.
DON’T MISQUOTE ME ON THAT!
Doubtless some unscrupulous person or persons will quote or interpret this article out of context and claim that I’m saying that Israel has no right to self-defense at all. So, let me be clear: Israel is a nation-state like any other, like it or ...
Government propaganda and NGO misinformation have coloured the story of the war on Syria from its inception. Stepping in to set the record straight, Dr. Tim Anderson explores the real beginnings of the conflict, the players behind it, and their agenda in his new book, “The Dirty War on Syria: Washington, Regime Change and Resistance.”
The Dirty War on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory. In seeking ‘regime change’ the big powers sought to hide their hand, using proxy armies of ‘Islamists’, demonising the Syrian Government and constantly accusing it of atrocities. In ...
Obama has announced new sanctions on Russia based on unsubstantiated charges by the CIA that the Russian government influenced the outcome of the US presidential election with “malicious cyber-enabled activities.”
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a report “related to the declaration of 35 Russian officials persona non grata for malicious cyber activity and harassment.”
The report is a description of “tools and infrastructure used by Russian intelligence services to compromise and exploit networks and infrastructure associated with the recent U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. government, political and private sector entities.”
The report does not provide ...
The rise of Fascism and Totalitarianism
Just over 100 years ago, Britain, France, Germany and Russia ruled half of the world – most of Europe, all of Africa, South Asia, most of Southeast Asia, and most of the Pacific region. They dominated China and were of course influential everywhere else.
During the past century, including the two devastating World Wars when the West resorted to mechanised butchery and industrialised slaughter, more than 170 million people, mainly civilians, were killed.
The West introduced unprecedented levels of totalitarianism and oppression by inventing and ruling through Communism, Fascism, Nazism, slavery and apartheid.
Some six million Jews perished ...
Kosovo Albanian Jihadist leader who led the troops of the Islamic Caliphate (IS) into Falluja worked for NATO and Afghanistan, reports say. The 24-year old Kosovo Albanian Muslim, Lavdrim Muhaxheri from city of Kacanik, worked at NATOs Camp Bondsteel facility of Serbia’s occupied province of Kosovo. It is unclear what his function at Bondsteel was.
Muhaxheri was also an activist for the official Islamic Community inside Kosovo which is the unofficial political arm of the separatist Albanians who enjoy wide support from Washington. In 2013, Muhaxheri is pictured in various situations for the Islamic Community in Kosovo.
Muhaxheri also belonged to a ...
“It is always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists and simultaneously trying to use some to place pieces on the Middle Eastern chess board to pursue their own interests … [but do the] so-called moderate bandits behead people moderately?” – Vladimir Putin (2015)
Reports that US and British aircraft carrying arms to ISIS were shot down by Iraqi forces (Iraqi News 2015) were met with shock and denial in western countries. Yet few in the Middle East doubt that Washington is playing a ‘double game’ with its proxy armies in Syria. A Yemeni AnsarAllah leader says ...
Waffen SS troops in the Albanian Battalion of the Handzar Division, wearing SS-issued Albanian skullcaps, Bosnia, 1944
SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler formed a Kosovo Albanian Muslim Nazi SS Division during World War II, the Skanderbeg SS Division, 21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg (1st Albanian), in 1944. He planned to form a second Kosovo Albanian Muslim SS Division but was not able to because the war ended before he could do so. The history of the Skanderbeg division has been documented and analyzed. What has rarely been analyzed, however, is the role of the Kosovo Albanian Muslim members in ...
Up to June 1967, a border separated Jews living in Israel and Palestinians residing in the West Bank and Gaza. The Six Day War, which occurred exactly fifty years ago, erased that line. Israel has been occupying these territories ever since. This has been the source of an endless conflict between Jews and Arabs. Who started that war? Having won the war, Israel set out to give an answer to that question which would suit its needs.To cement its hold over the new territories Israel had sought to mold the story of the Six Day. The attempt to frame the ...
Twenty-first century slave markets. Human beings sold for a few hundred dollars. Massive protests throughout the world.
The American and British media have awakened to the grim reality in Libya, where African refugees are for sale in open-air slave markets. Yet a crucial detail in this scandal has been downplayed or even ignored in many corporate media reports: the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in bringing slavery to the North African nation.
In March 2011, NATO launched a war in Libya expressly aimed at toppling the government of longtime leader Muammar Qadhafi. The US and its allies flew some 26,000 sorties ...
This article was first published in November 2014.
Recent developments confirm what is known and documented: Washington is behind the Islamic State (ISIS) and at the same time it is behind the moderate Al Qaeda terrorists, which the Obama administration is supporting as part of America’s campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS). And they expect us to believe that they are committed to waging a campaign against terrorists.
The Islamic State (ISIS) was until 2014 called al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).
Al Nusra is an al Qaeda affiliate which has committed countless atrocities in Syria. It is now considered by the Obama administration as ...
"Evicted five centuries ago by crusading Christians, the Arabs are back in Spain, using their oil dollars to buy land that was seized from their ancestors by the sword". — James M. Markham, The New York Times, 1981.
The Madrid daily ABC wrote that 800 mosques in Spain are out of control. The Spanish daily La Razon charged that Gulf donors, such as Qatar, were a source of Spain's Islamization. The Saudis also launched a new Spanish television channel, Córdoba TV, as did Iran.
They dream of, and work to, regain the "lost Caliphate" of Spain. Some Islamists do ...
GR Editor’s Note
The following article by professor Eric Waddell was first published twelve years ago by Global Research in December 2003 in the immediate wake of the invasion and occupation of Iraq by US and British forces, with a postscript added in 2007. The article provides an incisive historical perspective on America’s “long war” against humanity, which is being carried out under a fake humanitarian mandate.
Let us be under no illusions as to the intent of the US and its allies.
We are dealing with World Conquest under the disguise of a “Global War on Terrorism”.
Michel Chossudovsky, December 24, ...
Italian police broke up an alleged jihadist cell in Venice who had celebrated last week’s terrorist attack in London and planned to blow up the city’s famous Rialto Bridge in the hope of killing hundreds of tourists. In a series of overnight raids, anti-terrorism police arrested three suspects, all of them Kosovars who were living in Italy.
Fisnik Bekaj, 24, Dake Haziraj, 25, and Arian Babaj, 27, were allegedly admirers of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and were secretly recorded discussing how they were ready to die for the sake of jihad. A fourth person, an unnamed minor ...
Only Fools and Liars will Blame Assad
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Kosovo War and Plato’s “The Noble Lie”
Mass Exodus from Muslim Kosovo into Europe: Did US Play a Role in Creating the Crisis?
Libya: Ten Things about Gaddafi They don’t want You to Know
The Trump Administration: “Ship of Fools”
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Video: The Dirty War on Syria – Prof. Tim Anderson on GRTV
What is the Obama Regime?
Fascism and Islamic Fundamentalism
Kosovo Albanian Leader of Islamic Caliphate Units Worked for NATO
The Dirty War on Syria: Washington Supports the Islamic State (ISIS)
Kosovo Albanian Muslims in the Nazi SS
Was Israel Under Existential Threat in June 1967?
Media Erase NATO Role in Bringing Slave Markets to Libya
Twenty-Six Things About the Islamic State (ISIL) That Obama Does Not Want You to Know About
A New Islamic Occupation of Iberian Peninsula?
World Conquest: The United States’ Global Military Crusade (1945- )
Kosovo Albanian Jihadists Planned to Attack Venice’s Rialto Bridge