Preface: Fundamentalist Christians, Jews and Muslims all think they are in a “holy war” against the other guy. As shown below, fundamentalists are being manipulated by the powers-that-be – many of whom are actually atheists – as part of a divide-and-conquer strategy to disempower people.
The 2,000 Year Old Strategy
The strategy of dividing and conquering one’s foes is ancient.
Ancient Roman emperor Julius Cesar successfully used it thousands of years ago.
The application of the strategy in controlling one’s own people – divide and rule – has been used for just as long. As Wikipedia notes:
Elements of this technique involve:
- creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
- aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
- fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers [or groups]
- encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political [organization or opposition] …..
In discussing the use of “divide and rule” in the U.S., Wikipedia discusses the “Use of left-right politics“.
Indeed – even though the Founding Fathers warned us against the danger of a two-party system to divide the nation – left-right partisan divisions have successfully been deployed to distract and weaken the American people for centuries.
Religion has been used for the same purpose:
England invaded Ireland in 1170, but for the first 439 years it was a conquest in name only. In 1609, however, James I founded the Plantation of Ulster, imported 20,000 Protestant settlers, and introduced religious strife as a political tactic. By favoring Protestants over the native Catholics in politics and economics-the so-called “Ulster Privilege-the English pitted both groups against one another.
The tactic was enormously successful, and England used it throughout its colonial empire. Nowhere were the British so successful in transplanting the Irish model than in India.
As prime minister [Churchill] once said that he hoped that the tension between Hindus and Muslims would remain “A bulwark of British rule in India.”
The British were not alone in using religion as a tactic to divide and conquer. The French employed it quite successfully in Lebanon and Vietnam. In the former, Paris favored Maronite Christians over Muslims (and Sunni Muslims over Shiite Muslims), and in the latter, Catholics over Buddhists.
Exploiting religious differences hardly ended with the demise of the great colonial empires.
The French continue to exploit religious divisions in Lebanon, and the U.S. is currently trying to cobble together a Sunni united front to confront Washington’s three opponents in the Middle East: Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Syria is mostly Sunni, but Bashar al-Assad’s regime is dominated by Alawites, a variety of Shiism. Some 60 percent of Lebanon is Shiite.
But Shiites only constitute about 12 percent of Islam, and while Washington talks of a “Shiia crescent” as if it constituted some kind of united front, in fact there are enormous differences between Arab Syria and Lebanon, and non-Arabic speaking Iran.
Religion is increasingly being used to ramp up the fear factor in international politics.
Indeed, ramping up hatred and fear of other religions is an easy way for any government to consolidate power and rationalize war.
“Why of course the people don’t want war … But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
- Hermann Goering, Nazi leader
No wonder the powers-that-be in the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia do everything possible to whip up fear of foreign religions.
Atheist War Hawks Manipulate Believers to Beat the Drums of War
But wait, you may say ….
Perhaps the leaders of the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel really believe that we are really in a holy war?
That can’t be the case because – as shown above – U.S. and Israeli leaders have backed fundamentalist Muslims, and Saudi Arabia is working hand-in-hand with the U.S. and Israel in numerous endeavors.
Moreover, history reveals the cynicism of those manipulating people of faith to reach their goals.
For example, while the Saudi royal family pushes the most strict and fundamentalist form Islam, the Saudi royal family’s debauchery and corruption is legendary. The monarchs – while pushing strict Wahabism as the official state religion – don’t practice it.
Many orthodox Israeli Rabbis are against zionism as being antithetical to traditional Jewish values. As such, many Jews say that criticizing zionism is not anti-semitism. … and some zionists themselves admit that even non-Jews have the right to criticize Israel. (This post will not get into the debate about whether zionism is a good or bad political philosophy. We are only pointing out that the Israeli government’s statements about religion are disputed by many Orthodox Rabbis; and many Israelis claim that the government is cynically pushing a view of religion only because it promotes the government’s geopolitical desires).
In the U.S., Leo Strauss was the father of the Neo-Conservative movement, including many leaders of both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Indeed, many of the main neocon players – including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Stephen Cambone, Elliot Abrams, and Adam Shulsky – were students of Strauss at the University of Chicago, where he taught for many years.
The people pushing for war against Iran are the same neocons who pushed for war against Iraq. See this and this. (They planned both wars at least 20 years ago.) For example, Shulsky was the director of the Office of Special Plans – the Pentagon unit responsible for selling false intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He is now a member of the equivalent organization targeting Iran: the Iranian Directorate.
Strauss, born in Germany, was an admirer of Nazi philosophers and of Machiavelli. Strauss believed that a stable political order required an external threat and that if an external threat did not exist, one should be manufactured. Specifically, Strauss thought that:
A political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat . . . . Following Machiavelli, he maintained that if no external threat exists then one has to be manufactured
(the quote is by one of Strauss’ main biographers).
What does this have to do with religion?
Strauss taught that religion should be used as a way to manipulatepeople to achieve the aims of the leaders. But that the leaders themselves need not believe in religion.
As Wikipedia notes:
In the late 1990s Irving Kristol and other writers in neoconservative magazines began touting anti-Darwinist views, in support of intelligent design. Since these neoconservatives were largely of secular backgrounds, a few commentators have speculated that this – along with support for religion generally – may have been a case of a “noble lie”, intended to protect public morality, or even tactical politics, to attract religious supporters.
So is it any surprise that the folks who planned war against Iraq and Iran at least 20 years ago are pushing religious disinformation to stir up the evangelical community?
Talking heads in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. are all promoting the Straussian playbook: stir up religious sentiment – even if you are personally an atheist – to create and demonize an “enemy”, so as to divide and conquer their people and other countries …
The 3 Governments Support the Hard-Liners of “Enemy” Religions In Other Countries
But aren’t Christianity, Judaism and Islam mortal enemies? Isn’t there a holy war … which must be fought and won for our religion?
If that’s true, how come the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia – the leaders of fundamentalist Christian, Islam and Judaism, respectively – are all very close allies?
Specifically, 85% of the American population identifies itself as Christian. The largest concentration of Evangelicals in the world can be found in the United States, where roughly a quarter of the world’s Evangelicals live (over 90 million). The U.S. is the seat of the most violent fundamentalist Christians (abortion clinic bombers, etc.)
Israel is obviously the center of the Jewish religion, and the seat of the most fundamentalist Jews.
And Saudi Arabia is the center of the most radical, fundamentalist and terror-prone branch of Muslims … the “Wahhabis” (also called “Salafis”). As Frontline reports:
For more than two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith. It is an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Koran. Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don’t practice their form of Islam are heathens and enemies. Critics say that Wahhabism’s rigidity has led it to misinterpret and distort Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California.
The religious curriculum in Saudi Arabia teaches you that people are basically two sides: Salafis [Wahhabis], who are the winners, the chosen ones, who will go to heaven, and the rest. The rest are Muslims and Christians and Jews and others [and these non-Salafis] are supposed to be hated, to be persecuted, even killed.
[Wahhabism is] sort of an extreme orthodoxy that historically has not been shared by a majority of Muslims, particularly nobody outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
But the U.S. has long backed Saudi Arabia … and the Madrassa schools within Saudi Arabia which teach radical, violent Wahabi beliefs.
The Washington Post reported in 2002:
The United States spent millions of dollars to supply Afghan schoolchildren with textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings ….
The primers, which were filled with talk of jihad and featured drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines, have served since then as the Afghan school system’s core curriculum. Even the Taliban used the American-produced books ….
The Council on Foreign Relations notes:
The 9/11 Commission report (PDF) released in 2004 said some of Pakistan’s religious schools or madrassas served as “incubators for violent extremism.” Since then, there has been much debate over madrassas and their connection to militancy.
New madrassas sprouted, funded and supported by Saudi Arabia and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, where students were encouraged to join the Afghan resistance.
And see this.
The U.S. also directly arms, funds and otherwise supports the most violent fundamentalist Muslim terrorists – including Al Qaeda – against the more moderate Muslims and secular Arabs. Indeed, the U.S. backs Islamic terrorists who are persecuting Christians and Jews.
As one example, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser – Zbigniew Brzezinski – admitted on CNN that the U.S. organized and supported Bin Laden and the other originators of “Al Qaeda” in the 1970s to fight the Soviets.
Brzezinski told Al Qaeda’s forefathers, the Mujahadin:
We know of their deep belief in god – that they’re confident that their struggle will succeed. That land over – there is yours – and you’ll go back to it some day, because your fight will prevail, and you’ll have your homes, your mosques, back again, because your cause is right, and god is on your side.
The U.S. not only strongly supports Israel, many of the most fundamentalist American Christians support the most fundamentalist, hard-line, radical Israeli Jews. And the Israeli government supports the Christian fundamentalists.
For example, Dr. Timothy Webber – an evangelical Christian who has served as a teacher of church history and the history of American religion at Denver Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Vice-President at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL, and President of Memphis Theological Seminary in Tennessee – notes:
Almost one out of four Americans believes that 9/11 was predicted in the Bible, and nearly one in five believes that he or she will live long enough to see the end of the world. Even more significant for this study, over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return.Millions of Americans believe that the Bible predicts the future and that we are living in the last days. Their beliefs are rooted in dispensationalism, a particular way of understanding the Bible’s prophetic passages …. They make up about one-third of America’s 40 or 50 million evangelical Christians and believe that the nation of Israel will play a central role in the unfolding of end-times events. In the last part of the 20th century, dispensationalist evangelicals become Israel’s best friends-an alliance that has made a serious geopolitical difference.
During the early 1980s the Israeli Ministry of Tourism recruited evangelical religious leaders for free “familiarization” tours. In time, hundreds of evangelical pastors got free trips to the Holy Land. The purpose of such promotional tours was to enable people of even limited influence to experience Israel for themselves and be shown how they might bring their own tour group to Israel. The Ministry of Tourism was interested in more than tourist dollars: here was a way of building a solid corps of non-Jewish supporters for Israel in the United States by bringing large numbers of evangelicals to hear and see Israel’s story for themselves. The strategy caught on.
Shortly after the Six-Day War, elements within the Israeli government saw the potential power of the evangelical subculture and began to mobilize it as a base of support that could influence American foreign policy. The Israeli government sent Yona Malachy of its Department of Religious Affairs to the United States to study American fundamentalism and its potential as an ally of Israel. Malachy was warmly received by fundamentalists and was able to influence some of them to issue strong pro-Israeli manifestos. By the mid-1980s, there was a discernible shift in the Israeli political strategy. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish state’s major lobbying group in Washington, D.C., started re-aligning itself with the American political right-wing, including Christian conservatives. Israel’s timing was perfect. It began working seriously with American dispensationalists at the precise moment that American fundamentalists and evangelicals were discovering their political voice.
In their commitment to keep Israel strong and moving in directions prophesied by the Bible, dispensationalists are supporting some of the most dangerous elements in Israeli society. They do so because such political and religious elements seem to conform to dispensationalist beliefs about what is coming next for Israel. By lending their support-both financial and spiritual-to such groups, dispensationalists are helping the future they envision come to pass.
Their convictions have led them to support the aims and actions of what most Israelis believe are the most dangerous right-wing elements in their society, people whose views make any compromise necessary for lasting peace impossible. Such sentiments do not matter to the believers in Bible prophecy, for whom the outcome of the quarrelsome issue of the Temple Mount has already been determined by God.
Since the end of the Six-Day War, then, dispensationalists have increasingly moved from observers to participant-observers. They have acted consistently with their convictions about the coming Last Days in ways that make their prophecies appear to be self-fulfilling.
As Paul Boyer has pointed out, dispensationalism has effectively conditioned millions of Americans to be somewhat passive about the future [the goal of divide-and-conquer efforts] and provided them with lenses through which to understand world events. Thanks to the sometimes changing perspectives of their Bible teachers, dispensationalists are certain that trouble in the Middle East is inevitable, that nations will war against nations, and that the time is coming when millions of people will die as a result of nuclear war, the persecution of Antichrist, or as a result of divine judgment. Striving for peace in the Middle East is a hopeless pursuit with no chance of success.
For the dispensational community, the future is determined. The Bible’s prophecies are being fulfilled with amazing accuracy and rapidity. They do not believe that the Road Map will-or should-succeed. According to the prophetic texts, partitioning is not in Israel’s future, even if the creation of a Palestinian state is the best chance for peace in the region. Peace is nowhere prophesied for the Middle East, until Jesus comes and brings it himself. The worse thing that the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations can do is force Israel to give up land for a peace that will never materialize this side of the second coming. Anyone who pushes for peace in such a manner is ignoring or defying God’s plan for the end of the age.
As [one dispensationalist group's] advertisement read, “Don’t just read about prophecy when you can be part of it.”
Israel has also repeatedly been caught impersonating Muslim extremists. For example, Israel admits that an Israeli terrorist cell operating in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings, including U.S. diplomatic facilities, then left behind “evidence” implicating the Arabs as the culprits (one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to identify the bombers, and several of the Israelis later confessed) (and see this and this).
NBC News reports that Israel backed a Muslim fundamentalist terror group against Iran, and former CBS News producer Barry Lando claims that Saudi Arabia helps fund Israeli’s Mossad in such efforts. (Of course, the U.S. has long backed these same Muslim terrorists against Iran, and has covertly been waging war against Iran for years. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.)
Israel and Saudi Arabia also now support each other. For example, the Sunday Times reported that Saudi Arabia has tested the ability to stand down its air defenses to allow an Israeli strike on Iran to pass through its airspace. After the Arab Spring, Israel views the Saudi government as “guarantor of stability”, according to the New York Times. In 2011, Israel approved a German sale of 200 Leopard tanks to Saudi Arabia. The approval came from Uzi Arad, the national security advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu.
These 3 countries – centers of 3 different religions – are also all fighting on the same side in various wars. For example, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel are all fighting against the Syrian government, and backing Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood. (Indeed, the New York Times reported last week that virtually all of the rebel fighters are Al Qaeda terrorists.)
As Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh noted:
The Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East.
A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace ….
Again, what does it mean that the centers of fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity are all backing the same group of terrorists to promote certain geopolitical goals?
It means that religion is being used by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli governments to divide and conquer the rest of the world … and to divide and rule their own people.
Postscript 1: I agree with Christian writer and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, who argued that there are different stages of spiritual maturity, and that fundamentalism – whether it be Muslim, Christian, Jewish (or any another religion’s) fundamentalism – is an immature stage of development.
Specifically, Peck believed that fundamentalism is a pendulum swing 0ver-reaction to the anarchy and chaos of lawlessness and hedonism. Peck believed that fundamentalism is a desperate attempt to impose order and consistent, unchanging rules in an unstable, chaotic situation.
Postscript 2: Many Christians and Jews assume that Islam is the most violent religion. But the FBI and other official U.S. sources say that Christian and Jewish extremists carry out more terrorist attacks in the U.S. than Muslims.
And Muslim scholars – such as University of Michigan professor Juan Cole – say that Islamic law forbids terrorism – but that the radical Wahabis are twisting Islam into something different … a violent religion. Given that (as discussed above) the U.S., Saudi royal family and Israel have backed Wahabis and fought against moderate Muslims and secular Arabs, they are at least partly responsible for the spread of these violent extremists.
While it is easy to point out passages of the Koran which appear to be a call to violence, terrorism or honor killings, it is equally easy to do the same with the Bible. By way of example only:
A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death.
Anyone who is captured will be run through with a sword. Their little children will be dashed to death right before their eyes. Their homes will be sacked and their wives raped by the attacking hordes. For I will stir up the Medes against Babylon, and no amount of silver or gold will buy them off. The attacking armies will shoot down the young people with arrows. They will have no mercy on helpless babies and will show no compassion for the children.
“Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, “Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all – old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple.” So they began by killing the seventy leaders. “Defile the Temple!” the LORD commanded. “Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!” So they went throughout the city and did as they were told.”
“You are my battle-ax and sword,” says the LORD. “With you I will shatter nations and destroy many kingdoms. With you I will shatter armies, destroying the horse and rider, the chariot and charioteer. With you I will shatter men and women, old people and children, young men and maidens. With you I will shatter shepherds and flocks, farmers and oxen, captains and rulers. “As you watch, I will repay Babylon and the people of Babylonia for all the wrong they have done to my people in Jerusalem,” says the LORD. “Look, O mighty mountain, destroyer of the earth! I am your enemy,” says the LORD. “I will raise my fist against you, to roll you down from the heights. When I am finished, you will be nothing but a heap of rubble. You will be desolate forever. Even your stones will never again be used for building. You will be completely wiped out,” says the LORD.
Deuteronomy, Chapter 2, 32-37
And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land. 32 Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz. 33 And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. 34 And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain. 36 From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river, even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us: the LORD our God delivered all unto us
As such, the claim that Islam is a uniquely violent religion has been greatly exaggerated for geopolitical reasons.