Religion, Ideology and violence

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A comment at 3quarks daily about the simplistic notion of ‘individuals as destiny makers’ in a general way. It must not be forgotten that the production of this simple belief is itself an ideological work. Also that creating monsters out of individuals leaves the system blameless.

I’m really tired of this “Hitler, Stalin, and Mao killed millions” line.

These three men did not kill millions of people. I have news for all those folks on the Internet-tubes who are intensely interested in this topic: even if those guys had tried, they could not have physically done it. (Even if they had been able to push the button setting off nuclear Armageddon, they would not have built the bombs and missiles and put together the control systems themselves.)

Yes, they were at the heads of governmental hierarchies which organized mass murder and commission of all sorts of atrocities, but the actual killing was done by large numbers of people who were emotionally committed to ideologies according to which such killing sprees were the order of the day. These ideologies were very analogous in many ways to religions (at least to some religions — the kind of religions which themselves motivate crusades, etc., and needless to say mass cruelty is not all that religions have been about in history. Or maybe it needs to be said, since a lot of people don’t seem to realize this.)

From here.

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