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Be-lie-ve me, won’t you?

I don’t know if it was my Catholic-school upbringing or my mother’s affinity for crystals and homeopathic remedies, but I’ve always had a lot of faith in, well, faith. Unfortunately, history, like the motherless arse she is, has burrowed her way in and made me doubt the importance, power and truth of something I’d always just had around, like an old cardigan or cat.

Religion, the world’s most favoured excuse for committing atrocities. We need only look at the approximate 150,000 ‘non-Catholics’ that were killed, tortured and extricated during the Spanish inquisition, the persecution of Buddhists during the Cultural Revolution in China, or the dictatorship of Pol Pot in the late 1970s to question how ‘good’ beliefs really are. It’s as simple as naming places: Northern Ireland, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan all muster up images of mass atrocities that span time and place, all bolstered on a sense of religious belief.

And to think, this is only ‘religious’ beliefs. I’ve not even started on more general political ideologies. Throughout United States history, for instance, there exists an easy-to-follow guide as to how to make ‘belief’, ‘ideology’ and ‘morals’ a very convincing means by which to persecute people. By no means is this an attack on the United States (they gave me The Sopranos, peanut butter and Hemingway, and for those three things alone I will be forever grateful); it’s just a national history that paints a very good example.

From as early as the 1920s, the ‘Red Scare’ swept the United States government, colleges, community groups and even Hollywood. The fear spurring from the post-war threat of Soviet Communism had anyone who was anyone convinced that there were Bolsheviks among the ranks of America’s elite. Conveniently, people accused of being ‘reds’, and tarred with the brush of what you might know as McCarthyism, tended to be liberals, Jews, African Americans, women and very, very rarely actual communists.  The War on Terror was used, and arguably continues to be used, to support a xenophobic fear of anyone that’s ever been near even the word ‘Allah’. Indeed, if you’re ‘fighting for freedom’, it seems you can circumvent international convention and essentially start (and continue) wars in the Middle East. Next cue the War on Drugs as a convenient means by which to target the Mexican immigrant and African American populations as thieving criminals, despite the fact that neither group was given a great start, socioeconomically speaking (read: slavery or, at the very least, immigrant workers.)

I think regardless of whether you agree with positions outlined above or not, it’s clear that ideology remains a magnificent wall to hide behind and peep over; ‘beliefs’ remain a bulletproof vest to wear while shooting up the place with an AK-47. Indeed, something that always seemed so ostensibly innocent and hope-inspiring to me, when assessed chronologically throughout history, doesn’t make for nearly as nice a picture. It becomes difficult to see how people continue to believe in God, Democracy, Governments, hope, or anything, really.

I have to pause and remind myself that for every monstrous act committed in the name of ‘belief’, there is a kindness. I still remember, for example, the kindness of Sister Jo, the nun at my school. For every murderous zealot, there is a benign believer like my spiritualist Mum. Maybe it’s just believers who are dicks.

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