Having lived in France for forty years, I have sometimes wondered what it must feel like to be a German tourist discovering monuments throughout Paris and all over the country which record, chiselled in stone, the executions by their fellow-countrymen, the occupants during World War 2, of “terrorists”, the national heroes who were the French Resistants. Or what reaction such a tourist, born years after the War, would have if he visited Drancy near Paris, the internment camp and rail-head for the cattle-wagons loaded with Jews, 67,000 in all, destined for the death-camps, gas-chambers and ovens of the Third Reich. Or whether he or she could bear to visit the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, where on June 10, 1944, to avenge the Normandy landing, every home was destroyed and the entire population of 648, except just six survivors, was shot or burned to death in the locked parish-church.
I ask myself similar questions about Mahomedans, who read about and witness on television the carnage wrought by their co-religionists become fanatical suicide-bombers.
Three days ago, on December 10, 2013, the day the world celebrated the life and marked the death of Nelson Mandela, I saw, in another country of Africa, Christians looting and destroying Muslim shops, dismantling mosques, ripping to pieces pages from the Koran and massacring disciples of the Prophet. And I wondered whether the world would heed the message of Barack Obama, about people who applaud the achievments of Mandela and continue to allow or even commit crimes against humanity.
One can feel shame for being German, Muslim or Christian, in the same way that I, as a white person, feel ashamed of the apartheid of white South Africans or, as an Australian, of what people of my color in my country did to the Aborigines. Shame, but not guilt. We are guilty only of crimes for which we are personally responsible. The biblical nonsense about the fathers eating sour grapes and the children’s teeth being set on edge is an abomination, like the Christian “justification” for anti-semitism throughout the centuries which condemned the Jewish people as “Christ-killers”. One could ask whether there is any hope for the world. Some put their hope in religions; “in God we trust”, they say. But the track-record of religions is as bad as that of the most vicious totalitarian dictatorships. Better to hope that the example of Mandela will inspire other world leaders to make the sort of difference he made. Closer to home the rest of us can only hope to emulate the courage he had in face of challenges most of us will never meet. We will find that courage, not in the illusions of religion, but in ourselves, as he did, or we will not find it at all.
RIDENDA, DELENDA RELIGIO