The title is part of a beautiful text, turned into a lovely modern ballad, from the Old Testament Book of Ruth (1:16) : “Wherever you go, I shall go. Wherever you live, so shall I live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God too”. Such readiness to abandon one’s religion in favor of another is understandably rare, although the flesh-pots of Egypt and its decadent deities were a powerful temptation to the Chosen People, who committed the sacrilege of worshipping a Golden Calf.
Most religions are inherently intolerant of others : “Thou shalt not have strange gods before Me”. Some, however, did not hesitate to add divinities from foreign pantheons to their own. But today a relatively recent wave of ecumenism has made it politically if not theologically correct to let other religions be, even though their beliefs are considered to be manifestly false. However even in this 21st century some believers within all three of the world’s major religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, do not hesitate to declare their rivals guilty of unpardonable blasphemy. Islamist fanatics, of course, go much further than this. Any religion that does not recognize the Koran as the authentic word of Allah and Mahomed as the last and greatest of His inspired prophets, must be destroyed – its sacred books, its rituals, its code of what is right and wrong, but also the heathen who practise it.
History is full of Wars of Religion. Some of the bloodiest have been within Christianity. In France, Catholics won the war, which explains why only 5% of French people are Protestant. But we are all at present witnessing a world-war between religions. Extremists within Islam believe they have a sacred duty to wipe out Judaism and Christianity and massacre their adherents in a war of terror which will end at Dabiq in Syria in the final apocalyptic confrontation resulting in Islam’s victory and a worldwide Caliphate.
In such a context, Buddhism would not seem to deserve the rank of an enemy threatening Islam. But in 2001 in Afghanistan, at Bamiyan, two gigantic statues of Buddha, 55 m. and 38 m. tall, sculpted in the cliff-face, were demolished by Taliban explosives, thereby destroying unique treasures of humanity’s history and precious relics of the intermingling of Alexander the Great’s Greek religious heritage and that of the Buddhism that two centuries before Christ would bring India’s religion to China. More recently still, in August 2015, the ruins of a magnificent Roman city in Syria, Palmyra, were likewise destroyed by Islamic fanatics.
I see little hope of preventing such wanton destruction by Islamic radicals of mankind’s heritage, nor, worse, of innocent believers of all three of the world’s religions, including their own coreligionists, the “moderate Muslims” in our midst whom they despise, victims like Jews and Christians of the maniacs who believe such atrocities are the will of God.
Our planet and all its inhabitants face the triple threat of annihilation by our suicidal denial of responsibility for climate change, by our blindness to the dangers of “M A D”, “Mutual Assured Destruction” through nuclear war, but also by our inability to get radical Islamists to recognize and to renounce their fanatical folly. I can think of no challenge more urgent than this cocktail of threats to our very survival. We must continue our efforts to eradicate poverty, crime, ignorance, inequality and disease from the face of the earth. But without a concerted worldwide combat against the Big Three, Climate Change, Nuclear War and Religious Terrorism, we are doomed to extinction. I can’t do much about the first two. But I will spend the time I have left doing my best to ridicule and destroy religion.
RIDENDA , DELENDA , RELIGIO