And the anger of the Lord was against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers that spoiled them and he sold them into the hands of the enemies round about.
Constantine enters Rome – by Rubens.
The events at the 2015 hearings Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child abuse almost exclusively occupied The Cross last year. As a result you could be excused, Dear Reader, for thinking that might be this project’s raison d’etre.
Not so! Justifiable on past performance, perhaps, but incorrect.
The Cross exists to challenge the dominant assumptions of the Christian West and its hegemonic view of the geopolitical landscape. This ranges from the institutional rumblings of the established churches and the governments that protect them, the hysterical self-satisfaction of the Christian right as it carves a swathe through the falling middle-class, the arrogant rantings of the anti-theists and the empty posturing of the agnostic left.
In short, current discourse completely fails to apprehend the many and varied influences of religion, its role in society and therefore the damage it continues to do and the good that it should.
Worse, the dialectic of attacking or defending religion further fails to offer any evolution away from the tribal defensive ”My god is better than your god” and the disastrous consequences of that position in a time where weapons of mass destruction abound.
As a consequence, there is a complete misunderstanding of the role of secular government and so almost no healthy policy development to deal with the population’s need for narrative frameworks to meet the challenges of overpopulation, peak energy and climate chaos.
Some starting points.
There is no external god, driving the universe. There is no intelligent design.
We know this because we continually recreate God in our own image. All metaphysical frameworks mirror the structures of our apprehension of reality. Just as the aliens that visit earth and molest its citizens have evolved over the last century with the technology those citizens use in their day to day life and experience in their collective imagination through the shared fiction of cinema, television and radio, so has god evolved with human society.
Religion is an important cultural glue.
There is always common, agreed narrative that provides the shorthand that allows us to assume the meaning of things so we can get on with the rest of our lives. This cultural agreement allows us to meet with a common agenda and engage peacefully in quite complex dialogues and sophisticated activities. Culture need not be faith based, but there are always belief systems and it serves no purpose to deny the historical role of religion in providing that cultural glue.
Religion is an apparatus of the state.
Agriculture was developed at sword point to feed a standing army: There was no initial benefit for the farmer in stocking the king’s granary.
Since the emergence of the city, made possible by agriculture, the state has required more complex disciplinary and revenue raising structures to support its internal complexity. The marriage of religion and state was perfected by the Roman Church starting with Julius Caesar’s assumption of the roles of both Flamen Dialis and Pontifex Maximus and culminating in Constantine’s Nicene Conference which agreed on a Creed that served both the Christian priesthood and the imperial apparatus.
Ironically, JC (of the coin) was appointed Flamen Dialis by a jealous uncle precisely because it was the ancient religion that was deliberately powerless in state affairs. The high priest could not touch iron and all his trappings of office dated from an earlier Bronze age. By merging the Flamen Dialis, the Pontifex Maximus and the role of Consul, Caesar made himself a divine ruler, transcending the democratic apparatus of the Republic.
Constantine specifically recognised that religion was more effective (and cost effective) than brute force and it was easier to work with the priests than use a standing army to oppose them. He was opposed by the religious philosophers who understood that harnessing religion to the state was about power not spirituality.
We stand roughly 1700 years down the track, with a couple of centuries of Inquisition, brutal Crusades and three centuries of christian-justified colonialism under our belts.
Money is the new religion
Money provides the abstract value system by which we measure good.
In the last century we have shifted our focus of worship from the cross to the dollar. We believe in money because the institutional apparatus tells us this is the glue that holds society together.
Economic rationalism identifies the monetary cost of services as the yardstick by whether we know something is working. Social services are funded on the basis of outcomes that are accounted for to determine if funding should continue.
This befits a material world understood by the abstraction of numbers. The centrality of commerce to governance was perfected by the Venetians when they invented that great tool of economic rationalism, double entry book keeping. We now know, as Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it, the price of everything and the value of nothing.
It is notable that the Venetians accepted large wads of cash from the French Pope to transport French troops to the holy lands and fight for control of the religious relics of Jerusalem. Instead of heading to the Levant, the Venetians took the troops to Constantinople to gain control of the centre of commerce.
Thus began the process of supplanting religious values with commercial ones.
God is evil
This demonstrably illogical statement provides a dramatic starting point that is consistent with the full article published on The Generator. On one level it is not consistent with atheism in that god cannot be evil if god does not exist. In the context that god was only ever a human construct to provide meaning and has always been abused by those with the power to do so, it is as close to the truth as we are going to get. My final point is a perfect illustration of this illogical truth.
Commerce uses God to justify its wars.
Given this past, our furious refusal to acknowledge it, the fact that we still use it to justify increasingly complex and nasty wars over the geopolitical end-game for the planet’s last cheap energy, it is more critical than ever that these layers of belief, assumption and deliberate falsification are exposed examined and questioned. We have an “amoral” network of global corporations using Gods they do not believe in to exploit the passions of populations obstructing access to the resources they wish to control.
Even more challenging, we confront the existential crisis that we have the power to destroy our own species or, at least, civilisation and, without some moral framework underpinning radical change, this appears to be an almost inevitable outcome. As a result, there is a real and urgent imperative to create a new metaphysical framework that is not materialistic and self-centred but is rights and evidence based.
That is the mission The Cross sets itself at the beginning of the 2016th year of our lord, as they say in the Christian establishment of the European dominated globe in which I write.