Generally, this blog is a funny place (I try), but it's hard to generate that kind of content on a day like today, when the front pages of the world's papers are filled once again with images of senseless slaughter and mayhem, this time in Paris. We struggle to maintain our sense of proportion, of rationality--to say the right things about not judging all the members of a group based on the actions of a tiny minority, about how responding to violence with more violence leads only into an abyss--all the while longing secretly, guiltily, for some massive, cathartic act of collective vengeance. But there's the problem, right? As righteous as our angers feels, the lunatic rage of those who struck Paris yesterday oozes up from the same desire for revenge, the craving to get even for injuries real or perceived.
The temptation is, first, to blame the seventh-century mindset of fanatical Muslims, as ISIS zealots claim responsibility for the latest carnage. But then, we really need to blame not Islam, but religion in general, as every faith claims to promote peace while slaughtering its "enemies" in the name of a supposedly all-powerful deity--an all-powerful deity so insecure in its omnipotence that it requires murderous suppression of anyone who dares to so much as raise an eyebrow at its claim to superiority. Bottom line, of course: Old-time religion's sole purpose is the rationalization of suffering: People suffer, see no reason for suffering, justify suffering as somehow holy--as proof of their actual status as beloved of God--and then release their frustrations on others who are, by definition, unbeloved of God and therefore fair game.
Imagine no religion? I'd like that. I really would. Still, I despair. Even without God to blame, we'd still find excuses to kill each other. A secular prayer, then: That one day we--the collective we, the we that is all humankind--will one day harness the near-unfathomable power we possess in our magnificent brains, and turn our attention to solving the problems we all face, instead of squandering our genius on blame and hate and rage. I fear this prayer will prove as effective as those uttered by true-believers the world over. But, hey, I'm only human--groping, too, for some hope in the dark.