Killing in the name of...

Rigor_OMortis
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Killing in the name of...

We've all had a fair share of talk on religious hostility.

I wish to invite you all to an on-line talk examining the causes of religious hostility and what drives the people towards it. You are all people that have a scientific background, or psychological knowledge (be it out of experience, or out of learning). So go for it.

I'm going to lay down a first part of an argument (quite thin, though, it's late at night around here). Stop me when I go dreaming and start spewing out fallacies.

In my opinion religion has probably started as a way to explain the unexplain and predict the (until then) unpredictable. Evolution of old societies shown a certain trend of shift in control, from brute force towards psychological force. As people have become more and more socially bonded to each other, specialization of individuals was not only necessary, but also natural. Think it on the lines of the ants: the hive will not survive if you take out a generation of workers, or the queen, or the soldiers. For advanced societies to develop, its individuals had to become more and more centered on their jobs. We now find not only the inclusion of the weak, but also a choice that everyone was able to make: "am I strong or am I weak?", from a physical point of view.

As one strong human was undoubtedly able to bring in enough food and items necessary for survival for several humans, and considering that the human food source can be just about anything that another animal might consider eating, early human societies soon found themselves in a situation in which the "strong", the "willed" and the "powerful" weren't a majority anymore. Such started the age of "weak, but many"...

No matter how "strong" a human was, within the limits of a human, he was outpowered by the "weaks". "Weaks" who couldn't otherwise survive the same way without him, but who were willing to try, if necessary. The misfortune of this situation was brought by the human mind itself: generations going on, the young will start forgetting why they are called "weak". Natural instinct otherwise, this situation was amplified by the continuous development of the frontal lobe. And so we end up with a concern towards leadership, towards affirming why the "strong" were... well... "strong".

"Strong" as one may have been, it should be clear that they had no way to control natural events or disasters (tsunami, lightning, storms, hurricanes, monsoons...), but a new idea was dawning: since there were humans that have dedicated valuable time into studying and trying to understand and master those events, they started having a glimpse of how to predict such catastrophes... to an early human, unschooled in the matter, that would start meaning more and more that those persons had an "intimate relationship" with the events. Thus they were respected, because a "strong" human may have been overpowered, but never a tornado (situation that goes on even to this day, actually). So to some it may have dawned that being "strong" and skilled in leadership, combined with being "that person" to know about natural disasters, would mean overall leadership and unquestionable servitude from the others.

The leadership ambitions of humans, using religion, have perhaps never been better demonstrated than by Constantine or Muhammad.

To me, this image fits perfectly with the context of "holy conflict". It should be obvious to everybody by know that religion has been used in leaders' agendas for a looooooong time. Enter the dragon again: the tendency to forget one's roots after a few generations. Even today it is quite difficult to generate a comprehensive family tree, you can imagine what it was like in those days, when people couldn't give a rat's posterior. Could it be that the same applied to religion?

Could it be that belief, which was initially an instrument to name, categorize, attempt to understand and predict natural events and entities had turned into something with a forgotten purpose? Could generations after generations of transmission and altering of holy teachings have caused humans to forget what the system of beliefs was originally intended for?

Huge leap came when people realized that professional survival meant learning from a young age. I'm certain deludedgod can explain what influence that has on the human brain far better than me. What seems to have caused this process is the increasing need for uniformity: as societies evolved, as they become more and more interconnected, the individual could not be the main pillar of the world anymore. There were simply too many (to understand what I mean, take a look at the history of democracy (no, America didn't invent it), more precisely the shift from Athenian direct democracy towards Roman elective democracy). Thus, it became "fashionable" (for a lack of a better term) to become more and more uniform. And that applied to belief as well.

Now having a mass of people to control, the once "strong" humans have separated into "quite strong" and "indisputably strong"... each pushing their own agenda onto lower levels. Since, due to uniformity and due to the fact that humans might have been ignorant, but they weren't all outright stupid, religion seemed more and more the thing to wage war on, as a pretext. I mean, you wouldn't see real wars pretexted on fashion very often. In such a light, crusades seemed logical.

But there's more: this instrument of belief had to be somehow kept. Due to genetic mixing, one might never know whether or not someone in the higher or lower levels wouldn't start asking questions. Even more: if the "indisputably strong" suddenly lost their supporters, would they be "indisputably strong" anymore? They had to institute a system to punish and exclude any deviation from their order. A system in which the only problem would be losing all supporters at once (the siege of Bastille comes to mind as an unrelated example)... and so the Inquisition and the Muslim law were born.

 

Any thoughts? Any comments? Any corrections? Any additions?


Wonderist
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Makes sense to me. I have

Makes sense to me. I have similar thoughts about the origin and evolution of culture and religion.


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I'm not a scientist or a

I'm not a scientist or a psychologist I'm afraid, but an engineer. I am, however, more than happy to give you my two pennies.

I honestly think a lot of the grass-roots hostility is built up around sexual repression. It is a strong impulse, and to create an internal conflict within a person there is probably not a better one to target. Anyone who has a strong sexual urge and has been without for a while would probably agree that it is difficult to think of anything else at times. I must admit to putting forward ideas from the world of fiction and non-fiction, not my own. Peoplewatching by Desmond Morris dallies with this concept. George Orwell wrote ficticious dystopia but, I believe, understood the power of control through sexual repression.

It is a great way to foster a sense of deep unworthiness, as (I imagine) anyone with the misfortune to suffer erectile dysfunction would attest. Of course it is the religion supplying the unworthiness, in order to create unfulfilment. This may then be exploited by offering an alternative.

Looking at the Magdalene asylums of Ireland and Australia, it seems that the cruelty perpetrated on the poor inmates was partly as a result of the nun's own sexual frustrations.

As a means of control it does have a drawback, in that the repression can lead to irrational angers and hatreds.

It is probably not completely sexual, as religion instills other facets of unworthiness into its victims, such as teaching them that they sin uncontrollably and are not worthy of god. To someone who has been brought up from the beginning in this environment, it must be particularly distressing.

In short, I think that by focussing attention on the negative emotions (love of jesus or love of god only coming after the subject has had the crap knocked out of them), people are thinking and behaving negatively. Some of the most awful people I have met were devout catholics.

Maybe somebody better qualified can tell me if I am talking shit or not?

Religion is the ultimate con-job. It cons the conned, and it cons the conner.

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deludedgod
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I'll chip in. I'm writing a

I'll chip in. I'm writing a book called Faith: The Hubris of Man and one of the chapters is called Unnatural Selection. Essentially a sociological exploration of why some religions die and others succeed. Here is the breakdown:

-Certain religions are extremely successful. They take hold, spread  across the world, and establish themselves deeply into the memexplex. These religions are seen as true by many people, and even respected by others. For some reason, they are not treated as mythology.

-Some religions are temporarily successful. They have a local authority, that may last for centuries even. However, eventually, they die or the empire which sustains it falls. By "die" I mean that they are either forgotten or recognized as obviously mythology.

-Most religions are stillborn. They don't get off the ground. This is essentialyl a permanent cult. It is hated or ignored by the general population, and regarded as insane. Either it dies or permanently fails to establish itself.

All religions start as cults. A cult is just a small religion. Christianity began as a cult, so did Islam, and so did Mormonism. All of the respected religions are ancient. What a suprise (an ironic one) that in this day and age, revelation is not an acceptable method of information gaining. Also, the old religions are so well established that it is essentially impossible for a new one to gain ground.  The most modern religion which is actually successful is Mormonism.

Religions are like genes. They have only one purpose. To gain more adherents. Typically, the most influential religions have the following characteristics:

-Agressive evangelizers. Christianity and Islam come to mind. A religion that does not preach or walls itself off will not get off the ground. Religions that are deliberatly isolationist are destined to die.

-Should be violent or militant. If a religion is too peaceful or appeasing, it will be destroyed by a more agressive strain. This is standard evolutionary natural selection.Even today this is obvious. The peaceful Sufi Muslims are ruthlessly crushed by the violent, Orthodox sunnis and Sh'ia. however, if a religion is too violent, it will destroy itself, like what happened in Jonestown. Too violent tends to equal= dead adherents. Not good. This step is critical for a cult to become a religion.

Fear: Always useful. The Abrahamic faiths all have various version of hell in their mythology.

Control of Ignorant. Same thing really, without an influx of ill-educated people to brainwash, a religion cannot be successful. A culture of intellectual elites is more or less immune. 

Power structure: A rigid heirarchy helps. Religion is based on control of the ignorant. The top leaders have to be respected, by force if necessary. They have to be painted as infallible. This system worked very well for the Catholic Church and continues to work well for the Ayatollah/Mufti/Cleric/Imam system in Islam. 

The dominant ideology is always expressed by the dominant culture: Seems obvious. A religion tends to be powerful when it is built upon strong nations. This played well for Islam 900 years ago, and played very well for Christianity during the Renaissance. The Jesuits went all over the world. When a civilization declines, chances are the religion will vanish along with it.

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

-Me

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Rigor_OMortis
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Part 2. Ahh, yes, sexual

Part 2.

Ahh, yes, sexual control. I completely forgot about that one.

Ironically, the best live analogy between humans and other animals (in other words the best display of evolution, though I'd rather it didn't happen that way) is precisely religion. Think about it this way: What does an alpha male/female (depending on the case) mostly desire? Well, since it is the alpha of the pack, obviously its genes are most adapted, and therefore wishes to pass them on. What else does it want? To make sure that others don't (as much as possible, of course).

When it comes to displaying such tendencies, religion excels, and it should be obvious for everybody. Wait, I know what just hit your mind: high priests had (~ve) to keep celibacy. True... but do they do it? History shows otherwise. Thinking that at a certain time, the great religious leaders were actually the tribe chiefs/kings/emperors... and it's sure as hell they didn't keep to it. Actually, Christianity seems to be one of the few religions in which clerics are not to marry (and not even throughout it all), and that was from totally different reasons.

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It is a great way to foster a sense of deep unworthiness, as (I imagine) anyone with the misfortune to suffer erectile dysfunction would attest. Of course it is the religion supplying the unworthiness, in order to create unfulfilment. This may then be exploited by offering an alternative.

Not only that, but religion generally fosters a sense of shame even on the "worthy". Making people ashamed of their own reproductive functions is a heck of an invention: since the sexual urge is the second strongest instinct a human has (first one is self-preservation, including fear/horror reactions and adrenaline triggers), supressing means that such a human's brain has quite a lot to work at. Its inhibition becomes more and more visible as generations pass (since it is clear that no inhibition is singular), and such people become more and more interiorized, therefore submissive. Which is the aim of it all.

Furthermore, attempts have been made (quite a few successful) to overcome even the first strongest instinct. Think about circumcision, self-mutilation in Islamic regions at different occasions, etc. Results were people so submissive, that they can almost be diagnosed with environmental dependency.

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Looking at the Magdalene asylums of Ireland and Australia, it seems that the cruelty perpetrated on the poor inmates was partly as a result of the nun's own sexual frustrations.

Indeed that is a very good example. It is a side effect of the human process of learning, which I shall describe through an analogy with monkeys:

Put two monkeys in a cage. Also put a banana that, when touched by one of the monkeys, triggers an electric shock in the other. Most naturally, both monkeys will learn to a) not to touch it and b) not to let the other one touch it. Remove one monkey and put another one which is oblivious to the whole thing. Obviously, the "old" monkey will prevent the new one from touching it. Given enough time, remove the "old" monkey and put a new one inside. You will notice that the monkey that has never experienced being shocked or shocking through touching tha banana will also prevent the new one from touching the banana.

Someone just had to start through example ("sin houses", equivalent of present day "hell houses&quotEye-wink... and it is enough for the others to start applying it themselves. The Magdalene Laundries, from my knowledge, were never OFFICIALLY attributed to the church. Even if some were, again from my knowledge, many actually didn't have any connection, being instituted by communities.

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As a means of control it does have a drawback, in that the repression can lead to irrational angers and hatreds.

...but given enough time, through the process shown above, the other "sheep" will learn that such angers and hatreds are sins/abominations (because, heh, the priests have foreseen such events and took care of them), and therefore they must be cast out. The religious leaders, in many cases, don't even have to do anything: the communiy will take care of everything (and as a live example: I don't think it is priests that puncture tires in the USA, on the cars that have non-religious symbols).

The only thing that religious leaders have to do is step in from time to time, just in case one of the followers starts wondering "hey, wait a minute, why was I not allowed to touch that banana, again?"

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It is probably not completely sexual, as religion instills other facets of unworthiness into its victims, such as teaching them that they sin uncontrollably and are not worthy of god. To someone who has been brought up from the beginning in this environment, it must be particularly distressing.

Taking out the self-esteem of one is actually only a preparation for mind control. It is already common knowledge that a strong willpower will not be controlled (or perhaps he/she will be, but only after severe struggle, and only if he/she agrees with what he/she is asked, at least partly). But a low self-esteemed human has no such strong willpower. First step in submissing large masses is to show them how low they are, and to give them "a way to go higher". That "way" is only apparent, since, with religion, it is the other way around, but, through ignorance and despair, it is "the only way".

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In short, I think that by focussing attention on the negative emotions (love of jesus or love of god only coming after the subject has had the crap knocked out of them), people are thinking and behaving negatively. Some of the most awful people I have met were devout catholics.

Maybe somebody better qualified can tell me if I am talking shit or not?

I'd rather say "fanatic Catholic", or, as we have a phrase here, "more Catholic than the Pope". And no, you are not talking shit.

Quote:
I'll chip in. I'm writing a book called Faith: The Hubris of Man and one of the chapters is called Unnatural Selection. Essentially a sociological exploration of why some religions die and others succeed.

Good luck and a clear mind. Do let us know when it's ready.

Quote:
-Certain religions are extremely successful. They take hold, spread  across the world, and establish themselves deeply into the memexplex. These religions are seen as true by many people, and even respected by others. For some reason, they are not treated as mythology.

-Some religions are temporarily successful. They have a local authority, that may last for centuries even. However, eventually, they die or the empire which sustains it falls. By "die" I mean that they are either forgotten or recognized as obviously mythology.

-Most religions are stillborn. They don't get off the ground. This is essentialyl a permanent cult. It is hated or ignored by the general population, and regarded as insane. Either it dies or permanently fails to establish itself.

All religions start as cults. A cult is just a small religion. Christianity began as a cult, so did Islam, and so did Mormonism. All of the respected religions are ancient. What a suprise (an ironic one) that in this day and age, revelation is not an acceptable method of information gaining. Also, the old religions are so well established that it is essentially impossible for a new one to gain ground.  The most modern religion which is actually successful is Mormonism.

Of course revelation isn't accepted anymore. It's a self-defense mechanism for religion. If revelation was to happen even to this day, would the current day religious leaders simply step back and let "the new Son of God" take over? Well I doubt that. The story of Jesus himself is probably the best example ever! This is one further proof that religion's ultimate purpose is power and control.

New religions can only take ground where the ground laid by other religions (or lack of) is shaky. Where faith is strong and clerical control is severe, new religions have absolutely no chance of success. Generally, new religions (and this is a personal observation) take hold of young people (for obvious reasons) or of people in more or less despair (again for obvious reasons)

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-Agressive evangelizers. Christianity and Islam come to mind. A religion that does not preach or walls itself off will not get off the ground. Religions that are deliberatly isolationist are destined to die.

...but do keep in mind that it depends on context and the natural desire that people have. Peaceful areas do not encourage agressive preaching (for instance you won't find agressive preachers in Romania's villages). Also I don't claim to know for sure, but it doesn't seem that Buddhists are agressive preachers. The case is different in the USA, but I really don't want to state the reasons why I think it is that way.

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-Should be violent or militant. If a religion is too peaceful or appeasing, it will be destroyed by a more agressive strain. This is standard evolutionary natural selection.Even today this is obvious. The peaceful Sufi Muslims are ruthlessly crushed by the violent, Orthodox sunnis and Sh'ia. however, if a religion is too violent, it will destroy itself, like what happened in Jonestown. Too violent tends to equal= dead adherents. Not good. This step is critical for a cult to become a religion.

Again, it depends on context. I don't see much of Romania's orthodoxy in more peaceful areas of the coutry being overtaken by the very militant J.W. Unfortunately this also applies to militant atheism as well.

I'd put my money more on adaptability to local conditions than agressiveness. After all, even from an evolutive perspective, not always the most agressive are the most succesful. The most successful are the best adapted to their environment.

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Fear: Always useful. The Abrahamic faiths all have various version of hell in their mythology.

This one is perfectly true. And the more mythic this fear is, the better the effect. Fear needs to have an object that is not tangible, nor observable. Because if a religion would be based on fear of pigeons, for instance, it would slowly die out as people would come to realize that their object of fear is tangible, can be studied and ultimately that there's nothing to fear. If we are to apply the same to Abrahamic religions, how the heck is one to study life after death? Actually, the attempts (mediums, ghost hunters, etc.) are much creepier than the possibility itself.

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Control of Ignorant. Same thing really, without an influx of ill-educated people to brainwash, a religion cannot be successful. A culture of intellectual elites is more or less immune.

...which can easily be proven considering statistics on the faith of the highly-educated.

Quote:
Power structure: A rigid heirarchy helps. Religion is based on control of the ignorant. The top leaders have to be respected, by force if necessary. They have to be painted as infallible. This system worked very well for the Catholic Church and continues to work well for the Ayatollah/Mufti/Cleric/Imam system in Islam.

Given enough time, the "sheep" will start believing for sure that clerics are infallible. And they will start defending that type of doctrine (an example was dmar198 here on the forums, that argued that the Catholic Church did nothing wrong in tis existence, if some of you remember the thread).

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The dominant ideology is always expressed by the dominant culture: Seems obvious. A religion tends to be powerful when it is built upon strong nations. This played well for Islam 900 years ago, and played very well for Christianity during the Renaissance. The Jesuits went all over the world. When a civilization declines, chances are the religion will vanish along with it.

I'd rather be having atheist missionaries than wiping out civilizations just to kill off religions, but anyway, you are right here.

Inquisition - "The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on..."
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thingy
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On my bus trip home today I

On my bus trip home today I read the section in The God Delusion titled "Psychologically primed for religion" and Richard Dawkins put forth an idea that hadn't ocurred to me before but fits perfectly imho.  The basic idea to my understanding is that kids are gullible.  Their minds aren't designed to question but moreso take it what it is that adults tell them with little to no questioning.  Ingrain in a kid at a young age that god and religion is real and they'll believe it all their lives.  After all, VERY few people I know claim they DIDN'T cry when they found out Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny weren't real.

 I'm going to put another idea forward that could be an extension on what you said in your original post. 

Kids are very curious, they want to know why things happen.  They are very persistent too.  Imagine what it would be like in a basic tribal life where rains come at certain times each year.  Your kid asks you "Daddy, where do the rains come from?", and you honestly don't know nor does anyone else in your tribe as you haven't figured that out yet.  The kid persists and persists until eventually you just make something up "They come from the Gods".  The kid finally stops asking and all is well, but nobody later tells the kid that this isn't the real origin. 

Everyone else in the tribe has forgotten of the day the kid was told it was a god, so never corrects the child and admits it is unknown.  The kid and all the friends he/she told grows up thinking that the rains came from this god. That child has kids of his/her own and tells them the same thing. A generation and all of a sudden this is understood fact.  Suddenly the rains cause a flood so with belief that these rains really do come from god or gods, these people think the gods must be angry to do that to the people, it's the only reason that makes sense.  What makes people happy?  Food and adoration, so they try to appease the gods with praise (which turns to regular worship) and sacrifices.

The floods don't stop.  Must be something else.  Ohh, the tribe has grown.  Crime and other things which the tribe already know as evil have increased due to increased numbers.  The gods musn't like this!  They start teaching their kids and other tribal members morals based on "be good because god wants it" rather than just "be good" as it used to be. 

Other things like heaven and hell can then be added on either by extensions told to new generations of why they should be good or through the corruption of the religious leaders after all, corruption and self involvement are natural human traits. 

 

How does that grab everyone?  Rational?  Interesting?  Laughable? 

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Rigor_OMortis
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Thank you for your opinion,

Thank you for your opinion, thingy. It was both interesting and rational. I'm going to cling on to one piece of what you said and go forward from there.

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Must be something else.  Ohh, the tribe has grown.  Crime and other things which the tribe already know as evil have increased due to increased numbers.  The gods musn't like this!  They start teaching their kids and other tribal members morals based on "be good because god wants it" rather than just "be good" as it used to be.

You reminded me about something with your "increased numbers": the contact between religion and "increased numbers" of crimes, disasters, etc.

 

Part 3

A very interesting challenge to all religions has always been accurate prediction of events. It might sound surprising, but prediction of events (both religious and non-religious, for that matter of fact) is a must. And that for two reasons: one as to give a certain tangible socio-economical significance to religion (for example: had the Egyptian cults not specialized in anticipating the floods of the Nile, transforming them into "blessings", through their almost perfectly accurate predictions that saved both lives and crops, perhaps many adherents in that area would lose their faith more in despair over not being able to please the gods whatever they did than else; religion would have seemed unnecessary), and two, to maintain what I'd like to call a "scare factor".

The "scare factor" can be explained in biological terms as the percentage of adrenaline discharges when thinking of different predicted events in that particular religion or in statistical terms as the willingness of that population to listen to whatever the preacher tells them. The choice is yours, and the more intelligent should have already found the connection between the two.

Predicting events fits in the picture because of the "calm before the storm" effect. Essentially, if it is too calm for a long period of time, people will start wanting something. People will "wish to see some action", and the more aggresive the religion, the more intense this wish is. A religion that promotes a concept of god(s) connected to bad things as well (such as crime, disasters, etc.) must have something "bad" from time to time, as too much peace builds in, and once it explodes, the ability of the clerics to contain that explosion isn't very certain.

So basically, religions had to be able to predict. That was very simple when it came to predicting floods of the Nile. Very simple in comparison to predicting major events, such as the end of the world, of course. But what happens in the more difficult cases? Clearly, a precise date/schedule cannot possibly be put to such an event beforehand. Getting it totally wrong might not mean the end of that religion, but it will definitely mean the end of mind control over many of the "sheep", at least for a certain while. The first element of religious prediction (and the only one we will study in this part) thus surfaces: vagueness.

Ancient religions had (~ve) predictions that are so vague, they can even be interpreted to predict Harry Potter. What happens when religions meet face to face with modern-day news media? What happens when religions meet face to face with the realities of our time? The answer is simply: mass paranoia. Ranging from the like of "The end is near!" to "I believe Jesus will return within my lifetime!"

What the "sheep" don't realize is that today's realities are far from being new. You listen to an old guy on the street saying "Back in my days, people were peaceful! We didn't hear of that much crime and disaster around!" Well sure you didn't, gramps, you had no TV. You had no way of knowing that in some far-off country two rival princes fight for the crown, using whole armies in the process. You had no way of knowing that your neighbours a few countries away are sacrificing humans. You had no way of knowing about the "prima noctes" tradition. You had no way of knowing that a hurricane is sweeping the coasts of the Indian Ocean. Of course, this has been exagerated a bit, but you understand my point. And so, the idea that people are increasingly sinful and the end gets nearer and nearer, when, it seems to me, the world is heading towards exactly the opposite, is perfectly credible.

However, the prediction must soon meet reality. Religions might have been able to fool generations into believing the end is near, but that can't last. enter the dragon, yet again: the calm before the storm. Generations of people expecting something to happen will at one time burst out, noticing that for hundreds of years... nothing happened.

Inquisition - "The flames are all long gone, but the pain lingers on..."
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