In a world where fundamentalist religions seem to enjoy ever greater sway – whether it be fundamentalist Islam, radical Judaism or evangelical Christianity – it is worthwhile to ponder one of the key assumptions underlying all three of these faiths. In doing so, we can better understand why their believers act the way they do, and consequently better comprehend events in our own world.
Central to all three Semitic religions is the notion of Antithesis – namely, the notion that if one thing, “A”, is true, its opposite, “Not-A”, MUST logically and necessarily therefore be false. To put it in more familiar terms, these religions see the whole world in black and white.
They see no shades of gray whatsoever. This is an extremely important concept to grasp, and one that many people fail to comprehend when they watch the fundamentalists of each faith battle it out with each other – whether it be for souls or land.
The philosophy of our modern world is not one of antithesis, but rather of synthesis: taking two opposite concepts and seeking to create a new one that harmoniously incorporates the previous two. The spirit of the modern age tolerates ambiguity, and seeks to find richness in diversity and difference. However, that is not the way with Fundamentalism. The concept of antithesis remains absolutely central, and dominates every doctrine and every thought.
Hence, if Christianity is true and Jesus Christ is the Savior, then all other religions must necessarily be false and of no value. If Israel is the promised land given to God’s chosen people, then by necessity, no other race has any claim to it whatsoever. If God is ONE, as revealed to the prophet Mohammed, then he cannot be “three in one”, as Christianity maintains. A person before conversion to Christianity is lost in sin and bound for hell; a person after conversion is saved and bound for paradise. Antithesis all the way.
If you ponder this for a while, you soon realize why these religions are at each others’ throats, and the cause of many of the world’s problems. To do otherwise is to stray away from the strict and clear definitions presented in the faith’s holy scriptures. It is to be a liberal and to tolerate ambiguity. It is to be loyal to Man but disloyal to God. There is no ambiguity in these religions. All is crystal clear (or so they claim). If “A” is true, then “Not-A” is false. There is no other possibility. “Not-A” cannot be true in any sense.
This notion of antithesis penetrates all areas of their thinking. All three of the Middle Eastern faiths believe in a sharp antithesis between Man and the rest of Creation, and this is based strictly upon the account given in Genesis. The notion that (a) God created Man in his own image, and (b) that God gave Man dominion over Creation creates a powerful antithesis that lives with us to this to this day. If God created Man in his own image, it logically implies that Man possesses an intrinsic nature that is not shared with animals.
Hence, a huge void is opened up between God and Man on the one side, and the rest of Creation on the other (which is why notions of Darwinian evolution remain repugnant to fundamentalist Christianity to this very day). Thus, if Man has personality as a direct consequence of being made in God’s image, the antithesis is that animals have NO personality. Any appearance to the contrary must be merely mimicry, analogous to teaching a parrot to talk. If Man, being made in the image of God, has an eternal soul, then antithesis dictates that animals do not have souls, eternal or otherwise. They are simply animated flesh “robots”, enslaved to their instinctive programming The logical and cynical result is that Man can treat Creation much as he pleases, as long as it conforms to the general will of God (which is pretty laissez faire, given that he gave Man dominion over Creation in the first place). Hence, animals can be treated as a natural resource to be exploited as we wish, and as much as we wish. They can be killed or experimented upon, as long as it serves Man’s notion of what is good for Man.
This is the logical outcome of Man being created in God’s image, and animals therefore not being created in God’s image. Hence, animals possess NO worthwhile characteristics in common with us. It is the difference between Christian America making hamburgers out of cows, and the killing of even one cow being a legal offense in Hindu India, where cows are considered sacred. Regarding Creation itself, the Middle Eastern faiths all adopt the same stance. In contradistinction to the Eastern faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity all hold the creation account given in Genesis in common. Thus, the principle of antithesis dictates that if God created the world, then he is not IN the world, or in any way a part of it, as is maintained within Hinduism, where God is present in every particle of Creation.
This is a very important principle to realize, and one which most people do not grasp with respect to these three faiths. Each essentially believes in a “clockwork universe” model of the universe. God created it, set it in motion, and watches it from the “outside”, from where he occasionally intervenes in events. He is no way part of the system, but stands completely and entirely outside of it. Hence, he is in no way responsible for the fact that the whole system has turned sour and wrong.
If he is immanent in Creation and maintaining it from moment to moment, as Hinduism and New Age spirituality maintain, then it would be logically impossible for him to evade partial responsibility for the actions of all those whom he sustains with the breath of life from moment to moment. Such a situation would be analogous to a man making daily financial donations to the Mafia, and then throwing up his hands in shocked confusion, saying, “It’s got nothing to do with me!”, when the police show up at his door with an arrest warrant.
If we explore this concept of antithesis in our modern world, we will begin to understand things much better. We begin to make sense of how fundamentalist religion influences world figures dominated by its mentality. The thought processes of a fundamentalist President Bush, for example, become more comprehensible. If America is “good”, then anything that differs or disagrees with America must be “evil”. If Democracy is “right” and “true”, then Not-Democracy is “wrong” and “false”. There are no shades of gray.
The other face of the exact same antithesis coin is a fundamentalist like Osama bin Laden. If his brand of Islam is “good”, then logically all that stands against it – America, for example – must logically be “evil”. There are no shades of gray! Hence, according to this logic, to fight against America and Americans is a service to God! Each is governed by the same core principle – the principle of fundamentalist Antithesis.
Less dramatically, the principle works in issues like Abortion, Drugs, Homosexuality and so on. This philosophy of Antithesis may have been viable right up to the 20th century. It could certainly not be disproved or challenged in any meaningful sense. However, modern Science has discovered that the world really does not function in that way.
Ambiguity IS the order of the day, particularly at the sub-atomic quantum level. In Quantum Physics, there is something called Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which is actually a scientific statement of ambiguity, in direct contrast to the “certainty” of antithesis, so enshrined within fundamentalist religion. At macroscopic levels, Chaos theory introduces similar levels of uncertainty and ambiguity. Effects are not the linear results of causes. Uncertainty reigns. “A” and “Not-A” may both have validity. However, none of this is likely to change the immense momentum behind Antithesis that the three Middle Eastern faiths have developed over a period of millennia.
This essay is not offered in the hope of necessarily improving the situation, in either the short-term or the long-term. These problems are endemic to the human race and hence unlikely to disappear for as long as we are on this planet. Rather, its purpose is merely to help you to see the situation for what it is with open eyes, and make of it what you will for the benefit of your life. Also, it serves as a warning to help you to rid yourself of thinking enslaved to antithesis and dualism. Ultimately, salvation and enlightenment are personal. Change your worldview and you change the world you live in.