TO DIE AND KILL FOR A MYTH: Apocalypse now

11/16/2017 13:38

The weather changes from cold to relative varmth; sunshine, drizzle, floating clouds and starry nights. Yesterday, a milky white sky occasionally cracked up and turned into a dramatic spectacle when fast-gliding cloud formations allowed the sun, for a minute to two, to illuminate an autumn splendour that was mirrored in the glass clear lake. I untied boat and rowed into the midst of nature. Sudden gusts of wind made glittering paths on the water surface and when clouds once again covered the sun, the lake turned into a black, glossy surface. The light rain showers did not last long and the tranquillity that followed them was soothing. Sometimes loneliness can be difficult, but on an autumn lake like ours it may be euphoric.

Nature provides forgetfulness - anxiety, abstractions, reading and politics are transformed into oblivious silence, strengthened by fresh fragrance and shimmering light. When I returned to our house, I came to think about myths and began browsing my books. Last week I spoke about myths and legends at school. On the lake I had realized how utterly insane they can be. I had told my class how myths can either be believed or denied. Some believe in their literal truth, others interpret them as allegorical descriptions of a complicated existence, others consider them to be nothing more than ridiculous fairy tales. I could also have pointed out that through the millennia people have died and killed because of myths. That many still behave like that. Myths can poison our brains, turn us into monsters, inspire us to torment others, despise and murder them. Why are we humans more attached to ridiculous generalizations and myths instead of trying to understand and make the best of the surrounding? Why are we imbued with violence and cruelty, while we ridicule love, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness? We are even afraid of using tender words, of exposing positive feelings, care and love.

Back to everyday life. Die Ewige Wiederkunft des Gleichen, the constant return of the same. Just as when I began writing my blog a few years ago, I am back on a train, heading to a school, this time in Landskrona, an old town by the sea, several miles from the woods where I live. I leave our house in darkness, it dawns while I am on my way to Lund, where I change trains for Landskrona. Several fellow passengers are picking on their mobiles, concentrated like hens in farmyard. Several of my students behave in the same manner during my lessons. Why? What I teach might be quite boring, but what constitutes the seductive information that people on the train and in school are succumbing to?

This morning I ended up next to peculiar persons. They were not picking on any mobiles phones. A young man had placed himself in front of me. He was dressed in black. Gaunt and pale. His sunken cheeks disappeared into a squarely trimmed, blonde beard. He hold onto a long broadsword he kept in a black leather sheath. Why? Was he a member of a medieval role-playing society? A teacher who was bringing with him a surprise for his students? A blacksmith on his way to sell a sword to a weapons collector? None of my mobile-picking fellow passengers rose their heads from their smartphones and wondered why a sword carrying man had been allowed to enter the train.

Was anyone thinking about the black-dressed twenty-year-old Anton Lundin Pettersson, who two years ago in a school of the Swedish town of Trollhättan had killed three persons with a sword? Did my fellow travellers not find it strange that a tall, serious man, with a vacant stare sat in front of me with a huge, medieval sword by his side? Not even the ticket inspector seemed to react to the presence of the pale man with a meter-long weapon. I remained silent as well.

By my side was an undersized lady, possibly in her thirties. Dressed in a light-red anorak she had a round, glowing red face, crowned with dry, platinum-coloured, unkempt hair that sprawled in all directions. The lady was deeply engaged in the reading of a Bible. Between her teeth she kept a yellow marker pen, which she occasionally took out of her mouth to underline something in the text. I glanced at the book and found that she had come to the end of it and thus assumed it was the Book of Revelation she devoted such an intense study. Perhaps she believed, as more than half of the United States´ inhabitants, that "the catastrophic events described in the Book of Revelation will occur", several of them are members the country's congress and senate, or serve within its mighty army.

Maybe she was member of a non-conformist congregation, or a sect? Probably she nurtured ideas similar to those of a mate of mine during my obligatory military service. In the military service we generally called each other by surnames, though some of us soon obtained various epithets and nicknames. Larsson, who exposed his Christian faith at any suitable or inappropriate time, regarded us with whom he shared his lodgings as "lost souls". Actually, I felt sorry for Larsson. He was different; big and strong, thin-haired but with ample body hair. Every morning and evening, he smeared his almost bald skull with some kind of lotion he assumed would promote hair growth, something that more than once made one or another of his roommates caution him: "Ufo! Be careful so you don´t spill that stuff on your body! "

Larsson was called Ufo, from Unidentified Flying Object, due to his permanently red-blossoming face and the fact that he used to rush forward as soon a commanding officer asked for a volunteer, or if he through some other means could make himself obsequious, not the least by reporting to our superiors if someone simulated illness, or had returned late after an evening leave.

Ufo was not particularly liked. I found it somewhat strange that he by persistently proclaiming his Christian faith faced an imminent risk of being bullied. Every evening Ufo claimed that he had to listen to a Christian radio channel, and then, in a loud voice, he said his evening prayers. This despite the fact that we, his roommates, grunted and complained. We demanded our right to listen to Stones or Santana. At an early stage, Ufo had to the authorities reported that some of us had tried to prevent him from exercising his faith. Even though the tone could be raw sometimes, I found my conscripted friends to be unusually nice and tolerant. Despite my pacifism I liked my obligatory military service, and to me my comrades did not at all appear as any "lost souls", but friendly and communicative. I learned a lot from them.

For sure, Ufo did not appreciate the occasionally crude bantering and the more often cordial camaraderie. He stubbornly persevered in his exclusion. Ufo could have acquired a new identity, "become one of us". For sure he realized that his life could have been far easier if he had refused to play his tragic role as a lamb among wolves. Perhaps we were cruel to him, but we were probably not as unpleasant as he imagined us to be. Ufo was so unique that we found it needless to tease him. That must have been one of the reasons to why no one had commented on Ufo´s wishful thinking: "You mock me and attack my faith. But one time I'll sit in the Kingdom of Heaven and revel in watching how you all you are being tormented for your sins, because that's how it is written." It happened that Ufo opened his thick Bible, filled with underlining and scribbled comments, to quote a passage providing God's approval of what Ufo had stated:

These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

Since I met Ufo, I have sometimes wondered about the last book of the Bible, the terrible Book of Revelation, written by a frustrated Christian man who by Roman authorities had been relegated to the isolated island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. There he sat and wrote letters to a number of congregations whose members he, as self-appointed spokesperson of God, either praised or condemned.

After rebuking the parishes, John's language became increasingly bewildering and visionary as he tells what he has seen after a gate had been opened to Heaven and a voice commanded: "Come up here and I will show you what happens next." Together with a chosen crowd, John is invited to stand by God's throne and witness how His wrath strikes the earth and its wretched inhabitants. Four demonic riders sweep down on the world. One of them has been commissioned to take peace from the earth so that people will kill each other and a long sword has been given to him. Another rider, who is “followed by the Kingdom of Death”, gains power over a quarter of the earth - to kill with sword and with famine and plague and through the wild beats of the earth. 

This while those who had been slaughtered for the sake of their faith were lying beneath an altar, crying out, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until You judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" God answers to their pleading and continues to pour disasters and devastation over his own creation:

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron sceptre.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

Here we are far away from the poor construction worker from Nazareth. He who preached love and compassion as he spoke of forgiveness and declared that violence had to be countered by turning the other cheek: "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword." However in the Book of Revelation, he who is "like a son of man" carries a scythe which he uses to cut down his harvest.

The grapes were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress in a stream about 180 miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.

The sea turns into blood. When darkness is not covering it, the sun scorches the earth. In indescribable pains the humans bite their tongues into bleeding flesh, carbuncles cover their bodies. The earth´s surface is cracked open by earthquakes, hail mixed with blood rain down from heaven, while falling stars kill off the suffering humans. One third of all trees and grass is charred, while one third of all creatures in the sea and the ships upon it perish. Armies of demons sack towns and ravish the fields.

On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women's hair, and their teeth were like lions' teeth. They had breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and in their tails they had power to torment people for five months.

Even more deadly and terrifying armies appear from the east:

The number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths.

False prophets, horrendous monsters, seductive prostitutes, evil bureaucrats emerge from all corners of the earth, from the depths of the sea and from the netherworld, to corrupt and mislead those whose faith is weak. They are killed off one by one. God cleanses the earth from all evildoers and heretics, rewarding His faithful with eternal bliss. He sits upon his throne and declares: ”Behold, I am making all things new!”

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.

And those who served God "shall be kings forever and ever":

... and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. […] Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.

The son of miners D.H. Lawrence (1882 – 1930) regarded the Book of Revelation as "perhaps the most detestable of all the books of the Bible." When he died of tuberculosis only 45 years old, Lawrence had published nearly 50 books and after his death another ten were published posthumously, first of them was The Apocalypse, which Lawrence finished just before his death. The book was a final confrontation with the disgust he from early childhood had nurtured for all the sanctimony he had been showered with all through his life,

the pie-pie, mouthing, solemn, portentous way in which everybody read the Bible, whether it was parsons or teachers or ordinary persons. I dislike the “parson” voice through and through my bones. And this voice, I remember, was always at its worst when mouthing out some portion of Revelation.

He loathed the parsimonious imagery of the book, its absurd and cruel prophesies, so far removed from Jesus´s commandment: “love one another: just as I have loved you.” According to Lawrence, there were two types of Christianity, one characterized by tenderness and compassion and another one based on inflated self-assertion and hatred. The faith of the humiliated, fearsome, dissatisfied and failed ones. Those whose principal belief and hope was, "down with the strong and powerful and all the glory to the poor".

As a child, Lawrence had been amazed by the self-assurance of miners:

They certainly were not humble or apologetic. No. They came home from the pit and sat down to their dinners with a bang and their wives and daughters ran to wait on them quite cheerfully, and their sons obeyed them without overmuch resentment. The home was rough yet not unpleasant, and there was an odd sense of wild mystery or power about.

The dissenting miners believed they had been granted a certain force from above, like the socialists they were convinced that the future eventually belonged to them. These deeply religious miners gained strength from an assurance that from their persistence, hard toil, honesty and pride in their work they deserved a glorious reward after death. With atheist socialists and communists they shared a strong belief that a better world would come. It was so simple. The Book of Revelation had told them so, and strangely enough – Marx as well. However Lawrence did not believe neither in Christianity nor in socialism. He could not agree with the believers that

the weak and pseudo-humble are going to wipe all worldly power, glory and riches off the face of the earth, and then they, the truly weak, are going to reign. It will be a millennium of pseudo-humble saints, and gruesome to contemplate.

A popular, raw religiosity, not to be confused with any thoughtful, intellectually and emotionally founded faith. Lawrence felt disgust for the unilateral contempt directed towards all those who had ended up outside the community of righteous. He was repulsed by the blood-soaked hatred of the Book of Revelation with its joyful crowd of the blessed and the saved, reminding of the screaming and jubilant mob that had enjoyed the bloodbaths in Roman arenas. What had the ghastly Book of Revelation in common with Jesus´s teachings?

Well, there is certainly a lot of hardness and condemnation to be found in the New Testament, where for example St Matthew writes:

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. […] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. […]Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Who was this John who wrote down his revelations during a stay on the rocky island of Patmos? No one knows, though serious Bible scholars agree that it could neither have been "the disciple whom Jesus loved", nor the same man who wrote the Gospel of St. John. The  Book of Revelation was probably written during the reign of the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). An oppressive despot, who titled himself Dominus et Deus, Lord and God. A cruel opponent to the Christian faith. When he in his bedroom was cut down by four hired murderers, there were many who took a sigh of relief.

Much indicates that John was a Christian leader of Jewish background and as such he could have had personal experience of, or profound knowledge of such disasters as Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD, the violent ending of the Jewish resistance movement in Masada by the year 74 and not the least recurrent, often bloody persecutions of Christians. It was a bitter man, with a strong hatred against the Roman superpower, who relished dreams of the punishment, suffering and massacres that would befall his enemies and all those who negated the Christian doctrine

At two church meetings, in Carthage 397 AD and Hippo 398 AD, it was finally decided which books were to be included in the New Testament. Most of the dismissed book were burned, destroyed or simply disappeared. During the sessions several voices were raised questioning the authenticity of the Book of Revelation.

Some fifty years earlier had the influential bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (265 – 340 AD) in his Ecclesiastical History mentioned several earlier Christian writers who had been suspicious of the Book of Revelation, foremost among them had been the venerated bishop Dionysius of Alexandria, who died 268 AD.  In no uncertain terms Dionysius had claimed that the Book of Revelation was a blatant forgery.

Nevertheless, the Book of Revelation passed the scrutiny and was included among the canonical books of the New Testament, perhaps according to Eusebius's view that "if so considered justified".

The Book of Revelation has had great implications for the development of Christian doctrine. For thousands of years, preachers have terrified their congregations with the sulphurous rantings of the bitter John. His book has been used to inspire "Christian warriors" to violence and massacres – crusaders, dictators, tyrants and murderous mobs have been motivated and enthused to participate in bloodbaths similar to those described in the awful Book of Revelation. Deus vult, "God wills" was the battle cry of the first Crusaders while, after conquering Jerusalem, they waded up to their ankles in blood. Gott mit uns, "God is with us" was the slogan of the Prussian and German armies from 1861 up until the end of World War II.

How unbelievable it may seem, millions of Christians still believe that John´s prophecies are true, either literally, or they convert the horses, demonic armies, false prophets, and fire from the sky into tanks, homosexuals, feminists, Communists or Muslims, the European Union, contemporary statesmen and nuclear bombs. Every year interpretations of that cracked book are spread in several hundred thousand copies, devoured and believed by pious people, who by friends and neighbours are considered to be sensible people and quite normal.

In the United States, and unfortunately elsewhere in the world, we find a host of high-ranking military leaders and decision-makers who consider themselves to be God's allies in a cosmic battle against moral decay and human evil. Fanatics and strategists enthusiastically backed by influential and economically strong "Christian organizations" with names like Moral Majority, Free Congress Foundation and Christian Coalition of America. Denial of human and civic rights, war on drugs and terrorists, or events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iraq, are outfitted in prophetic language, while soldiers and politicians declare that their struggle is being supported by an ancient, vengeful and blood stained God and a rancorous Jesus far removed from the poor labourer who in the Gospels preached love, forgiveness and tolerance.

Similar phenomena poison other religions than Christianity. Unconfirmed myths and unfounded accusations are used as arguments for violating human rights, such as freedom of speech, free health care, fair distribution of resources and equal rights and dignity for both women and men. Under the cover of religion, it is argued that tradition and religious writings can be used to support oppression and ruthless violence, while a comfortable laissez-faire liberalism in the name of religious tolerance provides carte blanche to bigoted, in reality frightfully impious, so called “religious leaders” to spread their messages of hate and violence, while fomenting inhuman laws. Religious “independent” schools and intolerant religious communities enjoy Government support and can freely spread their poison into healthy minds of children and adolescents, turning them into idiots, killers and fanatics.

Recently, I read the Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad´s book Two Sisters. It tells the true story of how two intelligent, and originally well-behaved girls of Somalian descent in Norway became influenced by a lethal mixture of feelings of alienation and divine inspiration. They became ”radicalized” through the internet and by socially estranged, bewildered young men, or beard chewing old bigots, nurturing an unsound  hatred towards anything expect their own, twisted ideology. In our secularized consumption society it is free for anyone to lure confused, unprotected and immature youngsters into extremist pens. Young people seeking security and acceptance are offered affiliation, salvation and fellowship under God's all-powerful protection by wolves in sheep's clothing, who are well aware of the fact that the problems of modern youngsters do not stem from the assumption that they do not believe in anything, but that they believe in everything. Theses ravenous, “pious” beasts are well aware of and know how to exploit the difficulties of disconcerted youngsters, unable to make choices on their own. They know how easy it is to capture them through superficial, social media like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter.

A few years ago, I read one of these books that place ants in my mind. Ants that continue to run around in my brain and sometimes appear in unexpected contexts. Recently I revisited such a book, José Ortega y Gasset´s (1883-1950) peculiar La rebelión de las masas, The Revolt of the Masses, from 1929.

Ortega y Gasset represents a type of writer who reminds me of philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson. They seduce me and make me enter a state of mind where I am guided by their writing style and odd opinions. I find myself in some kind of comforting labyrinth in which I do not know what is waiting for me around the next corner and thus I gradually lose my way completely. They are neither bird, nor fish. From time to time their opinions and observations come forth with dazzling clarity, but suddenly I feel as I have fallen into a whirlwind of follies. Are they demeaning elitists, or sincere fellows?

Ortega y Gasset declares that we live under the dictatorship of manipulative media. According to him, most of his contemporary statesmen were what he labelled as dangerous "mass people". A group of people that should not be confused with the "proletarian" category of class conflicts. A mass person cannot be categorized through his/her class belonging, s/he may be found in any social position, though mass people tend to be predominant among ruling/influential persons. They are worried by innovative and odd opinions, of ideas and behaviour that cannot be easily categorized, but require analysis and reflection to be understood. According to Ortega y Gasset, mass people are the new barbarians who through social media are conquering the world. For a mass person, only white or black exist. They despise any kind of nuances. Their own well-being becomes alpha and omega for their entire existence. In his Revolt of the Masses, Ortega y Gasset described the mass man as follows:

If the psychological structure of this mass man is considered in regard to its social effect we find the following: (1) he is possessed of an inborn and deep-seated belief that life should be easy, plentiful, without tragic limitations; thus the average individual is animated by a sense of power and success which (2) leads him to affirm himself just as he is, and to consider himself complete in his moral and intellectual being. This self-satisfaction leads him to deny any exterior authority, to refuse to listen, to evade submitting his opinions to judgment, and to avoid considering the views of others. He is driven to make his weight felt. He will tend to act as if only he and his kind exist in the world; and thus (3) he will involve himself in everything, putting forth his mediocre view, without hesitancy, reserve, reflection, or negotiation.

The mass man is like a spoiled child around whom the entire world is circling. He is foolish, but believes himself to represent simplicity and common sense. He does not realise that unique ideas and initiatives are created through critical thinking, by questioning generally accepted opinions, something that only outsiders are capable of doing. Mass people rely on rhetoric and general truths. They "say what people really think". A mass man moves around within his own limited sphere, unable to realise that "reality" is complex and diverse.

On the contrary, “true” philosophers, lack the self-assurance of mass men. They know their own limitations. They are dissatisfied and wounded, but honest. They are well aware of the fact that they lack something. That they are "amputated":

The essence of man is discontent, divine discontent; a sort of love without a beloved, the ache we feel in a member we no longer have.

Perfection and common sense do not exist. When we assume that we are perfect, we lose our humanity. We become fanatics, who hate and despise things and people we presume are imperfect. If we believe in an ideal state of being, we believe in a myth, something that does and cannot exist. Lack of doubt makes us ready to die and kill for a myth, a lie - we become fundamentalists, fanatics.

What made me remember Ortega y Gasset was what he wrote about the pain in a non-existent limb. Fundamentalists make us believe that we lack and worry about something that does not exist in reality and eventually convince us that we can reach a state of fictional bliss. The girls in Åsne Seierstad´s Two Sisters dress in niqab, learn the Qu´ran by heart and demand to be allowed to perform daily prayers in their home and in public spaces, while they implore their parents and brothers to change their lives, so they after death may dwell eternally in Paradise. They assure themselves and others that their own lives have a meaning, in reality the only meaningful existence which is available to a human being. They preach and plead to everyone around them that they must make amends and become like them. If they do so, not only their friends and acquaintances will become happier, but eventually will all virtuous persons serve the will of God. They followed their Qu´ran teacher's directives:

One - learn about Islam. Two - live in accordance with Islam. Three - teach others about Islam.

However, it was their teacher's interpretation of Islam that convinced the girls that his teachings was the right path to follow, just like the interpretation of Christianity by Christian fundamentalists allow them to forget compassion and practice forgiveness and instead wage war on dissidents, while they are forgiven the murder of a doctor who aborts a foetus, as well as they are free to condemn and punish  homosexuals. Their imaginary world order becomes more important than the reality they actually live in. Subsequently they wholeheartedly accept and adapt to the absurdities of fundamentalism and are ready to violate other people's lives and opinions.

In Seierstad´s book the girls' newfound faith makes them to cover their whole body - face, body, hands - with the black cloth and subject themselves to the will of and desires of "right-minded" men. “Men” who in many cases were adolescents, of whom some had been, and still were, criminals, though converted into Jihadists. Marginalized Norwegian youngsters who had been transformed into masters of life and death, willing to cuts throats, torture and massacre in the name of their newly acquired religious convictions. They became subjects to something non-existent, like being guided by the pain in a missing. A faith that made the girls accuse their beloved family of living in a state of "sin and ignorance." According to their distorted perceptions, the comfort and well-being their parents and brothers experienced in this world put their eternal life after death at stake.

A fanatic Islamist may find as much inspiration from the Qu´ran and the Hadiths as a fanatic Christian may find in the Bible, the Book of Revelation, and in the multitude of like-minded fundamentalists´ distorted interpretations of such texts. Within the Hadiths we may find the same sadistic variations of scourges and afflictions that will smite the unbelievers as those we find in the Book of Revelation. Stories about demons, chaos, confusion and destructive monsters. With similar enthusiasm as Christian fundamentalists, Islamist preachers may invoke fire, sulphur and limitless suffering, using prophesies to cope with their own bewilderment and to condemn their enemies. They terrify and inspire their herd of believers with sufferings in hell and glory in Paradise, where they will be rewarded after a life of hardship and sacrifices - as Joe Hill sang: “Work and pray, live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die.”

Already in its first stanzas the Qur'an assures us that God gave it to his Prophet and that an ultimate judgment will come and separate the just from the unbelievers:

In the name of God, merciful to all, compassionate to each! Behold the Book! No trace of doubt in it. A guide to the pious, to those who believe in the Unseen, who perform prayer, and who spend from Our bounty; Those too who believe in what had been revealed to you, and what had been revealed before you, and who know for certain there is an afterlife. These are truly guided by their Lord; these are truly saved. As for the unbelievers, it is all the same if you warn or do not warn them: they will not believe. God has sealed up their hearts, their hearing and their vision with a shroud, and terrible punishment awaits them.

The ultimate judgment, as well as the corruption and chaos that will precede it, are mentioned and described in several places of the Qur´an, which among Muslims is considered to be the word of God, and thus immutable. However, pestilence and pains are mentioned in more detail in several of the Hadiths, i.e. the Prophet's deeds and opinions written down after His death.  Like the Book of Revelation of Christian Fundamentalists, such terrifying descriptions form an important part of the fundamentalist preaching that currently is spread through Islamic communities all over the world. In general, it can be said that the Hadiths are more open to different interpretations than the Qur'an. They received their written form during the two hundred years that followed the revelation of the Qur'an. The truth of some Hadiths may be questioned even by a righteous Muslim, but few would question that the Qur'an is God's own words conveyed through his messenger Muhammad:

Say: "If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an they could not produce the like thereof even if they backed up each other with help and support. […] When you read the Quran, We place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier. And We drape veils over their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Qur´an, they turn their backs in aversion. We know well what they listen to, when they listen to you, as they conspire, when the wrongdoers say, “You only follow a man bewitched.” Note what they compared you to. They are lost, and unable to find a way. And they say, “When we have become bones and fragments, shall we really be resurrected as a new creation?” Say, “Even if you become rocks or iron. Or some substance, which, in your minds, is even harder.” Then they will say, “Who will restore us?” Say, “The One who originated you the first time.” Then they will nod their heads at you, and say, “When will it be?” Say, “Perhaps it will be soon.”

However, despite beliefs in the absolute truth of the Qur'an, even the word of God is open to interpretation. We, with our human limitations, cannot imagine that we could be able to seize the scope of God's all-encompassing understanding and power. All we can do is to try to pair our faith with reason, we cannot interpret everything in the Holy Scriptures literally, but must use our own wisdom and through dialogues with others seek its essence:

It is He who revealed to you the Book. Some of its verses are definitive; they are the foundation of the Book, and others are unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the unspecific part, seeking dissent, and seeking to derive an interpretation. But none knows its interpretation except God and those firmly rooted in knowledge say, "We believe in it; all is from our Lord." But none recollects except those with understanding.

The final utterance is obviously something that fanatics seem to ignore completely, instead they find delight in descriptions of the suffering that will befall unbelievers during the final days of this world and preach that theirs is the perfect truth, which allows to support the oppression of women, exploitation of subjugated groups and the slaughter of unbelievers.

In Oslo, the Norwegian-Somali girls in Åsne Seierstad's book were "radicalized". Their chaotic existence became ordered and gradually obtained a meaning. The reason for their existence came to be their ultimate reward in Jannah, the Kingdom of Heaven. However, not only that - they signed up to a large number of credit institutions, received credit cards and over drafted their accounts by buying clothes and tickets. They left their family and were soon in Raqqa, IS’s centre, the hurricane's eye, where especially the volunteers, foreign Jihadists, had a privileged existence.

The girls´ desperate father did everything he could to get them back. Endangering his life, he repeatedly found himself in the lawless border areas between Syria and Turkey, where different fractions fought against each other; perhaps for their faith, but mostly about control, profit, power, money and survival. A reckless bloodbath in a No Man´s Land, where only those able to make a profit could survive, and not even then.

The father slipped further and further into despair, white lies, debt and dependency. He was supported by friends, Norwegian authorities and various news media, while becoming acquainted with business associates and even making friends among smugglers, gangsters and warlords in the Syrian border areas, but everything was in vain. The girls did not want to return home to Norway. They continued to live in their Raqqa bubble of intranet chatting, surrounded by all sorts of privileges and consumer goods, which the war provided them with. They continued to believe they were on the right side of the big final battle preceding Yawm ad-Dīn, the Doomsday. On their computers they watched movies staging the cutting of throats of unbelievers, their husbands´ fierce fighting and happily applauded it all – the kuffār was losing the battle for world rule. Talk about deception! As their compatriot Henrik Ibsen wrote in one of his tragedies: "Rob the average man of his life-illusion, and you rob him of his happiness at the same stroke."

Is it not high time not to eradicate our enemies? To pull ourselves together and finally learn to listen, see and understand. To preserve peace and love and not throw us into entangling webs of lies, myths and self-deception, which relentlessly are created around us, making us pay tribute to violence, human despair and fierce struggle. Why do we have to cling to ancient, brutal traditions advocating ruthless violence while callously inflicting suffering on others? Why not listen to a milder music? For example, the happiness we find by making friends, as Havamal, the Words of the High One´s author wrote about 900 AD.

Young and alone on a long road,

Once I lost my way;

Rich I felt when I found another,

Man rejoices in man.


Or sharing the joy and beauty of nature, as an anonymous Japanese poet wrote during the Nara Period (710-781 AD):

You may hate me –

I don´t demand your love.

But please, for once,

come to my garden to see

flowers blossom at my mandarin tree.


Auden, W.H. (2010) Havamal, Words of the High One. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing. Baigent, Michael (2010) Racing Towards Armageddon – The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World. San Francisco: HarperOne. Lawrence, D. H. (1996) Apocalypse. London: Penguin Classics. Ortega y Gasset, José (1957) The Revolt of the Masses. New York: W. W. Norton. 


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In Spite Of It All, Trots Allt