PITTSFIELD

Poor God. No number in this world can exceed the frequency with which He is misquoted. "God told me..." must be at the very top of the list of assertions by people who are determined to persuade you of something. "God told me" is different from "My mother told me" or "My friend told me" because you can’t ask God the way you can ask your mom and thus convince yourself. And it has been used since the beginning of time, or at least since the beginning of the Greeks and Romans, who didn’t ascribe 100 percent accuracy to any one of their many gods’ pronouncements. Roman gods had different interests and were comfortably human in their scraps and misbehavior.

But along came Christianity and Islam which became the two really big religions in the world, and, predictably, each was convinced of its own righteousness. Each one had A Book to prove it, and each developed rules and regulations which sometimes matched each and sometimes didn’t.

Eventually they both fractured into smaller bits. My Thesaurus lists 115 variations between the two of them!

Of course that meant that they fought with each other, occasionally in huge battles like the Crusades, and endlessly in small- to medium-sized squabbles, often over land ownership disguised as religious principles. And if that reminds you of the current Middle East mess, you’re right.


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This one is over territory, each party claiming religious reasons for ownership. The nasty truth is that the Jews and the Arabs could have stopped scrapping a zillion times already, saving hundreds of thousands of lives over the years. So why don’t they? Because they don’t want to.

This dispute has been going on for 3,000 years. It could have been settled hundreds of times if both sides hadn’t wanted to have the last word.

So I have trouble worrying about it as long as it doesn’t spread. I certainly don’t think we should get involved in any way, and that includes selling armaments to anybody. Let the boys figure out their own solution, as long as they keep the fighting to themselves.

The other danger we face may be even worse because it doesn’t involve religious squabbles that go on sputtering for centuries. This danger is inflamed by the swollen ego of a megalomaniac. History tells us tyrants wreak more havoc, and calmly murder and torture more people than earthquakes, floods and bad weather, and the worst of it is that the tyrants do it on purpose. Nature doesn’t.

So Putin scares me. He scares me because the countries in Europe that could smack him down with severe sanctions depend on his oil and gas and won’t do it. Of course, if we had listened to scientists 20 years ago about global warming we could have mastered techniques that don’t require oil or gas to keep warm. But oil companies didn’t want to risk losing money and right-wingers shivered at the thought the government might actually be spending money (their money, by gosh). So instead we have a Congress that includes a bunch of billionaires, ignores a dangerous problem with global warming, and allows a 90 percent to 10 percent imbalance in people’s incomes. Sounds stupid to me.

Actually what we sound more like is kindergarten children on steroids. In a fit of curiosity, I Googled the Golden Rule to see how many of the religious sects from my Thesaurus regarded it as the highest rule of ethics -- 115!

Dorothy van den Honert is an occasional Eagle contributor.