We focus here on the topic of fundamentalism because it is...well, fundamental. That is, fundamentalist thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs are the root of so much of the evil we see and feel around us. Evil arises from a distortion of perspective, not from an identity or an essence. In other words, people are not by nature evil—not even a little bit.
So Bush is not evil. Neither is Osama, nor Cheney, nor Rumsfeld. To say that someone is inherently evil, or that we are all born possessed of evil (or inclined toward it) is the same thing as saying that the universe makes evil stars; that Nature makes evil antelopes; that a flower makes an evil scent; that a mother makes an evil baby. It is, in short, an absurd and meaningless statement.
Therefore, when we say, "Bush is evil," we mean, "Bush does terrible, evil, cruel, and despotic things." And we are, of course, right to say that. But where is the evil, if not in him? Where is it, indeed, if it is not in ourselves? I say it is in the beliefs—indeed it is the belief.
To help you see what I mean, let me quote a passage from the Bible. Today's scripture will be from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 26 through 28:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
What if the next words were "The End"? What if the Bible ended right there? Wouldn't it be logical to expect that we would have the universal brotherhood that all these competing, warring ideologies talk about in such saccharine tones on Saturday or Sunday? After all, if we men were all made to look like God (sorry sisters, you're not in this Bible), and we're all given "dominion" and the mandate to "subdue" Nature and all its creations—why it's just like a hunting club. Everyone shares equally in the bounty, because each is a little God in himself. All right, maybe every so often someone would get shot in the face; but it would all be an accident and once God had fixed everything again, we'd all have a beer and some quail leg and laugh about the time that Dick peppered Bob.
But instead, we wound up with fundamentalism. We ended up with what I call "cosmic racism"; which I feel is the source of every form of racism we see on our planet in this our Age of Genocide. Those words from the Bible are seeds of cosmic racism: they tell us that we are so special, so Godly, so supreme that we were given a mandate to lord it over, to dominate every single life form in the universe.
It's a big job, being the Supreme Ruler of Creation; the Image of God on Earth. No wonder everyone's been so stressed out ever since.
So how did we get from the point where every human is God's agent for dominion, to the place where we are today—again, the Age of Genocide? The American Indians, upon whom we committed genocide just two centuries ago, were just as much the image of God as we are. The Africans who we subdued as if they were those "creepy things that creepeth on the earth" were also men and women—living images of God. So also with the Jews slaughtered by HItler, the Russians murdered by Stalin, the Chinese and Tibetans annihilated by Mao, the Bosnians killed by Slobbo, the victims of the Janjaweed, and on and on throughout our species' compulsive affair with the God of ethnic cleansing. Images of God, torturing and murdering other images of God by the hundreds of thousands, by the millions, all in the name of the Lord and the Prophet.
The Age of Genocide has, of course, come to the brink of a new age—the Age of Suicide. This is our current nuclear reality: someone can push a red button in a tunnel or a bunker somewhere, and it will be The End. We've had a few close shaves with it already, and there's no end in sight to the proliferation of both the weaponry and the insanity that controls it.
When you vote for a President, you are voting to give that fellow the power over the red button. If you'd like to ponder that reality a little further, you can't do better than to start with Arundhati Roy's magnificent 1998 essay on the theme. If I had required reading to mandate to every school child in the world, I might pick this. Here's an excerpt:
If only, if only nuclear war was just another kind of war. If only it was about the usual things - nations and territories, gods and histories. If only those of us who dread it are worthless moral cowards who are not prepared to die in defence of our beliefs. If only nuclear war was the kind of war in which countries battle countries, and men battle men.
But it isn't. If there is a nuclear war, our foes will not be China or America or even each other. Our foe will be the earth herself. Our cities and forests, our fields and villages will burn for days. Rivers will turn to poison. The air will become fire. The wind will spread the flames. When everything there is to burn has burned and the fires die, smoke will rise and shut out the sun. The earth will be enveloped in darkness. There will be no day - only interminable night. What shall we do then, those of us who are still alive? Burned and blind and bald and ill, carrying the cancerous carcasses of our children in our arms, where shall we go? What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we breathe?
As even Ms. Roy admits, we can't make the bombs go away, and we can't guarantee that the frail, pathetic people who take power over the nations of this earth won't use them. One thing we can do is to expose and dispel the distortions of consciousness that created the bombs and the madmen who control them. We start from within and among ourselves, with those we can communicate best and most truly with. We start by saying, "No, we are not the exclusive Image of God—certainly no more than a caterpillar, a penguin, a quail, or a cockroach is; no more than a tree or a weed."
Then we discard the notion that we have a right to dominion—over anything. We reject in ourselves the idea that we need to "subdue" anything or anyone—even if it "creepeth over the earth" like an al Qaeda fighter or a Republican lobbyist. Mind you, we can stop them, through the natural force of a unified will and consciousness. But the tools of subjection—war, oppression, violence, racism, ethnic cleansing—these have all been proven as failures, century after century after blood-drenched century.
So instead we take to the airwaves, the Internet, the voting booths, and to the streets, exposing the lies that were written by dead men into an old book that has nothing to do with the living god within us—the lies that still fester in the minds of old white men who, somewhere between the womb and the White House, forgot who they were, where they were, and silently died of a heart attack of the soul. We will tell them—today, tomorrow, Saturday in New York, and every day for as long as it takes—that just because they chose to kill themselves, they will not be allowed to murder us. And we will not allow the Age of Suicide to continue any longer.
Every day we do this, it will be another death-blow to fundamentalism, and another breath of life into the Earth and the cosmic whole.