Usual ‘decency’ is not enough

In his Nov. 29 letter, “Opportunists pervert ideologies,” Percival Constantine may fail to appreciate that, historically, the vast majority of “decent, upstanding citizens” went along with the Inquisition, pogroms, the gulags and so on.

What the world needs is not more decent citizens who will do and think as they are told, but free spirits who will question and think for themselves.

The fashion of the present day insists that all ideologies are relative, and that all religions are good. This is not only bad science, but also, as Sam Harris describes it, “bad theology.” If we examine ways of thinking from their original sources and history, we invariably get a very different picture.

One only has to open the Old Testament at almost any page to come face to face with sickening violence and misogyny. And the almost-fanatical hatred of “losers” and the poor in the United States — the world’s most Protestant country — today has a close connection with the teachings of Luther and especially Calvin. In the latter’s theology of predestination, the way to tell who is destined to be saved and who is “no good” and meant for hell is by “signs” such as economic success.

And one only has to study Marx to realize that he devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to attacking any socialist who disagreed with his authoritarian views, going so far as to send thugs from Germany to try to smash up meetings of rival socialist groups in Belgium and other countries. It’s not a huge leap from there to the internecine purges in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Any ideology that exerts external control over the mind is a hindrance to reason and to genuine freedom. The continued domination of such ideologies — along with the physical and mental obedience of upright citizens — ensures that we have not seen the last of ethnic cleansing and related horrors.

jack durutti
ushiku, ibaraki

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.