There is not a culture in the world that does not have some sort of belief in the supernatural. In many cultures, seemingly independently, people have conceived of physical reality as coming from some transcendent source that is unique, purposeful and good. Plato called this source the Form of the Good. Hindus call it Brahman. The Prophet Muhammad, in his Arabic language, preached of Allah. For simplicity, I will call this source God.
Many people who lack faith in God presume that he is just some sort of meme — an idea that got popular at some time, being repeated by enough people. They think that the idea of God will eventually fade away. On April 8, 1966, Time ran the cover story, “Is God Dead?” The article projected that people will have less and less God in their daily lives.
Time’s projection has been proven wrong. There is some evidence to suggest that belief in the divine and religion are as natural as language or culture. Belief in God has coexisted with modern science for hundreds of years now, and so far, there is no sign that God has faded away from our lives. In an April 2022 survey, Gallup International discovered that more than two-thirds of the world’s population believes in God, a “life after death” and “heaven and hell.”
Most people do not just believe that there is a God, but that there is life after death, and that there are rewards and punishments there. We do not only believe that God exists, but that he is a just God. We believe that human beings are free agents who are responsible for their own actions. If this is so, God must reward us for our good deeds and punish us for our bad ones.
We feel in our bones that the good will not be unrewarded or the bad unpunished. But in this life, we hardly see it. In most places, a poor person stealing a loaf of bread is punished. Meanwhile, powerful people kill and get away with it. And they steal the bread of the poor. In the 2008 financial crisis, we all saw many executives who manipulated the market for personal gains causing much poverty and destruction worldwide. However, they walked away with large bonuses instead of being tried and going to prison. Murderers get away without a penalty. Sometimes, they are celebrities, like O. J. Simpson. Sometimes, they are heads of state.
The criminals of the world think that they can get away with their deeds because they are not punished by the laws of men. But most of humanity agrees that there will be a higher and more certain justice.
Let’s think of global values, justice and peace
Right and wrong are not just social conventions, differing from place to place. Sure, different cultures may agree or disagree on the details of morality. But if you look at human beings as a whole, you will find that the content of morality is strikingly the same.
Universally, human beings admire consideration, compassion, love, empathy, forgiveness, charity, sharing, justice, looking after parents, helping the weak and so on. They condemn murder, harm, contempt, hatred, apathy, theft, revenge, selfishness, rape, lying, hoarding, ignoring parents, abusing the weak and so on.
Though we might sometimes like to deny it, human beings know the difference between right and wrong. We must be conscious of our thoughts and deeds. We must think and reason before embarking on any action by assessing its impact on other people. As the maxim goes, treat others as you want to be treated.
Do we take this seriously? Do we really live as if we believed that good were good and evil were evil? Or do we allow ourselves to compartmentalize, to forget evil when it does not concern us personally? Do we fall into the habit of condemning in others what we excuse for ourselves?
If a police officer pursuing a criminal kills an innocent person in San Francisco, we rightfully stand on the side of the innocent victim and demand justice. However, if a drone pursuing a perceived enemy, kills thousands of innocent people in Kandahar, Afghanistan, do we make as much noise? If the atrocities are even reported by the biased media, we condone them as collateral damage. Where is the objectivity? In the eyes of a just God, is there any difference between killing an innocent person whether he lives in San Francisco or Kandahar?
We know this. We want to believe that this is how a just God would judge, but we do not wish to judge justly ourselves.
If we believe in justice, why do we let the wicked go free?
Recently, a gathering in New York City honoring Henry Kissinger, former US national security advisor and secretary of state, came to my attention. Numerous people came to celebrate the man’s 100th birthday, and mainstream media covered the event. I was shocked. How low have we gotten, honoring one of the world’s worst criminals?
As they say, the good die young. Kissinger has enjoyed the warmth of the sunlight for a century. According to most people, this world is all he has to enjoy. Once dead, he, like his boss Richard Nixon, will have to answer for the killings of millions of innocent people in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam; supporting juntas in overthrowing Argentinian and Chilean democracies; empowering Pakistan and Indonesia in the genocides in Bangladesh and East Timor, and countless other atrocities across the world. God will demand an account from both of them for the killing, maiming and injuring of every innocent child, man and woman. Those who shared in their crimes by enabling, collaborating in or executing their designs, or by honoring them after the fact, will share in their punishment as well. After visiting Cambodia, Anthony Bourdain said, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands … and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”
Perhaps there is still time for him to repent. I hope that he does — before the world. Repenting must mean acknowledging one’s misdeeds and trying to right them, to the extent that it is within one’s power.
Justice in the afterlife applies to all. We will all account for our deeds. None of us will get away with it if we have inflicted harm on innocent people whether in our own family, community, country or war.
Most of us believe that God will not forget the suffering of the innocent, but we behave as if he did. We treat murderers like respectable people, or even heroes, as if one’s inequities were forgotten when human beings forget about them. But if justice is real, God is not so fickle. Neither should we be.
We cannot allow ourselves to continue to be so deeply unserious. We have created a dangerous world by ignoring justice and God in our national affairs. Led by the US, all of the permanent members of the UN Security Council indulge in profits from armament. The huge US armory and arms production have turned the world into an arms race. We not only accept that nations own these instruments of death, but see them as a source of prestige.
The proliferation of these weapons is responsible for much of wars and destruction in our world. If only our political leaders paused and contemplated how to justify their actions in the afterlife, we would have had much less armament and a far better world. We would not provoke conflict with sanctions against nations like Cuba and Iran or turn a blind eye to conflicts in Libya and Syria and wars in Somalia and Ukraine.
Let’s honor the will of people
The majority of the world’s population believes that there is a higher justice. If we truly believe in democracy, the world’s order must change to reflect that reality. The UN must change, dismantle if necessary, to hold countries (powerful or not) responsible for waging unjustifiable wars and bring the responsible persons to justice.
No longer must we pretend that inequities will be forgotten with the mere passage of time. We all remember the US waged war on Iraq without any provocation and under a false pretext. None of the guilty parties ever faced justice. George W. Bush and his conspirators are freely moving across the country. Some like Donald H. Rumsfeld have already died without facing justice.
Never again should the scenario in Iraq be repeated anywhere in the world, where a powerful country wages an unjustified war on a weaker one. Human rights must be redefined to count for the innocent victims of wars.
God is not dead. Dead, rather, is the pretense of wealth and power to impunity. Reportedly, two Saudi officers were recently executed for disobeying a command to bomb civilian targets in Yemen. These were men who believed in a higher justice, who preferred the judgment of God over the judgment of men. We should take a lesson from their brave example. We will all be held accountable for our deeds; we must hold each other accountable, too. If can be aware of this truth — a truth most of us already believe in — we will enjoy a far more prosperous and peaceful world.
[Anton Schauble edited this piece.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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