Dear readers, allow me to reproduce a passage from Mark Twain’s ‘Letters from the earth:’ “Man is the only patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his.
And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man” with his mouth. Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that loves his neighbour as himself, and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven.
He was at it in the time of the Caesars, he was at it in Mahomet’s time, he was at it in the time of the Inquisition, he was at it in France a couple of centuries, he was at it in England in Mary’s day, he has been at it ever since he saw the light, he is at it today in Crete. He will be at it somewhere else tomorrow. The higher animals have no religion. And we are told they are going to be left in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable fate.
Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed my experiments have proven to me he is the Unreasoning Animal. Note his history as sketched above. It seems plain to me that whatever he is, he is not a reasoning animal. His record is the fantastic record of a maniac. I consider that the strongest count against his intelligence is the fact that with that record back of him he blandly sets himself up as the head animal of the lot: whereas by his own standards he is the bottom one. In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which the other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this: In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately. Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh ….. not a specimen left. Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
Mark Twain satire depicts man (in the neuter) graphically. Man has changed the face of the earth. From cave dwellings, to luxury homes, production of delicious, plenty and healthier foods exceeding the fruit in the middle of Adam’s garden in Eden, transportation from sleigh to supersonic jet, communication from hieroglyphics to the e-mail, the skype, the cell phone; man can seed clouds to make rain, fly to the moon! Soon man will make man live to an age longer than Methuselah’s. Man is a fantastic creature capable of performing near-miracles. Why the tendency to self-destruction?
Mark Twain writes that man is a religious animal. Man has many religions: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Animism, you name it. None of the religions preaches hatred against different religions. All religions preach love and peace. Why then is there so much conflict among the religious? Domestic violence, tribal, civil wars, world wars - hot and cold? Why do we have people who strap suicide bombs around their waists to kill others by killing themselves? Terrorism is indiscriminate violence stalking the whole world. In Africa we live under the fear of the Al Shabaab headquartered in Somalia and spilling into neighbouring countries and likely to spread, since the AU is contemplating counter-insurgency against the menace. Is man a religious hypocrite?
Recently 130 innocent people were killed in Paris in a coordinated attack at a sports stadium, concert hall, restaurant and café. ISIL/ISIS who claimed the carnage are first cousins of Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. They all fight and kill innocent in the name of Islam! Yet The Quran, the Muslim bible, preaches brotherhood of men and world peace! Why then this killing of innocent brethren? Mark Twain again:
“Religion has removed from the heart to the mouth. You have the word of Noah for it. Time was, when two sects, divided by a hair of doctrine, would fight for that hair, would kill, torture, prosecute for it, die for it. That religion was in the heart; it was vital, it was a living thing, it was the very man himself. Who fights for his religion now, but with the mouth? Your civilization has brought the flood. Noah has said it…..” Has originally sincere religion become insincere? Will world Muslims stand up and condemn those who sew mayhem in the name of Islam!