The old Albert Einstein quote goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The old Homer Simpson quote goes: “Everyone is stupid except me.” North Korea (hereafter: NK) has been repeating their same style of belligerent rhetoric, seemingly as their only foreign policy, for the past 60 years. They appear to think they are sane while the rest of the world is stupid. They may have a nuclear bomb, but their capacity to deliver it across the Pacific remains questionable due to their antique computers and clumsy rockets. North Korea believes it is the “true” Korea. They think they were the only ones who stood up to the Japanese during the terrible occupation of the mid 20th century. They think being slaves under a god king is more “true” than the glittering cities of the capitalistic South. They think revering a man and his fat, spoiled, hypocritical progeny makes them better than anyone else in the world. They are so blatantly wrong and so obviously brainwashed. They have only state run TV, no Internet and no external culture. How can you learn about the world without traveling or surfing the web? They are self-made moles, trapped underground in a fast-paced globally connected world. North Korea is in perpetual starvation mode. They simply don’t produce enough food in their mountainous land to feed the population. They rely on assistance from China, USA and even South Korean food donations (until sanctions restrict those donations due to nuclear tests and threats to the very same countries providing the aid). In a strange fashioning of the “communist” ideals, the army and government workers get more food than peasants under the Kim dynasty. Yet, despite this culinary advantage, the average NK soldier is 5’6” whereas his SK counterparts’ average height is 5’10”. Confusingly, both these soldiers share a common ancestry, curious no? Perhaps living under a rock actually does hinder growth.
The ROK, during Olympics and international sporting events, is known as (대한민국)=(Dae Han Min Guk) loosely translated to “one Korean people.” I think this is the reason that no one talks about NK in the South. It’s like the drunken uncle always saying horribly racist things and inappropriately touching your girlfriend. It’s embarrassing to be related. Koreans know they are all of similar blood; in fact it is a great source of pride for both Koreas in how homogenous they are. When I first arrived here in October 2011, it was Kim Jong-Il in charge, and I was asking everybody questions. “Do you think there is a chance for reunification? Do you have any family up there? Do you hate them or just think they’re silly heads?” Then two months later, he died, and nobody raised an eyebrow here. (I wrote about that moment in a previous blog.) I have a friend from New Zealand who is very keen to visit Pyongyang. I can’t understand it. What can you see? There is no tourism, it’s just a guided ride around the government sponsored palaces and then a cheesy karaoke (noraebang in Korea) session. See the Vice video if you haven’t before.
North Korea bothers me. The government is so damn repressive to their people it reminded me of another repressive agent that has been disturbing me of late—religion, specifically dogmatic religion. I have been thinking about religion and its detriment to society, as well as the NK question recently. I am finding some correlations between the two. Before I freak anyone out with my blasphemy, don’t read any further if you are offended by insults to imaginary deities. I believe the reliance on religion to explain anything in the world to be a mistake. I believe a huge cause of racism and hatred in the world is wholly “holy.” The Bible, Quran and Torah are not needed in our scientific world and put barriers up to modernization in both minds and spirits, in much the same way that NK isolationism is an impediment to their becoming a successful, progressive country.
NK brainwashes its people into submission. If you go against the “dear leader” you will find yourself in quite a literal hell, namely the forced labor camps. That sounds like religion in a way, but at least religion ostensibly gives people the chance to escape hell if you are able to abide by the “good” rules of the Bible, ignoring the stoning of adulterous wives, selling of daughters into slavery et al. NK believes they are the one, chosen people to govern the peninsula of Korea. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have distinct claims to the tiny city of Jerusalem and all believe they are its chosen protectors due to the divine right of their god. I think the fact that there have been so many invented gods throughout history such as: Thor, Zeus, Vishnu, Allah, Ra that it proves, in a certain manner, that gods can only be man-made and are less celestial than we ascribe them to be. The arguments for the scriptural god are as flimsy and loose as Kim Jong-Un’s midsection. The answers to questions like: “Why does god allow evil? Why did he kill his son instead of just forgiving us? How did Noah carry two of all the species aboard a boat and then distribute them about 7 continents? Why is there no archeological evidence of the 40 years in the desert? How do you explain dinosaurs? How do you explain evolution?” These questions are not necessary to explain if you ignore religious texts. Evil is present because people can do evil things due to faulty thoughts, beliefs, mental illness or anger. Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, and went extinct due to a cataclysmic occurrence. Evolution is the spark of energy that continues in every living thing, forever upgrading. Science is way more beautiful than the best Bible story. Natural Selection is more amazing than god creating the world in 6 days and then napping. Religion is a numbing agent that takes away the mystery of life and replaces it with a nonsensical delusion about angels and divinity. It’s a way to make humans feel above the animals we are. Religion, just like Kim repressing a people to toil for his glory, is damaging to progress. Long ago, religion tried to silence Galileo for his heliocentric (then radical, now proven) ideas. Now, religion is trying to silence evolution under the guise of presenting “intelligent design” alongside it as though religion were science. Let’s hope the church’s anti-evolution, anti-reason doesn’t restrict anymore modern Galileo’s.
It’s hard to be an atheist. It’s hard to think critically when so many are irrationally unthinking. It’s nearly impossible to challenge faith. It’s hard to argue with pure conviction and devotion to an idea that cannot be proven wrong with evidence. It only requires the most minimal amount of suspension of disbelief before all of religion tumbles upon itself as a set of rules to keep the masses pacified. The Bible is full of so many bogus tales as to be redundant in an argument but it is the backbone of any Christian believer. So we can just take two spurious examples: one from Old and one from New Testament. The classic Noah’s Ark tale is totally implausible and there is one bold stat to prove it. There are almost 1 million different species of known insects. It cannot be literal, but rather a useful metaphor of good being rewarded—the point of the story. However, two or three thousand years ago, before those myriad of species were discovered, and only a smattering of desert animals existed around the Bible’s authors, it may have seemed more credible. The next is Jesus turning water into wine. This is just a magic trick. Also, it was the desert, why is water so undesired? This can’t be literal because it’s impossible. Also, this doesn’t even make for a good moral. It’s only to prove Jesus’ divinity and complexity. And I can hear the pious now explaining that the impossibility proves god’s strength, and it might if it were true, but it’s only a story, no proof it happened. So now, we enter the argument of neither side having any proof against the other. But the burden of proof is on the believer not the unbeliever. I have proof through research, fossils, and science that natural selection is the catalyst for life on Earth. What proof beyond words does religion have?
The thing is, religion isn’t inherently bad, but it gives people a false strength and confidence. The kind of strength and confidence you’d feel if Hulk Hogan were on your side in a fight versus Paul Simon. You know you’ll win, because you just point back to the Hulkster, like the godly can just point to the Bible.
If there is a god, it will be a god of all life, and not a god from a specific area or country. It will be a god of all, and accepting of all. If there is a god, it will not be a man with a beard. If there is a god, it will be an energy and power beyond our capacity to understand and therefore, when we die, and our limited brain function ends, there is no way to understand it from then on. If there were a god, it would not come to earth to die, but to live. If there was a god, it would be revealed to us subjectively, inside our hearts, in the petal of a flower, in the everlasting tides and waves, among the winds, surrounding the galaxy and beyond. If there was a god, do you think it would ask you to kill your son to prove loyalty, would it be mad you didn’t go to church, would it flood the world on purpose, would it kill the first born children of a country, would it make the world and its people as flawed as we are?
Many in America voted for Mitt Romney, a man who cherishes the belief that a man 200 years ago found golden tablets, that only he could read using a magical hat and then they were mysteriously destroyed. Mormonism, in all its absurdity, should have been a major topic in the debates, but it was largely ignored because it is at least, a religion. Whereas, if Romney were an atheist, it would be a major problem, because, people would wonder where he gets his guidance, his morals, and his philosophy. What do you think, what do you believe, when you don’t believe in a god? Religion is so fundamental to so many people that it’s inconceivable to imagine not believing.
The real danger with religion (and N.K. for that matter) is that they promote dissolution of individual thoughts and instill the idea of difference and antagonism where similarity and friendliness could exist. Why are Koreans post-1950 so vitriolic toward each other? Why did the Hutu’s massacre the Tutsi’s of Rwanda? Why did the Turks massacre the Armenians? What inspired the Holocaust? Why do Jews and Muslims hate each other? The answer is because someone who had power over them told them the “others” were different. Human ego can be made to believe difference means less quality or a less valuable life. Thusly, in jihad or the crusades, it’s okay to kill “others”, because they are different, insofar as they don’t have faith in your one god. When you are the “true” version of your people, it is okay to kill “others” to benefit the truth. Believing in one god, whose first commandment is to have no other gods, means you will constantly come against “others” whose imaginary god will say the same thing. The truth is we are all people who look different but are intrinsically and genetically almost identical. We all possess the same body systems and related chromosomes. We all feel emotions. We all come from a woman. We are all organized stardust, water and condensed electrical energy. And sometimes, there is a person born who doesn’t like pizza or jazz or sports, (surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly), there is yet to be a person born who doesn’t like Bob Marley). Sometimes, there is a person born (probably in a different part of the world where that religion was professed by his parents, thereby almost automatically making him one) who believes in a different god than you. Or, possibly worse, there is a person born who will grow up to not believe the traditional dogmas of religion (since there is no evidence for someone born with a religion) and question not only its ideals, but also its value. Religion is the DMZ of the world. As long as it exists, there is a line between us that is impenetrable, unbreakable, insulting and dividing us.
–“If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” –JFK, June 1963