This blog is about my book The Death of Judeo-Christianity: Religious Aggression and Systemic Evil in the Modern World, which came out in July, 2012 — and it is now also about my next book, Trauma Bond: An Inquiry into the Nature of Evil, which will be brought out in March, 2013, by Psyche Books, in imprint of John Hunt Publishing, Ltd. Both are ambitious books: the first is about the manner in which systemic evil is unknowingly disseminated by institutional religion; the second, my secular theory of aggression and evil, and how they replicate themselves. These subjects arise from my concern about the possibility of a worldwide religious war between Islam and the West, sparked by the intransigence of the Netanyahu regime in Israel, and renewed conflict in Israel/Palestine. Such a religious war would be disastrous for all Americans–and indeed, for all people everywhere.
Union politics for ten years (postal workers), VP of Postal Clerks in San Francisco, postal workers’ strike in 1970; my novel Waiting for the Earthquake is about the postal workers’ strike. I was a journalist in Latin America and Germany; my novel Dangerous Pilgrims is about alienated journalists and liberation theology in Central America. I worked twenty-five years as a counselor doing psycho-social rehab with clients with chronic mental illness; founded the Interfaith Freedom Foundation in 2002 to oppose growing US Islamophobia. I’m from a progressive Christian background, have one Jewish and one Muslim daughter and one son who is, perhaps not surprisingly, a confirmed secularist in all areas of life. Now old and retired from worldly cares but writing full-time, I live in ecstatic lower-middle-class anonymity as a semi-recluse in a small mountain village with a lovely woman who cooks vegetarian food. Her favorite phrase is, “Can I help it if I’m glamorous??”
The struggle for social justice is best understood historically. I am grateful for my 17th-century ancestors in Anglo-Dutch New York, who discerned at once that religious liberty would be a defining feature of the New World (more freedom from religion than for it, to be sure). I honor also Moses, Benjamin and William Swaim, leaders of the Manumission Society of North Carolina, who published in 1829 their immortal Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery. I have also learned from the rogues, charlatans and mountebanks in my ancestry, including the Swaims who for one hundred years of sheer mendacity, from 1820 to 1920, doggedly sold their addictive, near-fatal patent medicine Swaim’s Panacea. (Why Panacea? Because it “cured everything.”) We learn from the frauds and criminals whose blood we are, if and when we stoutly interrogate their ghosts when they appear, and clearly name the evils that men do.
The great honor is not merely to be a public intellectual, or even an engaged one (as the French would say); the greatest honor is to be a prophetic intellectual. The prophetic intellectual most completely honors both great traditions from which we descend: the prophetic tradition that began with father Abraham, and the Socratic tradition that drives the narrative arts, science and the educated moral sense needed by humankind to survive. The prophetic intellectual warns of the dangers that face all humankind, not in the name of critical thought alone, but also of concern for his descendents.
The greatest danger of our time is religious war between Islam and the West, as it is being relentlessly advocated by the neo-cons and the Likudniks in US politics and culture. I warn of this in The Death of Judeo-Christianity: Religious Aggression and Systemic Evil in the Modern World, which will be published by Circle Books in Britain this July. This is a book that could never be published in the US under present circumstances. In this book I demonstrate how Christianity created the cultural reference points that led to the Holocaust, and how the entire Judeo-Christian idea has been compromised by the moral disorientation that entered the world with the Nazi catastrophe. The crisis in the Middle East is the culmination of the ferocious antisemitism that flourished for sixteen hundred years within Christianity; but Jewish culture has internalized some of the worst and most aggressive aspects of Christianity, as well as the most ferocious kinds of European nationalism.
The rise of religious nationalism has rendered the two main religious traditions of Judeo-Christianity useless in resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Death of Judeo-Christianity points the way to a realistic political morality that can deal with systemic evil, ultimately suggesting a methodology for deconstructing the genocidal trauma bond that is at the heart of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.