the excess of devotion in history

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Common Struggle
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Aug 31 2007 12:30
the excess of devotion in history

"Most historicans would agree that the part played by impulses of selfish, individual aggression in the holocausts of history was small; first and foremost, the slaughter was meant as an offering to the gods, to king and country, or the future happiness of mankind. The crimes of a Caligula shrink to insignificance compared to the havoc wrought by a Torquemada. The number of victims or robbers, highwaymen, rapers, gangsters and other criminals of any period of history is negligible compared to the massive numbers of those cheerfully slain in the name of the true religion, just policy, or correct ideology. Heretics were burnt at the stake not in anger but in sorrow, for the good of their immortal souls. Tribal warfare was waged for the purported interest of the tribe, not of the individual. War of religion were fought to decide fine points in theology or semantics. Wars of succession, dynastic wars, national wars, civil wars, were fought to decide issues equally remote from the personal self-interests of the combatants."
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- Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine