Unthinking Tribalism

“You’re either with us or you’re against us.” This phrase, notably associated with the Bush II presidency (though it was actually Hillary Clinton who said it first during that period), is an artifact of our early tribal days, when humans had to survive by banding together in small nomadic groups. It is rather less useful in modern society, when we depend on an intricately connected global network which suffers at the hands of these archaic tribal notions.

What does it mean for people to claim, as Mano Paul does, that they’re in God company? Probably nothing good. The German military, including under Hitler’s command, used the phrase Gott Mit Uns. The Israelites believed God wanted them to massacre the Canaanites, even the women and children. Crusaders believed their military expeditions were ordained by God, and the Catholic church told them so. The 9/11 terrorists praised their God, too. When people say they’re in God company, especially when they’re quoting their holy book, we should rightly be concerned about a coming genocide.

The answer to “who is against us” seems invariably to be “other humans”. If you’ve committed yourself to violence against humanity, chances are good that you’ve made a mistake in your moral reasoning somewhere along the way. In that respect, we should be happy that more and more people are coming down on the side against God.

The absurdity of God-invoked militarism is most clearly seen in the modern athlete who thanks the heavens for a victory or good play, as if God cared for the outcome of a football game. There is no scriptural support for this kind of nonsense, so it is the most naked example of our tribal roots shining through centuries of cultural evolution. Until we all recognize it for what it is and shed our in-group/out-group prejudices, we will still live in a world marked by genocide, whether we credit it to God or not.


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