Columnist Jacob Gelt Dekker is na lange afwezigheid weer aan het schrijven geslagen. In het Engels. When we grow up, many of us switch effortlessly from fairytales to faith. The pain comes when undemocratic forces start using religion for their own ends.
Remember the incredible success of Harry Potter? No series of children's have sold faster - with millions of copies snatched from bookstore shelves in just a few days.
Magic is so very appealing to children. With the touch of a wand a toad turns into a Prince Charming; no need for generations of genetic engineering. With a few drops of magic potion you may obtain eternal youth; no need for expensive years of anti-ageing treatments. And with the spell of a friendly wizard your demons and enemies will be cast off to eternity; no need for extensive therapy or bloody warfare.
But the moment your five year old enters school, all of his young life will be dissected, divided up into parts and portions, segments and subjects. All carefully analyzed, with layers of problems identified and solutions custom fitted. Extensive analytic thinking skills, application of bureaucratically layered and multiple faceted solution approaches are taught him. The fruits of the Age of Reason enable our modern Western society to tackle the most complex problems and challenges with ingenious supersolutions.
A child’s appetite for magic can make a seamless transition into an adult craving for religion. When a loved one gets sick, the patient will enter a hospital, where, again, ailments and complaints are painstakingly analyzed with an array of sophisticated tests in different departments. A complex treatment plan with multiple layers of therapy may lead the patient back to health. In the meantime, family members gather and turn to their Grand Wizard with desperate prayers, so their Almighty in his Eternal Grace and Wisdom may touch the patient with his magic wand and a miracle of health will cure the seriously ill. In such despair, the world of magic and religion may touch the world of analysis and science for a brief emotional moment.
A child’s appetite for magic can make a seamless transition into an adult craving for religion
The conflict between supernatural magic and analytic science dominates the present Middle East and African conflicts. Boko Haram, with its name meaning 'Western education is forbidden' in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria, with grand expectations of an imminent arrival of a Messiah, or Mahdi, for the Final Day of Judgment in Dabiq, are religious-magic solutions to challenges facing peoples after generations of suppression and prolonged poverty.
Careful scientific analysis of social and economic structures of the Middle East Muslim world may reveal multiple ailments, such as exclusive ruling by small privileged elites, who extract nearly all surplus from their underlings, repressive, autocratic absolute rule to benefit a few at the expensive of many.
A restructuring of societies towards an anonymous, inclusive meritocracy, a democracy for the benefit of all, is the most obvious solution. Such solutions are strongly rejected by those who benefited from the status quo for generations. The ruling aristocracy is aided in its selfish plight by clerical fanatics who believe in a holistic approach of the society with magic and religion. Their Redeemer will descend from the heavens use his magic wand and set all wrongs right. It may take a while before the cataclysmic confrontation between the Age of Reason and the Age of Magic will be over, if ever.