A Reflection on the Orlando Massacre

I hear people of the same faith say that the violent acts fellow believers do, do not truly represent their religion in thought and action.  After all, their faith is really a religion of peace and not of conflict and hate.

I find no reason to dispute such rationalization because almost all religious expressions countenance a momentary face of love and tolerance with others as foundation of their faiths especially when confronted with controversies.  It is an expected knee-jerk reaction, I suppose.

But that’s only half of the story.  The other half of the story is not a pleasant one, I must say.

We have to ask and find out what believers truly believe.  Perhaps by asking and finding out what is the bottomline of their faith—that is, their religious mission in life—will unmask the true face of one’s self-proclamation.

And why is that?

Well, because we have to ask if it is the mission of that religion to convert the so-called non-believers or infidels into its fold.  Or it is the mission of that religion to create a world according to its own image.  If the answer is affirmative then trying to religiously set oneself apart from the extremist actions of fellow believers is not only intellectually dishonest but also morally reprehensible.

I know it is an easy thing to say that “we’re not like them.”  But how can one make sense of such rationalization in the context of another proselytizing religion whose main purpose is to convert people into its fold and to create a world according to its own image? How can believers then set themselves apart from others and be spared from blame?

Everyone has blood on their hands.  At the end of the day, these faith believers are all responsible for making our already sorry state as mortals worse by this face of intolerant moralism and vindictive behaviorism.  Unfortunately, such blame is the fate of all claimants of universalistic and dominant religions and hegemonic ideologies of the world, there’s no exception.

I am disheartened about what happened in Orlando especially because it will happen again.  But I psyche myself not to lose hope.  There’s one thing I’d like to remind myself of, and quite often, just to put matters in perspective.

Every time a person or an organization rears its ugly head of death and destruction by agitating its followers into a fool’s errand of frenzied supercilious moralism and cultural domination, that image of a pale blue dot does not fail to remind me of the puniness of our exaggerated sense of self-importance.

On October 13, 1994, the astronomer Carl Sagan presented in his lecture at Cornell University a 1990 photo of Earth taken about 3.7 billion miles away by Voyager I

launched by NASA in 1977 on an interstellar journey within the Milky Way Galaxy (home of our solar system with over 400 billion stars, and yet, it is only one of the estimated 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe).

Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 9.29.01 AM.pngThe Milky Way Galaxy

Dr. Sagan was quite moved by this image of our tiny world.  Here’s that beautiful speech:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest.  But for us, it’s different.

Consider again that dot.  That’s here.  That’s home.  That’s us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.  Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.  Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.  Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.  The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life.  There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate.  Visit yes. Settle, not yet.  Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience.  There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

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3 Responses to A Reflection on the Orlando Massacre

  1. Well stated, Efren! Like Carl Sagan, people need to look at the BIG PICTURE and see life and existence as it is and not as they like to believe or perceive it to be. Hopefully, in the next two hundred years, the human species will be more worldly and less self-centered.

  2. Glads says:

    Wow, awesome article.

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