My mind drifts away then breaks down and fails me. I can neither concentrate nor get anything done. I am trying to mentally rearrange facts only to be met with failure before I even get started. I think for few minutes about the disease and its cure and I find nothing other than a wild desire to stray even further. My mind is wandering in the narrow streets of the internet hoping to find what it’s looking for.

I roam in disparate sites scattered all along the virtual pavements of the web, perhaps I can find something to quench my thirst and redeem my curiosity. My mind is desperate for a drink of free thought. I move from one Arab blog to another only to be met with frustration and a growing sense of alienation. All their intellectual drinks are spoilt with poisons aiming at eliminating both the mind and the body all at once. I get mentally sick and come back down to earth. When in the last stages of my quest for few drops to recover before giving up, I finally come across my desired pub. It’s full of young and poignant ideas… a Moroccan youth league which has enough enthusiasm and boldness to be capable of attracting all dreamers about change

“Youth for the Separation between Religion and Education” is asking for the abolition of religious subjects in schools, the promotion of rational thinking in education and the pursuit of scientific research. It hopes to cleanse learning methods from religious teachings so that it can build up a culture which respects differences in thought and beliefs among individuals

An intellectual shudder runs down my brain and I move swiftly and quickly to leaf through the pages of their site, gripped with a sense of intellectual enjoyment. I sense their words and ideas as if I were touching a body I am discovering for the first time, with a rapture that comes very close to the kind of physical pleasure that one feels when about to come. I quickly shake away my feelings and try to ponder over the question of religion and education from the point of view of neurological experiments which looked into the effects of the unconscious mental image on individual and collective behavior

The findings of neurological science uncovered for us the mechanism by which an acquired mental image, laying dormant in our unconscious, is transferred from our external environment to our consciousness. This same image finds its way out again from the individual’s unconscious and conscious psyche when triggered by specific and given factors, that is to say, by a chain of events and experiences linked among themselves.

A careful examination of images found in religious books reveals recurrent aggressive elements embedded in stories of killing and punishment. We find in ancient times so much emphasis on images of slaughter and sacrificial practices. For instance, the story of Abraham’s decision to slaughter his son out of loyalty to God has been engraved in the unconscious of Abrahamic believers. Strangely enough, they seem to find in this image no harm and no violence as long as the sacrifice is made to, and in the name of God. They don’t see in this narrative a criminal act carried out by Abraham against his own son (not to mention the questionable veracity of this myth). The believer finds in this aggressive imagery a divine generosity and a token of human loyalty to God. But when we look carefully at this abstract imagery of slaughter and sacrifice and free ourselves of the symbolic meaning it may carry and which has long been registered uncritically in our minds, then we see it for what it really is: a heinous crime carried out against innocence and whose subject was a defenseless child.

This imagery which legitimizes the killing of the other to please God pushes us to practice violence and hatred against anyone who disagrees with us. It is not strange to find benevolent devotees use the same Abrahamic approach to punish all those who disagree with them or challenge their authority. This aggressive imagery is rooted in the depths of any believer, ready to emerge and reveal itself at any moment whenever there is any psychological and external opportunity which agrees with it. The potential presence of severe punishment and extreme violence become normalized practices in the believer’s unconscious. This perspective which does not agree at all with our humane way of looking at things in our present time is dangerous in at least two ways: collectively, as it is the case with salafi groups; or individually as it is the case with what happened to a carpenter in 1997 when he woke up from his sleep and ran to his son’s bedroom, a four month old toddler, and bashed his head with a hammer because he thought he heard the voice of God asking him to re-enact the Abrahamic sacrifice.

Neurologist Persinger studied some cases of aggressive behavior motivated by deep unconscious images and found that the religious imagery wrought with punishment and death is prominent in the mind of the believer. It is expressed through a fraud inner voice misinterpreted as a divine summon coming from behind the skies and the remote stars. Perisinger explains that the religious imagery is a reflection of heard, seen and smelt sensory images processed by the temporal lobe. Perceptual and motor tasks in the brain are quickly strengthened into a belief when they are decoded and distributed to the remaining areas of the cortex and then mechanically activated in the execution of specific tasks.

The aggressive imagery stored in the brain is constitutive of the individual’s “ego”. It hollows out a gap between inner cognition and outside reality, hence the believer’s inability to understand anything else besides this recorded unconscious image. This oppressive interpretive framework becomes most dangerous when it invades the collective mind or the collective unconscious. At that point, the threatening and aggressive discourse becomes the only means to deal with the other at the level of the state, or the school or in the family. This also accounts for the noticeable narrowing down of horizons before individuals and groups feeding on these aggressive religious images. There’s no room for discourse and no alternative behavior except within a single line which never changes and never deviates from its oppressive course. This is the culture of brainwashing which teaches tyranny at all levels and in every aspect of daily practical life.

This is why I would not refrain from adding my voice to that of the Youth for the Separation between Religion and Education to endorse their demands, hoping that this movement will find other voices to support it. Such movements should have a wider dissemination in all Arab and religious societies alike. My overall position is eloquently expressed in the Youth’s campaign slogan: “do not color me, let me choose for myself.”

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