Religious identity, between labels and resentment

The origin of religious identity

The trend in the under-developed countries, is that each individual is defined in relation to its religion. This is accentuated by the western media, who knowingly appoint anyone from elsewhere, especially those under-developed countries by their religion: Jewish community (predominantly Sephardi), evangelical Christian community (of black Americans and African) and the Muslim community (all North African nationals, Saharan Africans, Middle-eastern and all the poor people of Asia).

Most of the individuals in these communities also defined themselves- and are taking great pride of that – by their religion. They even organize to be visible. As for atheists and other agnostics from these communities, they remain invisible and unrecognized, either by the media of the so called secular countries, nor by their community. For the latter, they are only poor misguided religious that God will put one day on the right track.Should we blame the media in developed countries to present and describe by their religion men and women of the above-mentioned communities? We can actually blame them for that, but they are not solely responsible for this, as the concerned present themselves as such.

Religious identity has thick skin. She is invited in every debate and in every public discussion, as if it was a natural fact or a birthmark. We forget that this identity is a political fact invented by the Roman Church under the “reign” of Theodosius “THE GREAT”. In his History of Ancient Rome – Arms and words – Lucien Jerphanéon wrote: “Unlike the elders of Rome, with outward rituals, the religion of Christ committed the plan of personal conscience, which was a radical novelty. It demanded of its followers, and whatever their condition or their role in civil society, an internal consent to requests for spiritual bodies representing Christ himself. No one could escape it, whether slave in charge of maintenance of stairs, prefect or ruling Emperor. One was Christian before being slave, prefect or Emperor. So the Roman emperor, like any other faithful, was in the church, not above but in the exercise of some duty. Unprecedented situation: a Trajan, Marcus Aurelius was pontifex maximus and thereby master of Roman cults. A Theodosius is no longer of any religion – he refused the pagan title – and even less of Christianity. His personal conscience was therefore now subject to the authority of Christian priests, divine custodians of the standards imposed on all the faithful. ”

So what is the Christian universal – what exactly means “catholic” (from the Greek kat’holos: for the whole world) – giving the same identity to everybody without distinction. Total Equality before the new divinity. What a joy for the slave who share the same identity as the Emperor. Christian before all, even if this does not give him back his freedom, after all, is it not the will of God to make him a slave? This does not matter, he is Christian as his masters. It is the same today in Muslim countries, the pride of being Muslim compensates oppression, injustice, humiliation that Muslims suffer from all sides, including from their emirs, dictators and tyrants brothers. In some cases, they present themselves as more Muslim than their leaders whom they accuse of disbelief and apostasy.

Religion, Identity and Culture

Developed countries, once emancipated from religious identity, tended to impose the least developed nations, a sign of distinction perhaps, a name that derives historically from the words barbarian for the Greeks and Romans and savages for former colonizers. For what is a Muslim for a modern, secular and political man, if not a replica of the Christian from the Middle Ages?

Most Muslims wear the religious label with pride, while feeling stigmatized when a non-Muslim reduced them to [1] their religion. Unconsciously, they feel contempt, they know a Muslim mean the other to modern man, one that has other values than themselves, one that is not yet in the political and historical time, briefly the barbaric or savage. They suddenly find themselves in a very complicated situation: it is as if they were doing violence to themselves by claiming their religious identity because they do it more against non-Muslims whom they called enemies than for their spiritual well . Being religious, and since the Rome of Theodosius and the triumph of Christianity, is a political act, hence the tension, hatred and wars that result.

[1] In the Western media, a national of a “Muslim” country is automatically stempled as Muslim. When it happens to a person coming from these countries, to claim his atheism, the same media say he is of Muslim culture. Mustapha Ourrad, editor at Charlie Hebdo, known for its anti-religious positions is defined by Edwy Plenel from Médiapart as of Muslim culture. Something he fully shares with Tariq Ramadan. It was said of the Jews too. We continues to call some scholars such Freud and Marx as Jews, while everyone knows their atheism and their dislike of religion. But the same press never presents the scientists and philosophers of “Christian culture” under the religious label, even when the latter claims it. They are just scientists and humanists.

In advanced countries as Europe and America, the Christian became a citizen, at least officially and constitutionally. However, these countries have to manage the living together between religious “sects”, Christian, Muslim or Jewish. These cultural identity withdrawal threaten civil peace at all times and worldwide. What the Roman republic endured from the “sect” in Christian antiquity tends to happen again today in the western republics, claiming the legacy of Republican Rome.

If Rome considered foreigners who flocked to it as barbaric, the current developed countries qualify new migrants as Muslims. Same stereotypes and clichés in the citizens of the host countries that Roman citizens, and same reaction among migrants that Christians of Rome. We went from the catacombs of Rome to the cellars of the major Western capitals.

European political discourse is in line with that of religious fundamentalists, they have the same definition of migrant: a Muslim. If he is not by religion, he is by culture. Inevitably, he is different. None of them, be they intellectuals, can be defined as he desired. It is the media and politicians who decide what you are. And the more you harass migrants, even the most encline to integration, they eventually join the sect. To quote the proverb: “If you make a dog of a fellow human being, he will eventually show you his teeth.”

The fanatic then occupies the public, political and identity space. He does not want to be a citizen, you can strip him of all the political, legal and social affiliations, that make modern Homo Politicus. He does not recognize them, because they are not at the level of its absolute. The fanatic becomes exacerbated expression of an identity that is both imposed,  felt as denied or despised, and claimed as essentialist, the master-slave dialectic, movement of negations of the negations which follow and which are the result of a feeling of inferiority and dispossession of their own destiny. Better then taking refuge in “the other  worlds,” would say Nietzsche. It is the resentment that guide therefore one we label with such belief, that mark the front of his religion, and who is willing to do anything to impose its identity to others, he leaves his identity and religious temple.

But when the fanatic get out of his temple, what is left to the outsiders meet him? When the fanatic enters the place of the profan and became the profaner? When nothing is sacred except the thirst to die and take along others who have made the mistake of not being like itself, what becomes the god to whom we dedicated a blind worship? Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing. Everything is denied in the desperate, irrational quest, with a nihilism without law, of faith pegged to the body, become explosive belt: that faith is all fire on everything. The recent events in France, but also in the 90s in Algeria calls “black decade” and again in Syria, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere around the world, just give the fanatics a wonderful playground.

The fanatic, a modern Erostrate  who burns the temple of Humans. Erostrate made himself a name on the remains of history, on the sin of his desire for fame and recognition. He reached the fame, notoriety by infamy. A name, nothing more, neither a hero nor a victim, a simple name. We will forget that name, it will disappear in the memory for centuries, but the ruins will remain, these absences, these possible broken in the heart of the living. And then we’ll move on, we will turn the page and forget that here, once, stood the majestic wonder of temples. Until one day, another possessed of God breaks into the lives of men and pours a flood of hatred and bloodshed. Nothing new under the sun. Religion is an illusion that has a future. And it remains what by which some want to define the other to give a simple and stereotypical explanation of this incomprehensible and complex world.

The case of the Kabyle of Algeria

The same pressure occur on the people in the Southern countries. If we take the case of Algeria, the Algerian state and its Islamist allies speak more religion than anything else. Religious identity is being constitutionalized to the point that being Muslim is more important and more profitable than to be Algerian. Almost all the people see this as granted. Remains the Kabyle community, held until now far away from the sect, thanks to its history and language, lately the fortress begins to give way, because of the Trojan horse like schools, the media and the effort deployed by the Algerian state to maintain the loyalty of some Kabyles. Thus, they glide slowly in the religious abyss. This constant pressure ended up killing the hopes of struggle and promises of better life that their political leaders and artists have grown at home.

The Kabyle struggle to be recognized, but in vain. In Algeria, to consider it as the hand of foreigners, military see him as a traitor and a threat to national unity, religious see him as unbeliever good to re-islamize, the pseudo-democrats accuse him of racism and confinement; then the kindest, accuse him of lack of openness towards the other, meaning the Arab-muslim. And “the free world”, as we used to say when that word had meaning, including France, sees it as Arab-muslim. [2] To gain recognition, the Kabyle redoubled devotion to the nation. He fell into the same trap as the migrant, to whom host countries demand more sacrifices than its own citizens. The Kabyle guilt (a Christian remain without doubt), to prove his good faith, engages in unconditional love of the country. He will, when circumstances require it, sacrifice his own life for causes that are never his. But in the end, he collects only contempt and hatred from his “brothers” of arms.

[2] The Kabyle wishes to be recognized first as a Kabyle. He puts his Kabylity forward wherever he goes. This desire of unfulfilled recognition push him sometimes to hate even the free world, the one that he considers a goal to reach. This is where the Arab-Islamic act to sow in his heart the hatred of the West, because they remind him that Kabyle or not, they are all Muslims and Westerners think it’s all the same. Many Kabyles then turn away from their first convictions and return to their original sneaky colonizer, he also presents himself as colonized and victim and the free world. The speech is held to him by both the Algerian leftist, included many Kabyles, but also by Algerian nationalists, savvy Arabists, which in France, call the Kabyle my brother; and in Algeria the traitor. The reaction of some Kabyles is more surprising, in France, they see themselves as Arabs and Muslims, and in Algeria, as Kabyle and Amazigh (That is to say, free man)

Today, desperate to see his dream of an Algerian Algeria drifting away; driven by the advent of a conquering neo-Islamism, it comes off slowly from his dream, while refusing to give in to the green storm, he who desires to be himself … He finds himself at the crossroads of civilizations between his ideal and that of his opponents. He is running out of time and the choice available to him is crucial, to join the religious pack and disappear as Kabyle or completely emancipate from its Arab-Islamic guardianship and create its own Republic in order to not only become a Kabyle, but a Citizen of Kabylia, such as the citizens of Athens and Rome from the ancient time.


Erostrate is an Ephesian, inhabitant of Ephesus (in modern Turkey), who, to gain notoriety and fame, burned the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient Greek world. The citizens of Ephesus have vowed him to damnatio memoriae (it was forbidden to say or write his name), but history has made of him the model of nihilist, as does Jean Paul Sartre.In his novel Erostratus, published in the collection of short stories The Wall, Sartre summarizes the story in a few lines:

“- I know your guy, he said. His name is Erostratus. He wanted to be famous and he has found nothing better than burning the temple of Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the world.
– What was the name of the architect of this temple?
– I do not remember, he confessed, I think we do not even know its name.
– Really ? And you remember the name of Erostratus? You see he had not made a bad calculation. “

Translated from marenostrumarcadia

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