The curse of Baal:
I am going to stray far from science and demographics and make a rash prediction.  The extremist movement called ISIS, ISIL, IS or Daesch is much in the news and has, over the past couple of years, had a lot of success.  My prediction is that they will vanish for good by the end of this year.

My prediction is based on the understanding that a major proportion or their recruits are very superstitious.  Did you think they were secular liberal humanists?  All right, without going into whether secular liberal humanism is a religion or a superstition, let me just say that the pool from which the extremist group draws have a strong tendency to avoid things that give them the creeps. 

The relevant event is their destruction of the ancient temple to Bel in Palmyra.  Bel means the same as Baal, which means lord.  Beelzebub means either Lord of the Flies or Lord of heaven.  That would seem on the face of it to be an odd pair of choices. 

I should think that strict Islam forbids the belief in any god but Allah.  The question arises whether demonic forms are gods.  In Christian tradition, there are angels, which are messengers of God but are not themselves gods.  There is a small problem here.  If you were to set an ancient classical god toe to toe with an angel, my money would be on the angel.  So by such thinking a demonic form, such as might give a reasonable and prudent person pause were that person to be a believer, and logically Islam forbids superstition.  But nobody is perfect, eh?

Now angels, again in the Christian tradition, have wings.  Somebody has suggested that they have evolved from worship of the Egyptian cobra, the serpent with wings.  On the other hand, flies have wings.  And as maggots, flies are rather serpent like, only very small.  Perhaps the difference between lord of flies and lord of heaven is not so great after all. 

My intention is to treat with respect anything people have loved or held holy even long after the people are gone.  That is why I lament the destruction of that temple.  Sure I’m sorry that it was one of the world’s greatest archeological sites, too.  People loved that Bel.  (There was more than one, or at least more than one name.)  I cannot understand anyone who would destroy such a treasure.

But I think I can understand superstition to a degree.  And getting into that mind set I would think that anybody’s god other than my own must be evil, must be evil even long after the people have gone.  And if there is one way to get a god, including an abandoned god, angry it would be to destroy its sacred site.  I would think that the people who built that site and worshiped there were worshiping evil, and that they knew what they were doing.  Either they were propitiating the god or were holding it bound.  And the destruction would release that evil thing, which would have among its principle targets the desecrater. 

ISIS has no friends among the governments of the world.  I’m sure among the common folk there is enormous resentment as well, perhaps not as much resentment as for America, but enough.  So long as ISIS is able to recruit they may be able to take and hold land against enormous military pressure.  But if they are ever seen to be weak, vengeance awaits them.  Carrying the curse of Baal cannot help their recruitment, and when they begin to come apart I imagine it will be fast and terrible. 

Al Qaeda will probably persist for a long time, so long as people resent America.  But once ISIS is gone, that curse will remain in the minds of the superstitious, and they will be gone without a trace. 

That is my prediction.  I’ll look at it again some day, and if they vanish as I say, I’ll point it out.  If they are still around by the end of the year I shall humbly accept my failure.

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