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- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Hatred: Religion Doesn't Teach it, But it Exists
Can Religions Change Peacefully?
Change from Within
While just about every religion strives for peace and kindness, it is ironic that such strong prejudice and hatred can exist among those who pray to God very sincerely.
We hear of ridiculous, narrow-minded attitudes on the part of governmental leaders, who discriminate against citizens based on their religion, or distinguish themselves from other politicians or leaders of foreign nations who might be different people who go to churches unlike their own.
But the founders of great religions and today's supreme religious leaders often represent the opposite of hatred, striving for tolerance and mutual respect among various faiths. Unlike modern terrorists, Mohammed, for example, was not bent on rejecting Christians. He admired their faith and believed Jesus to have been a great prophet.
While Christians and Jews seem at odds many times (the Bible itself blaming the manipulations of the chief priests for Jesus' death sentence) it's obvious that Jesus himself believed completely in the Jewish faith. He often cited the Mosaic law and restricted his preaching almost exclusively to his fellow Jews.
Martin Luther, who led the Protestant departure from the Catholic church, was himself a devoted Catholic priest. He had no argument with his own Christian faith, but just the corrupt habits that had grown up into the church over the years.
It's possible that these three were more reformers than rebels. They were only carrying forward preexisting faiths into a new generation in a different way, trying to better what came before.
While every faith has its own set of rituals and special beliefs, the common faith in God is the same. The more things change the more they are still the same seems to describe the differences across the primary religions followed by most people in the world today.
Mohammed had a tremendous respect for his predecessor Jesus. Mohammed had faith in the Old Testament Hebrew leader, Moses. So did Jesus and Martin Luther.
So why all the fighting? It's been proven that most homicides take place between family members or people who knew each other very well. We also note that politicians of the same political party seem more vicious in their verbal attacks against each other, when vying for the nomination for president, than later on when they compete against the other party's nominee. Fights between husbands and wives are so common that comedians have fertile ground for joking.
The same principle seems true in religion. Probably two devoutly religious people will get into a heated argument before either would bother to fight so emotionally with an atheist who is far distant on the spectrum of opinion. The more similar people are, the worse the fight.
Mohammed, Jesus, and Martin Luther never fought with each other verbally because they lived at different times (7th Century, 1st Century, and 16th Century). Being such great people, they wouldn't have fought anyway. It's a safe bet they would have supported and admired each other for the tremendous in God they all shared.
The situation in Jerusalem is ridiculous in modern times. People following one type of Jewish worship are separated from neighboring areas when another type live by police cars. Maybe people just love to fight. But the children in these families don't understand ideology. They just get scared.
Segregation seems to be the way of the world. Even after laws are passed to discourage it, people still actually prefer to be segregated into their own separate clans.
To most of us, the idea of educated people arguing over religion is almost a comedy. But in world affairs, when bombs start to go off, it becomes a tragedy.
As organized religions grow larger and more influential, they become political, trying to influence the way laws are passed.
Maybe the only way to stop the infighting among religions is to say that they all have a good point to make. But people wouldn't be normal if they didn't go on fighting.
The bigotry we see in life comes always it seems out of a three-step process that begins with fear, transmutes into anger, and ends up solidified in what we call hate, bigotry, or blind prejudice. In religion, people will fear that they are devoting their lives to faith in something that is a hoax, if they are to believe those who disrespectfully ridicule them for their religious beliefs.
Because very little can be proven scientifically one way or the other when it comes to religious faith, it would be easy for any of us to find things in any religion that are easy targets for ridicule and doubt.
When these things are expressed in hearing or reading range of a devoted member of the religion being attacked, some degree of uncertainty has to enter into the mind of that person, knowing logically that many parts of his or her religion can be categorized merely as opinion rather than proven fact.
As the certainty of death creeps into the mind also, as well as the realization that one's life has been devoted to this religion, an anger arises, directed at the individual who might have ridiculed or attacked that person's religion. This individual has made the religious person angry.
Finally, when ridicule or disrespect is repeated often enough, the individual exercising freedom of expression will become an object of hatred, automatically disliked every time he or she occurs to the hater. This is the process by which bigotry arises. When hatred justifies terrorism or violence, a crime will be the end result of this syndrome of fear, anger, and hate.
This explains Osama bid Laden, the Holocaust, and the Inquisition. The good thing is that all those evils are recognized as such by the vast majority of everyone alive. With that good spirit there is logically a reason to hope for peace on earth among the different religions that influence various people.
Causes of Wars
A religious war sometimes has been called, perhaps sarcastically, a "holy" war. It is one that is characterized by people who feel justified in the name of religion to kill and destroy. Some examples were Muslim wars of the 1600's to 1800's in which they conquered other nations; Christian wars of the 1000's to 1200's in which "Crusades" attempted to re-conquer nations previously conquered by Muslims; and more Christian wars consisting of the Spanish attempts to take nations from the Muslims from 700's to the 1400's and the Ottoman wars against Muslims in the 1400's to the 1800's.
Ethnic wars take on religious meaning to the combatants including the modern wars between Israelis and Palestinians, Yugoslav civil conflict, Syrian and Sudanese civil wars, and Nigerian conflicts.
When religion is misused and abused to create war, it's called "extremism." Jihadism of radical Islamists would be an example. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq also fall into this category due to the civil wars that go on in covert ways and through unorthodox methods such as suicide bombs.
Sometimes religion is just another way to identify a cultural grouping of people who share common traditions based on their religious faith. In Ireland, the news media carried stories that summed up the conflict as Catholics versus Protestants, although both were Christian faiths. But the real cause of the fighting had little to do with religion and more to do with economic status. The wealthy Protestants represented the ruling class stemming from British ancestors, while the poorer Catholics were the Irish who traced their ancestry to native born Irish forefathers.
The Thirty Years War in Europe in the 1600's cost the lives of about 7 million people over fighting between Catholics and Protestants. In the 1500's French wars also pitted Catholics against Protestants, killing 3 million. Muslims and Christians fought each other in Nigeria and Sudan in the late 20th Century, killing over 4 million people. From the 11th to the 13th Century, Christians fought Muslims in the Crusades across Europe to the Holy Land, killing more than 2 million people.
All these people thought that they were fighting in the name of God. The Muslim conquests began with the initiator of Islam, Mohammed. These wars continued for over a thousand years. But many Muslims feel the wars were connected with their national identities rather than religion.
Many Israelis and Palestinians consider the conflict between them to be religious or ethnic fundamentally. Similarly, religious wars existed in Ethiopia and Somalia, Vietnam (Buddhist uprisings), and Lebanon (2 types of Muslims plus Christians all involved against each other).
Wars of religion show how people like to identify themselves with religions that don't conflict with each other that much. The religion of a soldier in such wars is like a uniform that he wears. Fighting becomes part of his religion.