Monday, July 14, 2008

Can religion help end wars?

In an opinion piece by USA Today’s Tom Krattenmaker, he states:

“The specter of violent religion certainly hangs over us in these times, especially when it comes to certain followers of the world’s two dominant religions. Christian and Muslim conflict-mongers drone on against “Islamic terrorists” and “Christian infidels,” respectively, while violence continues erupting in the name of Islam, and conservative Christian figures in America, like Pat Robertson and John Hagee, urge violent solutions to foreign policy problems. (Robertson, you’ll recall, spoke favorably of assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Hagee, the Texas mega-church minister of falling-out-with-John McCain fame, has repeatedly called for immediate military attacks against Iran.)

Yes, there appears to be considerable truth to the oft-heard claim that Christian-Muslim co-existence must be achieved lest our collective future turn out brief and brutal. Which is why it might appear outrageous to suggest, as I’m about to do, that religion may also be just the catalyst we need to steer us clear of the apparent collision course.

Religion — a solution to the problem of religiously motivated conflict and violence?

While religion has been the cause of many of the world’s violent conflicts and confrontations, Krattenmaker points out that each religion also offers teachings of peace and unity (which we rarely see even within the religious sects and denominations of the same religions themselves.) Krattenmaker suggests that while religion has been the justification for going to war and invading other lands, religion can also end wars. Call me cynical, but when I hear those words I automatically think of Revelation and how fundamentalists from both sides are looking forward to the great and believed unavoidable “final battle” for imaginary heaven and an imagined “renewed” Earth.

Krattenmaker answers his own questions:

Religion — a solution to the problem of religiously motivated conflict and violence? Yes, actually. Because in their best traditions, the world’s two dominant faiths do promote peace, both through their central teachings and the lessons-by-example taught every day by innumerable Muslims and Christians who take their scriptures seriously.

But that depends on WHICH scriptures both sides want to pull out of their ancient texts to take seriously. There is support for both. So, how can we ever expect for both sides to end war and come to any kind of resolution when based upon their contradictory and inconsistent guidebooks?

Krattenmaker sums up his essay with more idealistic questions and answers:

“So how we will know religion in the final analysis? By its peace or by its violence? The scriptures have had their say. It’s now up to the believers — through their words and works — to settle the account.”

I am not holding my breath. And like I said above, I remain cynical . . . pessimistic based on what we have seen from religion thus far. The fundamentalists like the evil parts of their mythology books too much to give them up.

The only hope for this world is with the moderates of both religions. But when it comes down to making a choice, which side will they ultimately choose?


Jason H. Bowden said...

James Madison once explained that "A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts."

Plain reality, straight from the Enlightenment.

Some threats can only be met with violence. Otherwise, the man with the stick will defeat the man who only moves his lips every time, just like the opening scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This is why we have a state in the first place, instead of stateless communism. Internally, we need to stop the criminals from running amok. Externally, we need to defend ourselves from hostile governments.

Islam, of course, does not teach peace as an end in itself; that's why they have jihad. Christianity does teach peace, but for the same it reason it opposes birth control. The Christian rules aren't meant to be followed, but to create a sense of guilt. No leader, if he wishes his state to survive, can abstain from using the military.

Even more absurd are the atheists who blame the Christians for not following the heavenly vision, as if the dogmas were wise to begin with. It is as if many atheists believe in the ethos of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christians are bad for not following it, and communistic-minded atheists are good for following it. Sometimes I get the impression atheists think Christians are bad because they aren't Christian enough.

Stardust said...

You've made some good points. It's impossible to end all wars. Can religion help end even "one" war? I doubt it because they can't even come to agreement amongst themselves in peaceful debate.

And there will always be criminals and those who lust after power, and those who want peace will have to fight for some semblance of it.

Tommy said...

I forget who it was that said "God is on the side with the biggest cannons" or something to that effect.

Oh, and Jason, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it is the ape who learns how to use the bone as a club after encountering the monolith who isable to defeat the apes from the other tribe that threaten his.

Sometimes I get the impression atheists think Christians are bad because they aren't Christian enough.

No, we get annoyed with Christians because of their dogma and for trying to impose their beliefs on us. I don't want to interpret Genesis literally!

askin said...

Jason h.Bowden says Islam does not teach peace, that is why it has "jihad". This is one hundred percent a misconception about Islam. Bowden has not studied the Qu'ran at all and confuses the "misunderstood Islam" with the real Islam. Qu'ran states that the best Jihad is by "education" and has mentioned "peace" so very many times as one of the most basic pillars of Islam.
Askin Ozcan

askin said...

To bring peace, we must not race the religions with one another, but
bring them closer to one another.
The concept of "Abraham's Nation"
is mentioned both in The Bible and in The Qu'ran.

See the following press-releases on this subject:

Stardust said...

Bowden has not studied the Qu'ran at all and confuses the "misunderstood Islam" with the real Islam.

askin, this is the problem with the Qu'ran and the Bible. They both say two things. They both support violence and evil, while at the same time one can "cherry-pick" passages of love, compassion and tolerance. Those who cherry-pick the good things are the ones who are seeking peace themselves and have a good conscience, while those who seek violence and power over another seek out the passages that support "smiting your enemy." Many atheist know the Qu'ran and Bible better than those who profess to believe in those ancient texts. To us, this is very dangerous, and these various interpretations are what bring such divisiveness to the world. One says they have the "true Islam" and there are those who say they have the "true Christianity" while they are simply making up the religion to suit themselves, as they choose to interpret it. The main goal, as I see it would be just to do away with the bad parts of these ancient texts, and revise them, taking out the parts that support evil and violence.

CyberKitten said...

stardust said: It's impossible to end all wars.

I disagree. Wars happen for reasons. Eliminate the reason(s) for war & war will cease to exist.

Remember the old poster: What if they gave a war & nobody came?

Stardust said...

"Eliminate the reason(s) for war & war will cease to exist."

cyberkitten, Even if we eliminated poverty and starvation, there would always be corruption. There would always be some reason for some people to want to control others. Even in rich neighborhoods you have rich kids stealing from rich people for the thrill of it. To see what they can get away with. Even if people were all distributed the same income, the same stuff...some people will always want more. If everyone had equal amounts of land, food, etc., there are those who would want more for their own clan. No one is satisfied. The largest societies on the planet have always wanted more and more even when they have most. That is one aspect of "human nature" that would be nearly impossible to change. It's great to dream about, but IMO that's all it is, an idealistic dream.

CyberKitten said...

Stardust said: That is one aspect of "human nature" that would be nearly impossible to change. It's great to dream about, but IMO that's all it is, an idealistic dream.

Then I'm an Idealist.

Wars have general causes as well as causes specific to particular wars. We may indeed be warlike by nature but we are more than our natures. That's what having a large frontal lobe is all about. We don't have to accept that war is inevitable - because it isn't. A reasonable species wouldn't tolerate it. War is stupid and wasteful. It's about time we outgrew it.

Stardust said...

War is stupid and wasteful. It's about time we outgrew it.

I agree with you that war is stupid and wasteful, however I am a pessimist about human beings outgrowing their need to control others,or take what others have, the desire for world domination or whatever. It will take a long, long, long time to evolve to a totally peaceful planet. Even nature is not peaceful. Animals kill for survival even within their own species. Even if humankind "all lived as one" as the Lennon song goes, if natural events threatened individual survival, we would once again be turning on each other.

CyberKitten said...

Stardust said: It will take a long, long, long time to evolve to a totally peaceful planet.

Unfortunately we don't have the time. Our ability to kill each other in ever greater numbers is constantly 'improving'. Way before any evolutionary change takes place we will have already eliminated ourselves and won a species wide Darwin Award.

Stardust said...

Cyberkitten, too bad we won't be around to tell them we told them so...about a lot of things, including god,zombie and devil beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Its kind of funny for anyone, atheists and believers alike, bot wonder if religion could help end wars. Never mind the fact that many wars were caused BY religion, or different religions that didn't agree with each other.

Still, IF humans developed the ability to allow that maybe - just maybe - their interpretation of the bible (or whatever "holy book they prescribe to), or even of nature itself, might be incorrect, and then developed the ability to allow that others might be right and therefore won't try to push their own beliefs on others. Something like a live-and-let-live approach to life might happen. And then maybe we wouldn't have wars in the first place.

Like that is going to happen!!! LOL

Stardust said...

greg, so many problems would be solved if people developed a "whatever floats your boat" attitude as long as it didn't hurt anyone else. But the way these religious folks are, they want to believe that just allowing people to be who they are and think for themselves "hurts" them in some way. I was told by a family member that me not believing in god "hurts" her. I don't get that at all. I am not doing anything to that person. They say they care about me, but avoid me all the same for my non-beliefs. It's terrible to go through life all sad all the time the way many religions people do...fretting over nothing at all.
And then those who not merely fret, but feel compelled to kill family members like many muslims feel compelled to do based on their ancient ridiculous texts.

How many centuries will it take for this superstitious religious nonsense to get out of people's minds? It's bad enough to war against each other for real things, but to war because of religions that are left open to interpretations by various sects and individuals is so sad.

Anonymous said...

Yikes sorry to hear that you have those kind of relatives that feel hurt that you are not worshipping their imaginary cloud being! So after failing to bring you from the "dark side" they use that method? Talk about a low-blow! (ahem - now why did I say that? lol)

Stardust said...

Greg, yep they use that complete with tears. And what gets me is the disassociation from family members just because they don't subscribe to their beliefs. Life is too short for that crap and it's all for nothing anyway. They think they are going to get some bigger "reward" for that? They spend so much time worrying about the next life that they forget how to live in this one. And we atheists understand that this life is the only one we are going to have.