TEXAS FAITH: Is religion to blame for the conflicts around the world?
Question by Wayne Slater
Image by Todd Slater
The military crisis in Iraq is typically described in religious terms – a millennia-old conflict between Sunni and Shia. No doubt the sectarian divide has fueled tensions and defined the war. It has given critics ammunition to argue against sending more troops into a religious civil war. There is an emerging view that we should just stay out and let the parties fight it out themselves, as they have done for hundreds of years.
For some, it’s hard not to blame religion. Religion is often in the frame of modern conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict predated the creation of the modern state of Israel. The civil war in Ireland pitted Catholics against Protestants. Religious tensions in Nigeria divide the country between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Hindus and Muslims oppose each other in South Asia. The conflicts in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo involve Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim followers.
Religion seems to be connected with violence virtually everywhere. Critics of religion are quick to put the blame on religion. Advocates of faith counter with religion’s record as a force for peace. One 18th century writer said we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
As people of faith, how to we talk with those who say religion is to blame? How do we respond when someone asks if religion has succeeded in any of its efforts to unite mankind?
When a critic points to conflicts in Iraq, across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe and says religion is to blame – how do we respond?
AMY MARTIN, Director Emeritus of Earth Rhythms and Writer/editor Moonlady News Newsletter
While many of these seemingly religious conflicts are more about land grabs, fights over resources, and conflicting claims of royal lineage, one thing underlies them all: the need to be right. But what does being right get you besides rivers of blood? In the perspective of eternity, which is where the divine lies, the answer is not much at all. It’s hard for millions to understand a God that condones dehumanizing and killing in its name. And that, sadly, turns them away from any spiritual path at all—a huge loss to humanity.
Yet the most profound of theologians and philosophers will maintain that there can be more than one right answer. They reject hubris and embrace humility, they accept that we are all trying to understand the ineffable the best we can. Having seen via science the scope of the universe, which continues to unfold and expand beyond comprehension, the divine must be so immense our brains are incapable of grasping but a mere fragment. Glimpses are all we have and glimpses are as accurate as a blind man trying to describe an elephant while only being able to touch its trunk.
Perhaps the Age of Belief bound by books is waning and the Age of Experience dawns. It is time to redefine religion not as a set of beliefs entwined with land and history that are cherry-picked from sacred texts, but as a search for the same question whose answer lies beyond the Earth. Once we find faith in the absence of belief, the result will be a peace enabling us to coexist on this amazing, fragile planet we call Earth.