Sunday, February 18, 2007

Religion: Cause or Cure of Conflict

What do you think?

Violent conflicts in which religion is a factor have proliferated in various parts of the world: Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Sri Lanka, India, Nigeria, Somalia and others. These crises involve one or more of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – demonstrating that it’s not only Islamic terrorism begging the question of whether monotheistic religions tend to encourage violence rather than help overcome it.

Could it be that aspects of violence are inherent in every religion as such, and that monotheistic religions, because they are bound to a single god, are particularly intolerant, non-peaceful and ready to use force?

That is the theme I was asked to address in a couple months. What do you think about it?

Nathan Wilson


Knapsack said...

Hey Nathan --

Hsaving found your blog only recently, these comments may be less than no use to you, but that's never stopped me . . .

My feeling and assessment is that religion, as distinct from ethnicity, rarely if ever is the source, root, or even trigger for violence. What religious leaders need to be constantly on guard for is how their rhetoric, authority structures, and hermeneutics lend themselves to being co-opted by those who are pursuing violent means to particular ends.

We can quibble our way through a great many anecdotes, but violence whether mob attacks or full-on war is usually rooted in a pattern of in-group/out-group tensions usually exacerbated by a) general economic stress (famine, depression, imposed limits to trade and economic functioning, or b) population pressures, leading to a).

Saddam's last words were not anger at Shi'ites as at "the Persians." That's an informational nugget that i'd project as the wider reality. Likewise Northern Ireland, where economic oppression and strong ethnic identity has been co-opted by those benefiting from the tensions to make what is lazily labelled "Catholic/Protestant" violence, but they ain't fighting over the Real Presence.

I could go on, but have i said enough to give you something you'd want to debate? I could be wrong, but the idea that religions start wars has looked thinner and thinner to me over the years.

In Grace & Peace,
Jeff Gill

jrl105 said...

It seems as if a lot depends on the following factors: 1. how narrow or univocal your (or your religious system's) concept of God is; 2. your philosophical orientation and how much relativism it permits or how absolutist it requires you to be; 3. the moral imperatives your belief in God requires and who gets to interpret and apply them; 4. your concept of evil and how important it is for humans to eradicate it whenever and wherever they encounter it; 5. who gets to interpret what evil is and what means can/must be used to eradicate it. Since it is so very difficult to argue against beliefs with reason, it may be that only "peak experiences" or encounters with extremely generous, just and good people can sway people of faith to a broader, more encompassing idea of God.
Joe LaGuardia from Shaker Hts. Ohio

Mindy said...

Great work.