Sunday, December 24, 2006

Religion is not the cause, it's a symptom

It's an old cliche I know, but you will always here the line that religion has killed more people than anything and therefore it's a bad thing. In fact, in a few voxpops last night on Channel 4 it was said, and it is also said in this morning's Guardian. Perfectly timed around Christmas, they have commissioned a poll which has found that 82% of people in Britain think religion is a force for causing tension and division.

The reason I'm posting about this is because this argument that religion causes tension, division and war is simply not true. The cause of tension, division and war, is mankind acting politically in the pursuit of maintaining some sort of power through ideology. Religion is merely a symptom of that root cause. One only has to look at Stalin or Mao, to realise that even without religion, man remains just as brutish (if not even more some might argue).

It's actually an intellectual cop-out to simply blame religion for the world's ills. We find it much easier to search for organisations to blame, rather than taking a deeper look at the fundamental reality of man's condition. It's much more palatable to blame organisations that believe in a supernatural deity than to acknowledge that human nature is the real cause tension and division.


Buenaventura Durruti said...

I think people's views of religion as expressed in that poll is an understandable bending of the stick.

The problem with religion is twofold.

Firstly, it explicitly positions itself as better than, different in kind from secular ideologies, but it is impossible to separate the spiritual ideal from the human practice: Christianity exists only in how Christians act in this world.

Secondly, any ideology/theology based on faith MUST by its very nature devalue the other: whether they are seen as 'lost sheep', poor deluded savages, followers of 'things only evil and inhuman', or vile heretics. Our morality, civilisation, cause or whatever is right because god is on our side, we are the chosen people, our laws are unalterable because God-given or whatever.

At its logical conclusion all faith-based religions lead to the horror of 'Kill them all, the Lord will know his own.'

Buenaventura Durruti

Justin Michael Schwartzbeck said...

That isn't a "logical" conclusion at all. That is an assumption and a gross generalization on your part, and a silly one at that. You have no way of backing up what you say. And by accusing the faithful in this way you are doing the very thing which you condemn: you are "devaluing" these ideals and belief systems, and claiming that your system of unbelief is superior.

Look at every example in history of a "religious war." They all have a central, secular motivation behind them, usually involving power, money, land, etc. Rarely do people simply go on killing sprees "in the name of God" without any other motivation. True, religion can be exploited as a cohesive tool to unite people to a secular cause, but race, political parties, or nationality can do exactly the same thing just as easily. Also, when you say that "it is impossible to separate the spiritual ideal from the human practice," you are wrong; Christianity exists in the scriptures; that is, the New Testament, which defines what it means to be a Christian, and not necessarily in the actions of many people who go to church and carry a Bible. Suppose Bob claims to be a Christian, and follow Christian teaching. The Christian New Testament says "Love thine enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." Suppose that Bob doesn't do this, but hates his neighbors. What can you conclude about Bob? He obviously doesn't follow Christian teaching. So can we really accurately classify him as a Christian?

To say that faith is the cause of war is very naive. If we got rid of faith, then people will find something else to rally behind.