The recent attacks in Paris have triggered the usual expressions of sympathy which inevitably give way to calls for visiting great harm upon those who perpetrate these acts.
The sympathetic responses are, for the most part, sincere yet tempered by the calls for vengeance. In any case, they miss the point.
In the west, with its predominantly Judeo-Christian population, the inevitable attributing of the blame on Islam ensues. There are voices within these faiths that call for peace, but a significant number of the Christian faithful would gladly pull the trigger on a Muslim target, given the opportunity, simply because it is a Muslim target. Yet are shocked and quick to condemn similar behavior on the part of some Muslims.
These attacks, if they are promulgated on an interpretation of the Quran which mandates the elimination of the “Kafir”, or unbelievers, underscore the inherent dangers of religion.
Christianity is not wholly innocent in these matters. They had their Crusades. The difference being at some point the enlightenment took place. Relegating religion to a personal matter; slowly eliminating any dominant religious influence so as to have no place in government.
It took centuries for that to happen, yet I fear we still are plagued with the last vestiges of such influences.
I do not understand the rationale of those that insist on a Judeo-Christian based government here, yet fear a similar religious, albeit Islamic, based government somewhere else. The idea of government, with its inherent ability to impose restrictions on behavior, being based on any religious tenets is frightening.
What would our reaction be to a nuclear armed Islamic state? Abject terror, I have no doubt. Why? Because we fear they would use such power to further their cause.
Isn’t that what some “Christians” among us have urged our government to do?
Either way, it is not good for the world.
Those who call for visiting violence on others by virtue of their beliefs miss the contradiction in such an attitude.
Religion is not the problem or the cause of the problem. It is a tool. Used by some to maintain control. If all religion was taken out of the picture, these things would still happen; with some other motivation to spark them. The conditions are the same, the terms would be different.
Those that deny free and open discourse for all people do so to promote the power of one religion to control their people. A religion they choose.
The west, through the availability of education (although less and less valued it would seem), has learned to mitigate the influence of religion to control the masses through the power of government.
It is an indisputable fact that the higher the educational level, the less religiosity.
I am not advocating the abolition of religion. I know many sincere believers who temper their faith with reason when it comes to interpretation of writings such as the Bible, the Talmud, and the Quran. I am advocating the application of reason to our response to violence in the name of religion.
Imposing the superiority of one religion over another does not solve the problem, it prolongs it.
If we are unwilling to address the underlying causes of the problem, i.e. poverty, unemployment, lack of education, treatment of women as property, we will forever be combatting the symptoms.
Our acquiescence to the conduct of our allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel (heresy I know, however because they are more aligned with the Judeo part does not make them blameless in their denial of civil rights), is a big part of the problem.
The issues here are not as simple as some politicians would have you believe. We do not own the morally superior ground here. These are complex issues, requiring complex solutions which will never happen if we ignore the reality.
It is not the correctness of any one religion that offers a solution, it is the willingness to accept all faiths as entitled to equal treatment.
Faith is not fact. Hold your faith as you see fit, do not deny others the same. If there is such a thing as one true faith, but you were led down the wrong path by parents or guardians or accident of birth, I think an all-powerful god can figure out the quality of your character without resorting to totaling up how many non-believers you tried to kill.
Those who committed these attacks, those who committed the attacks on 9/11, those who insist on imposing their way of life on others are the problem.
I am not naive. These attacks need to be met with sufficient force to stop them. However, the threat or application of force is not the solution to preventing them.
Open access to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom from religion is the only solution.
Changing someone’s faith, or eradicating such beliefs, cannot be accomplished with bombs and missiles.
It can only be solved by tolerance, understanding, a willingness to listen