I see all over the web and social media about how organized religion will be the downfall of a progressive society…it would appear that this is largely due in part to the notion that violent acts are done in the name of a religion or deity. As a lifelong student of religion and theology as well as an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, I’d like to do a quick analysis of the problem and discuss why this is…largely…incorrect.
1) Views On Religion
I feel that before we delve into the issue I’d like to share a little back story on my thoughts on religion in general. I have always noticed parallels in all of the major religions. There is a monotheistic deity (With some play on this, Christianity’s ‘godhead’ comes to mind), there is a set of guidelines to live by with some differentiation on the rewards one will receive for living a life of good service to their community, their deity, and the world at large. But in a general sense almost all religions are the same. Let that sink in for a moment. Allah, God, Yahweh, The Great Spirit, The Mother Goddess aren’t these all just different words for the same idea? Why let religions be divided when they are so clearly united? We are all people and no matter what we want to believe or how we want to believe it, we are already acknowledging the same cosmic power that works in all of us.
2) Killing in the Name of Religion
Almost every religion carries some penalty for this crime. I say almost because I can’t be 100% inclusive or exclusive but let’s look at it from the major religion point of view:
- Islam : Considers it one of the Greater Sins
- Judaism: Considers it a sin to harm another life
- Christianity: Considers it a mortal sin for which there is no peace for the soul that has committed it, for they have already forfeited their place in heaven, depending on the sect this is absolute, or purgatory may purge them of their transgression against humanity
- Wiccan: While Wicca does not view sin as other religions do, nor does it view death as most do, it does have a big rule about what a person does…what a Wiccan wills into the world through their rites or actions they will receive threefold. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to imagine that murder threefolded would be unpleasant to experience
- Buddhism: In Buddhism there are five precepts, or five universal…’rules’ that should be applied to every life. The first and foremost is that one should never kill nor harm a life, failure to follow the precepts could have negative impact on not just the killer’s life, but the lives of everyone around both
Strange, it would appear that just a handful of popular organized religions already have negative views of murder. Ah! But here’s the point I was trying to make by explaining the above bullet list! If an individual acts outside of their organized religion…it cannot be considered the fault of the religion, now can it? If I were to break the rules of my beliefs then I would have to deal with the consequences of my actions, no? So the situations in which organized religion is blamed to me at the very least, seems to be a superficial and erroneous assessment. If the religion said “Go forth and kill everything” then yes, that would be the religion’s fault, but if the religion says that killing harms your soul, than obviously those that kill do so against the things they had originally stood for.
Using the recent war in Afghanistan and related countries as an example: you’ll notice that not all Islamic practitioners are extremists. It’s generally hard to refer to any of the “Islamic” extremists as Islamic, as they clearly act or speak in a way that is NOT in accordance with their religion’s belief system. No, the issues seem to be more of a social issue than a religious one…perhaps if anything, religion has failed. In these situations it would appear to me that the individual failed to grasp the value of human life…if it is not being understood by them from a religious context, then education and society need to step up their game. When the understanding that human life is valuable and worth persevering, regardless of religious context…then, and only then will the society be able to truly be progressive.
A final thought is that as people are very passionate about their religion, media knows that they can stir up a frenzy by involving the beliefs and views of the mass audience…so perhaps, instead of a debate on religion vs no religion, expression vs progression…perhaps the real question is…what are they distracting you from? What is going on that this becomes the red herring to steer you away from the true situation? Be vigilant, for evil takes many forms.
May you and yours be healthy and know peace, may whatever you believe in watch over you, keep you and allow you to prosper and thrive. I pray for your continued happiness and freedoms.