Saturday, October 3, 2015

Violence and war as the religious world

The following is a fascinating and portentous analysis by Jonathan Sacks of the wars and human suffering which are arising throughout the world in the 21st century - with prescriptions for reductions of violence and war. I encourage you to read the article.

"The West was caught unprepared by the rise of Islamic State, as it was a decade and a half ago by the attacks of al Qaeda and as the Soviet Union was by the determination of the mujahedeen of Afghanistan in the 1980s. These are among the worst failures of political intelligence in modern times, and the consequences have been disastrous.

The unpreparedness was not accidental. It happened because of a blind spot in the secular mind: the inability to see the elemental, world-shaking power of religion when hijacked by politics. Ever since the rise of modern science, intellectuals have been convinced that faith is in intensive care, about to die or at least rendered harmless by exclusion from the public square.

But not all regions of the world have gone through this process. Not all religions have allowed themselves to be excluded from the public square. And when secular revolutions fail, we should know by now that we can expect religious counterrevolutions.

Religion has lately demanded our attention not as a still, small voice but as a whirlwind...the essential task now is to think through the connection between religion and violence.

Three answers have emerged in recent years. The first: Religion is the major source of violence. Therefore, if we seek a more peaceful world, we should abolish religion. The second: Religion is not a source of violence. It may be used by manipulative leaders to motivate people to wage wars precisely because it inspires people to heroic acts of self-sacrifice, but religion itself teaches us to love and forgive, not to hate and fight. The third: Their religion, yes; our religion, no. We are for peace. They are for war.

None of these is true."

For the rest of the article and comments, some of which are quite insightful and critical of the article, see:

Here are some comments from a critical review:

"But history warns us that the transformation could be very bloody. Jews didn’t abandon militarism until their disastrous first- and second-century rebellions against Rome—which were punctuated, Mr. Sacks tartly observes, by terrorism against fellow Jews. Christians didn’t embrace the separation of church and state until the horrific European religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. “You do not learn to disbelieve in power,” Mr. Sacks explains, until “you find yourself using it against the members of your own people, your own broadly defined creed. That is happening within Islam today.”

The implication is jarring. Islam is wreaking havoc not because it is inherently more violent than Judaism or Christianity but because it is younger. It has decades of self-destructive warfare ahead. Eventually, the carnage will teach Muslims what it taught Jews and Christians. We learn the hard way."