Special thanks to Joseph of Thought Factory for writing this guest post. Check out ThoughtFactory.org for more articles on politics, ethics and social progress.
We’re all in the same boat here on planet Earth. Lacking answers to the big questions, we float through time and space hoping for the best and trying to make sense of it all. But despite sharing the same predicament, we human beings have devised a remarkable number of ways to differentiate ourselves from one another.
We divide into subgroups based on a never-ending list of factors: imaginary lines drawn on a map, the clothes we wear, the amount of wealth we possess, the language we speak—and, of course, the religion to which we subscribe.
On one hand, some of these differences make life exciting. Like eating split-pea soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, total uniformity would be a bore. But at the same time, these differences put us at odds. They lend themselves to the “our team” versus “their team” mentality—and that frame of mind encourages fighting. Surely, though, on a list entitled “Ridiculous Reasons to Fight,” religion would be found at the top. Quite simply, it’s the most senseless reason for which to kill—or die.
Throughout history, blind faith in religious doctrines has encouraged all kinds of atrocities. The ongoing violence in Iraq stands as a contemporary example: death and destruction are doled out not because of two completely different faiths, but simply because of slight variations on the very same one. That, ladies and gentlemen, is sad. IraqBodyCount.org puts the civilian death-toll for this month at 684 so far. Although the violence in Iraq is the product of complicated factors (and therefore can’t solely be attributed to religion), the battle between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites is well documented, and plays a major role in the fighting.
Thankfully, America isn’t plagued by religiously-motivated violence on par with that in Iraq. But the mechanism for that possibility lives in the ideology of all religions. Here in America, radical Christians (and others) make no secret of their disdain for other faiths, which they often label “wrong” or even “evil,” despite sharing more commonalities than differences. For instance, after directly comparing the faith to Nazism, televangelist-extraordinaire Pat Robertson recently said of Islam, “Make no mistake about it. This is an evil system that is bringing death and destruction throughout the globe. Wherever it’s found, it is bringing fear.”
It’s that kind of self-righteous indignation that makes religion so dangerous—the idea that only one of these imagination-based systems of thinking is “correct.” To believe in something so obviously absurd is one thing; but to actually fight over which version of absurdity represents “reality” is . . . well . . . absurd. Mankind will have grown tremendously when we have finally learned to make do with the attainable answers, and accept the questions that remain.