Kilroy Was Here
December 29, 2003
Meme of Mass Destruction
In today's Guardian, Karen Armstrong urges practicioners of religion to root out the violence inherit in their religion.
We can be certain of one thing in 2004. Unless there is some unimaginable breakthrough, we will see more religiously inspired terrorism. It often seems that we might be better off without religion. A cursory consideration of the crusades and persecutions of Christian history shows that religious violence is not confined to the Islamic world. If the different faiths really are committed to peace and goodwill, why do they inspire such hatred, and why are their scriptures so aggressive?
...The scriptures all bear scars of their violent begetting, so it is easy for extremists to find texts that seem to give a seal of divine approval to hatred.
...n a similar way, the Christian right today has absorbed the endemic violence in American society: they oppose reform of the gun laws, for example, and support the death penalty. They never quote the Sermon on the Mount but base their xenophobic and aggressive theology on Revelation. Osama bin Laden is as just as selective in his use of scripture. Most of the Muslim extremism that troubles us today is the product of societies that have suffered prolonged, hopeless conflict: the Middle East, Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir.
Religion, like any human activity, can be abused. You can have bad religion, as you can have bad cooking, bad art and bad sex.
But unlike art, sex, or cooking, you rarely have genocide or jihad in the name of Thai cuisine, cubism, or the Venus Butterfly. Religion, and in particular, religion's demand for blind faith and it's proof by appeals to an unverifiable authority, exacerbate our evolutionary drive for conflict with other groups.
While Armstrong pleas for reform from within religion, I think that history is against her on this one.
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