Thursday, December 11, 2008

Faith and Hatred

What causes religious belief to spawn persecution? Is the fault within the faith? Is it within the believer?
America, Europe and the world have seen the face of Islamic terror. The Nazi like language of Islamic terrorists has the pitch and vehemence of Nazi propaganda. It is furthermore backed up by murderous deeds.

There was a time in world history when Islamic governments practiced tolerance . It was not statutory equality as we know it but a codified second class citizenship. There have been times when governments espousing Christianity held the lead in bloody intolerance.

As recently as 1945, Andras Kun, a Catholic priest led anti Jewish pogroms with a pistol on his hip in Budapest.

In 1858, Edgardo_Mortara a six year old child was forcibly taken away from his parents in Bologna, then part of the Papal States and turned over to the church to be raised as a Catholic. This was done because a maid working in the family home had secretly baptised him and confessed having done so to her priest. This sufficed to make the boy Catholic and no longer the child of his parents under the law at the time. Across Italy, the act was viewed with indignation and revulsion. Although the church never returned the boy to his family, the controversy surrounding his kidnapping was a significant note in the timeline of Italy’s unification as a kingdom separate from church authority.

It would be historical escapism to catalogue Christian intolerance to make a case for moral equivalency of Christian and Muslims. A study of the world’s religions reveals progressive and reactionary stages of development. Right now, it is Islam that is rolling back gains in the struggle for freedom of religion. An intellectually honest treatment of religious intolerance would have to include a body count of the victims of atheism. By this method of measure, atheism is easily the most intolerant religion in the history of the world.

In looking at the world’s religions alternation between tolerance and bigotry, between peace and aggression, I find myself wondering what drives religious intolerance. Why do some seek to rationalise peaceful coexistence while others preach taking up the sword? Why do some win souls through kindness and others seek to use coercion?

A thorough treatment of this question will certainly involve the examination of religious texts. Although that is an essential means of understanding the question, it is incomplete. History and economics impact on theology. The Reformation was for instance at least in part driven by the desire not to pay taxes to support the Pope, by the desire to have a locally controlled church.

A person driven by hatred will seek to find in faith something to validate their hatred. They may even ask of their faith community that it supply them with an enemy. There were people who worked as interrogators for the Nazis who were later “reeducated” by the communists. They ended up extracting new confessions using old means. Evin prison, the infamous prison in Teheran,Iran was not closed by Khomeini when he deposed the Shah in 1979. The prison was filled with new enemies who were subjected to old tortures.

I have pointedly weighed political ideologies and religions together. The sharp distinction between the two is a modern contrivance. The enthusiasm generated by religion and politics is similar.

The Nazi’s belt buckles bore the inscription “Gott Mit Us”. or God with us. It implies grammatically a god that follows the people, a god made in their image. It is the opposite of following the road of faith wherever it may go of measuring one’s conduct according to the standards established by the commandments.

The term “Islam” means submission. It is presented as submission to the will of Allah. In practice, it seems to deteriorate into making others submit to one’s own will. One path is monotheism and the other is idolatry, marked not by a graven image but by a mindset.

Is there a danger in human character of lapsing into idolatry? If so , is the fault within ourselves or within our scriptures? There is no shortage of literature defending a faith.There is likewise no shortage of books attacking or criticising the faiths of others. When the day is done, what do we seek on our path of belief?

We must defend ourselves against those who attack us physically and seek to enslave us. We must admit that the enemy that seeks to do so today is radical Islam. But at the end of the day, in the quiet of our hearts, we must ask what drew them down that path. What has drawn us down the path of hatred in the past? What could lead us down that path again? As we study our scriptures, we must not forget to study our hearts. Sphere: Related Content

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