If there was any comfort and ease to be had in the wake of the capturing at a Texas church Nov. five that killed 26 worshippers, it had been that this latest atrocity, coming only a week after an immigrant through Uzbekistan was charged with working over 20 people on a packed Manhattan bicycle path, had absolutely nothing to do with ISIS. Recent history offers given us all too many illustrations from the aphorism coined by the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and outspoken atheist Steven Weinberg: âWith or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil â that takes religion.â
Weinberg, writing two years prior to the 9/11 attacks, based his summary on evidence that had been accumulating pretty much since the dawn of history, mentioning especially Frederick Douglassâs observation that their own situation as a slave âbecame worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham.â Itâs unlikely that anything going on on earth now would give him reason to alter his mind, in a year when terrorists have struck New York, London plus Paris in the name of Islam, while greater than a half-million Muslims have been driven off their homes in Myanmar by Buddhists.
Weinberg was writing about how zealotry can turn even good people straight into monsters. The man who shot up the particular church in Sutherland Springs seemed to be acting out of a personal grievance, towards the extent that it makes sense to also attribute a motive to this kind of act, and what we know of their background, including convictions for household violence, is damning. But the mind of state of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, had a popularity as a very good person, winner from the Nobel Peace Prize for her lengthy struggle to bring democracy to her nation. It is uncertain how much control the girl exercises over the powerful Myanmar army. But on the face of it, this wounderful woman has been either complicit or at best unsociable to the ethnic cleansing underway within Rakhine province, a brutal advertising campaign characterized by murder, forced evacuations as well as the burning of houses. The sufferers are members of a minority cultural group, the Rohingya, who are doing belonging to a religion that is not Buddhism.
It is shocking, of course , these atrocities have been perpetrated by co-religionists of the Dalai Lama. But it outdoor sheds a clarifying light on the controversy over the nature of Islam â? is it a religion of battle or of peace? â? that will crops up after every atrocity, a pointless exercise of quoting competing passages from the Koran as well as the Hadith. One side may estimate the fierce injunction of Surah 9, verse 123, (âO ye who believe! Fight such of the disbelievers as are near to you and let them find hardness in youâ¦â), which usually certainly sounds like a justification intended for running down pedestrians with a pickup truck. The other side may bring up 2: 257 (âThere should be no compulsion in religionâ¦â), a call to threshold regrettably undermined by the fact that 13 mostly Muslim countries, including Serbia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Usa Arab Emirates, have laws that will treat atheism as a crime punishable by death.
As Ali Rizvi, author of âThe Atheist Muslim,â points out, it is really an unpopular view among progressives, that are inclined to defend the typically dark-skinned, historically oppressed adherents of Islam. So I will attempt to defuse that will criticism by stipulating that additional religions are capable of behaving just as terribly. Â Sam Harris, author of âThe End of Faith,â calls the war on the Rohingya âan absolutely horrific example of tribal violence,â although he thinks it might be very much worse if Buddhism, such as Islam, contained within it doctrines that explicitly justify violence. In the literature and teachings and daily practice, Buddhism really is a religion associated with peace. But confronted by a contending faith within its own borders, the adherents take on the same defensive, dubious and ultimately violent characteristics since Muslims, Hindus, Jews or Christian believers. Religion divides people. You are both of the chosen people, or you are certainly not. You either accept Jesus otherwise you savior, or you donât. These are variations that many believers treat as an issue of life or death.
How much blood was shed within the centuries in wars between Catholics and Protestants? How many were slain in the brutal fighting between Muslims and Hindus at the birth of Indian and Pakistan, and still more within the occasional clashes that have continued ever since then, even as both countries have equipped themselves with nuclear bombs? The number of are still dying in the Middle East within fighting between Muslims and Jews, and the endless exchange of vehicle and suicide bombings between Sunni and Shia, carrying on a schism that dates back to the seventh centuries? âThat so many of us are still dying on account of ancient myths is as bewildering as it is horrible,â Harris has written, âand our own attachment to these myths, whether moderate or extreme, has kept us silent in the face of developments that could ultimately destroy us.â
Of course, the lesson of the 20th century is that people make battle for all sorts of reasons. The Hutus of Rwanda worked themselves upward into a genocidal frenzy against the Tutsis without needing the excuse of spiritual differences. The worst deeds associated with ISIS and al-Qaida are yet footnotes to the volumes of agony inflicted on their own citizens by the fallen governments of the Soviet Union, communist China and Pol Potâs Cambodia. Religion is just one more thing for people in order to fight about, but a particularly galling one because it holds itself away as the opposite. Every religion consists of prayers for peace, but was the war ever stopped by religious beliefs?
Rizvi believes Islamic terror is going to be defeated not by waging battle on it, nor by the peaceful camping of Muslims winning the debate with the radicals over the meaning from the Koran, but by more Muslims embarking on the intellectual passage this individual describes in the subtitle of their book, âA Journey From Religion to Reason.â The Western world continues to be on that journey since the Enlightenment, leading to what has been described as the post-Christian society in Western European countries, where almost no one, except Muslims, cares enough about his religious beliefs to want to kill for it.
To reach that point took several hundreds of years from Locke and Voltaire, Rizvi notes, but that was in an entire world where ideas spread by the fairly inefficient media of books, systems and speeches. There are powerful makes within Islam working against a good Islamic Enlightenment, Harris contends, yet there is reason to hope these are fighting a rear-guard action. Because Maryam Namazie, the Iranian human being rights activist has said, âThe internet is doing to Islam what the printing press did in the past to Christianity.â
Or probably we can pray for a deus ex-mate machina. If God really does like the world, this would be a good time for your pet to send down the messiah heâs already been promising for 2, 500 years. Â Or else come down from the heavens when he did routinely in biblical times and tell the world what progressively more people have come to suspect anyway: which he doesnât actually exist.
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