Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

What Are We Really Fighting About?

10 Comments

Doug B. over at Groping the Elephant inspired this post by positing some very thought provoking ideas.  Namely that our religious convictions cause us to do evil things to each other.  We try to enforce our religious ideas on others. He’s not wrong.  But underneath all that I wonder, is that what we’re really fighting about? Religion?

Here’s the quote from his post that really made me think about this:

The idea of dividing the family of humans into various religious sects is not a good one, and has only brought wars and strife from the beginning. If we must satisfy a need to convert or turn over a new leaf, I would like to see more of a commitment to basic humanism, the placing of human considerations above those of an invisible deity.

Again, I agree with his sentiment.  Religion is divisive.  It makes us against them.  But is it really the religion which is divisive or is it underlying ideals?  You see, when I back up from scripture and from religion – all religion- I’m wondering if there’s something more to this.  If we could remove religion completely, as if it never existed, would we not be divided about something else? Would we not still be, tribally, us against them?

I look in our own country, the US, and I see division.  Not so much on religious issues, but on principals.  Capitalism vs. Socialism.  Republicans vs. Democrats vs. Libertarians vs. Independents.  These are not all religious issues.  I look to the Middle East and I see division over a line in the dirt between nations.  I see conflict over liquid gold, crude oil, and I see dollar signs that equal greed.  I see oppressive governments and protests by citizens who are tired of being oppressed.  I look to the past and see the Crusades and believe that the underlying issue was political.

Am I endorsing religion?  Not on your life!  I see it as a means to an end.  Just as in the stories of Moses, the leaders needed conveyed authority from a deity to impose rule over the people, so it has been through the ages.  The issue is this:  people who are in authority have a tendency to abuse that authority.  As Doug B. so aptly points out, people are willing to follow authority.  The problem is, and I’m as guilty as anyone, people don’t think critically about where their loyalties lie.  People in authority have no qualms about foisting their ideals on the people and using a deity to undergird their position. 

It is abuse of power.  Which came first?  Did God create man or did man create God with an agenda in mind?  What better way to manipulate to achieve your agenda than to have a following believe that the particular agenda is God ordained?  “God said this is my dirt”.  “God said I should have what I want”.  Man starts with a personal desire and then manipulates things in his own mind such that some magical sky god endorses and convinces others of the same. 

Look at Hitler.  He tried to extinguish the Jews.  He also used religion as a means to do so.  Who believes that was what it was really about?  Now the Christians don’t want to claim him because of his atrocities, and who can blame them?  But what came first?  His racist tendencies or a belief that a god of some sort was telling him to extinguish those of another race?

What are we really fighting about?  Are we really fighting over religion and trying to force others into that religion?  Or are we really fighting over control and authority?

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10 thoughts on “What Are We Really Fighting About?

  1. I think the core issue lies in fallen human nature. Often people inherently want power, and control. They have a tendency to find reasons to exclude folks who have differing opinions. We all want to be right to one degree or another.Toxic and abusive religion simply reflects this all too human tendency. Becky.

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  2. Becky,You frequently refer to fallen human nature. If evolution be true, and there was no Adam and Eve, and thus no "fall", when exactly was it that man's nature became fallen? Were we created that way in the beginning? God created us with that curse? And then sentenced us to hell for it? And then decided he needed a blood ransom to pay for it? A thing he made in the beginning? If so, how'd he look at all he had made and call it very good?

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  3. Sports, language and much more divide the human race too. I think the differences is not the problem but the exclusivity — "only we go to heaven"– that is the main problem. So it is not separate groups, it is claiming to have the best group and aspiring to monopoly.

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  4. I really enjoyed your post and was happy to have been the inspiration for it. I'm intrigued by your questions: "Which came first? Did God create man or did man create God with an agenda in mind?" And speaking solely for myself as something of a pantheist, I would answer that God came first. But the anthropomorphic idea of God which is used to enforce proper behavior among his followers, the God who rules over his creatures and ordains earthly rulers to directly rule over his creatures – that idea came much later. That idea, of course, came from the frailty of human nature and was not delivered to us from the heavens. In this I am in agreement with you that it really is a fight for control. Might has always made right in the minds of the authoritarians, and there is none mightier than God in the thinking of the majority of people. My argument is that humanism makes the better path. When all is said done, human wisdom is all we have to work with anyway. God isn't here manifesting himself and speaking directly to us as he reportedly did in the ancient age of miracles (read: in the various holy books). Revealed religions are priest-centered. They are based on intermediaries between humans and God. And, coincidentally, these intermediaries are everyone human and prone to disagreement among themselves. It is the job of the theologians to come along and smooth out these problems into something called systematic theology. I'm just saying that man created this God and not the other way around. That being the case, only humanism makes sense, and arguing from revelation instead of reason is a ridiculous waste of time. It hinders rather than helps, obfuscates instead of enlightens.

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  5. Exrelayman said…Well, we are going to fight aren't we? The notion that we will fight anyway without religion is not altogether mistaken, but does overlook a critical factor.When fighting over food, territory, potential mates, etc (just like the lions and apes we are akin to) there is some level of tangible benefit we are fighting for. Fighting over religious ideas is fighting over invisible undetectable things. Yet the zeal involved in religious conflict is fanatical because one's (and one's loved one's) eternal fate is supposedly involved. A damn shame and horrific waste (think holocaust, anti-gay, anti-abortion,anti-evolution, et al).Attaining some balance between competition and cooperation is what civilization entails. Religion is not just one of many factors leading to conflict, it is the most powerful, illogical, and egregious one.

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  6. But is it really the religion which is divisive or is it underlying ideals? … Are we really fighting over religion and trying to force others into that religion? Or are we really fighting over control and authority?Great questions and post. I think the most true answer is "yes." Control and authority unquestionably play a role at times, because they stroke the ego. Religion itself is guilty at times as well, not the least of which is the Great Commission in Christianity.Because the words of the Bible do not change, even when the popular rhetoric of the day does, there is a breeding ground for those to improperly exploit power and authority, or to do harm simply by trying to be an faithfully obedient follower.Or, to put it another way, the Bible is as complex as any human. It is like a man who regularly volunteers at homeless shelters and acts as a foster parent for orphans, but also stalks down and kills random homosexuals and prostitutes in a serial fashion. The faithful would have this man be president for all of the good things he has done. It's up to us to fight to get the faithful to realize that this man is very, very dangerous.

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  7. Rats, D'Ma, I've been on vacation, and away from the computer. I just posted a long comment in response which I think has been lost.I'll try again later. :(Becky.

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  8. D'Ma, I have lost another post. Here's try number three. I don't feel that theistic evolution negates the reality of human brokenness. There is a paradox in it all. We are a blessing, fearfully and wonderfully made, yet fallen. Who can know when in prehistory humanity chose to go it's own way, rather than the way of justice, and love, God's way.. It does seem to me a matter of objective observation that we are broken as the race of man..(Adam) means of the earth. Instinctively we know that things are not what they should be. We can't seem to fix ourselves by ourselves.Because Genesis one is not written as a science textbook, literally true in that sense, does not mean that it cannot express truth in an allegorical way. It is no less profound.I do agree with Doug B. that often the Biblical writers do speak of God in anthropomorphic ways. Does God literally live in the sky? Does He come down to earth to form a man from the clay like a potter?If the Christian story is true, the center of it is that God in Jesus Christ fully entered into human life, and suffering so that we could not only be forgiven, but share in His life. We are made by our unity with Him to be healed, and enabled to fully love as He loves. It is a spiritual journey, and process that only begins in this life.I think that it is not so much that God sends people to Hell as it is that Hell is self-chosen. Hell is separation from God, DMa, and everything that this entails imaged by the fires of Ghenna. Hell grows in us when we act in unloving, and unjust ways, when we give way to bitterness, and un forgiveness.. Collectively as a race, overtime, we could make a Hell out of Heaven apart from the transforming love of God in Christ.My thoughts, D'Ma. Appreciate hearing your ideas, and postings also.Becky.

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  9. "I don't feel that theistic evolution negates the reality of human brokenness. There is a paradox in it all. We are a blessing, fearfully and wonderfully made, yet fallen.Who can know when in prehistory humanity chose to go it's own way, rather than the way of justice, and love, God's way.. It does seem to me a matter of objective observation that we are broken as the race of man..(Adam) means of the earth." I have a little trouble with these statements. Maybe it doesn't negate the possibility of human brokenness, but I'm not sure that's the reality. You speak of this brokenness as an objective observation. I think it may be a subjective observation. You call this broken and say we don't know when man chose to go his own way. I'm not sure he did choose it; not in the sense that you are using it. The objective observation would be that through to process of evolution all beings are flawed. That's a major difference from being broken and choosing to go our own way. We were never at any point perfect. There was no specific point in time that we chose to fall. Now I suppose it could be argued that we each choose at some point to do something against the "word of God". But we're considered in sin even before we know what that is. That's only if you consider the Bible to be a sacred text to be followed at all costs. I do not."Instinctively we know that things are not what they should be. We can't seem to fix ourselves by ourselves."We haven't fixed ourselves collectively as a society, but individuals make this choice every day. And largely on their own when they realize they've dug themselves a hole and they themselves are the only ones who can fix it. Looking around at the number of Christians and the way that society behaves I'd say God isn't doing such a hot job of fixing us either."I think that it is not so much that God sends people to Hell as it is that Hell is self-chosen. Hell is separation from God…..Hell grows in us when we act in unloving, and unjust ways, when we give way to bitterness, and un forgiveness."This particular statement I agree with. We certainly make for ourselves a hell on earth. And generally, whether we realize it or not, we are the only ones who can rectify that. The only part I don't agree with is that hell is a separation from God. Hell is when we make stupid choices and dig ourselves that afore mentioned hole and we just keep digging it deeper without ever once recognizing that maybe we're doing something wrong. Once we do and we determine to set about fixing it, usually we can. That isn't to say there are no lasting consequences to choices we make, but that even if you believe in God, you have to make the decision to make your life better and be better.

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  10. I agree with you that wars are rooted in human nature. Indeed, there seem to be a number of human traits that contribute to our disturbing habit of warring on each other.For instance: Territoriality. Some animals will seek to defend, and sometimes expand, a territory; some won't. Gazelle are among those that won't defend and expand a territory, but humans are among those that will. It's an instinct with us.Humans have many such instincts, cognitive biases, and predispositions, that are precursors to war like behavior. No one has to teach our species to war. We need only need to be taught how — whether to use sticks or bombs.So you've got that spark ever present in humans. You don't need religions to set the world on fire. But religions are often used to help the process along. They are great facilitators. Great enablers.Sometimes they are used to facilitate good, and sometimes they are used to facilitate evil.The sad thing to me is that they so seldom rise above basic human instincts no matter how negative the consequences of those instincts.

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