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?