Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Violence and Religion

People, usually atheists, often use the many examples of violence and forceful behaviour that have plagued religion for centuries as a good argument against it. Sometimes members of one religion will just single out another religion, as often happens today with Christians and Islam.

Theists then point out the atrocities committed in the 20th century by atheist dictators, mostly Communist. It's a sufficient counter argument, but not a good argument at all. If we step back and look at the bigger picture, the truth becomes clear.

Totalitarianism (I won't call the regimes of Stalin and Mao et al communist) and religious institutions have one major idea in common; the idea of unfaltering belief in some piece of dogma. Religions it may be a holy book or holy man, totalitarianism it is usually the leader, perhaps some fuzzy concept like national strength or the common good.

It's this unfaltering dogmatic belief that really causes violence to occur. Dogma can't change; especially when it's bound in a book or is a single person. This unwillingness to change goes against a basic truth of life; change is constant.

When you get something that doesn't want to change coming up against the force of change, unrest and violence occurs. People who speak out against the leader are killed, new theories (weather scientific or equally dogmatic, like a competing religion) that contradict the dogma are and must be quashed violently in order for the institution to survive.

Another important point is based around the difference between what an institution stands for and what it actually does. Given the dogmatic nature of both totalitarianism and religion, it becomes easy for one person or a group of people to gain control.

It's patently obvious how this happens in a dictatorship, and is just as obvious when you look at an institution like the modern Catholic church, the early Christian church or even just your local church with it's one pastor, reverend or priest. The same goes for Mosques and Mullahs, the Synagogue and the Rabbi or the Buddhist Temple and it's head monk.

The ease at which a small group of people can control entire faiths or countries leads to them easily being corrupted; Marx never foresaw the gulag just like Jesus never preached about the Inquisition, and they or their teachings certainly shouldn't be blamed.

As we have seen, the actual systems in itself aren't really at fault. The Bible never killed anyone and the Communist Manifesto never enslaved millions. It's the dogmatic nature of both these systems that will always lead to violence.

At the end of the day, people either struggle to cope with their holy book being undermined by progress and lash out violently, or just use the institution as a vehicle for their own evil ways. People are the problem, weather ignorant or evil, but that shouldn't surprise us.


Sadiq M. Alam said...


lovely article.

Adam said...

Cheers mate, thanks for the comment.