Thursday, December 23, 2010

Religion as a Cause of Violence
Mostly my emphasis;
"In god is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens offers a litany of contemporary examples of how, in his view, religion foments violence [examples drawn from his own anointed experience as a journalist and corespondent, rendering no other experiences or views ultimately legitimate for him as a secularist; meaning is a personal projection, and he has done so ?]...Dawkins and Harris offer examples of their own and the supposed take-home message is always the same: religion is a cause of violent strife, especially across "confessions". Where intractable conflicts are on for years, where group hatreds perpetuate intergenerational bloodbaths, at the root of it all we find...religion.

It is true that in some sense of the word, "religion" has been and continues to be a cause of violence. But there may be something important to learn from the fact that so much inter-group violence is perpetuated in the name of non-religious worldviews or ideologies, and that so much of this violence looks very similar to the paradigm cases of religious violence trotted out by the new atheists. It may be that all of these instances of inter-group violence, religious and non-religious, can be explained in terms of the same basic human motivations...When one racial group brutally oppresses another, we blame racism, not race. When people of different nations go to war out of misplaced pride, we blame nationalism, not nationality. When rival ethnic groups practice "ethnic cleansing", we blame ethnocentrism, not ethnicity.
Likewise, I would suggest that what we should blame for all the violence that has been done in the name of God is not religion, but what might be dubbed religionism. Behind each of these isms lies a common human tendency; the drive to divide humanity into in-groups and out-groups, to define oneself in terms of group membership, and to define one's group against rivals...

What Ladd has done, I think, it to pinpoint the basic ideological structure that underlies the most intractable and brutal cases of inter-group violence. Belief in God, as such, has nothing to do with it. A certain vision of what gives meaning to life has nothing to do with it. Clearly the ethico-religious hope has nothing to do with it.
At root, this kind of violence is motivated by a pattern of thinking that probably has its origins in the tribalism on which humanity evolved. Members of one's own tribe or clan were to be trusted and treated with respect. Other tribes were rivals and, more often than not, enemies...

Religious violence is not something special, with some uniquely "religious" motivation not discoverable in other forms of collective violence. On the contrary, it is but the same ideologies adapted to use religion - instead of race or nationality or political ideology - as the tool for division...[at least in the case of religion, violence can theoretically be avoided by at best reconciliation - pluralism - or at worst conversion - just as one may be able to avoid political violence by adopting an ideology where truth matters or forming coalitions; one cannot convert to a race or ethnicity, those complex matrices from mother's milk and language and melanin content. But prospects for ideologies are at great risk now in the postmodern era, where ethics, morality, etc, "without foundations", where any correspondence claims for truth value are anathema]...

When ideologies of collective violence entangle religion to create religionism, there remains at the core something whose essence is at odds with every ideology of division. Race cannot say no to such ideology, Ethnicity cannot say , nor can nationality. Only religion can [potentially].

Sweep religion from the world, as the new atheists dream, and the [scientifically-quantified "natural"] forces motivating collective violence [inclusive of all collective behaviors justified by appeals to naturalism; promiscuity in primates, seflishness and cooperation, etc] will close around other things - things like racial difference, national identity, economic ideology. But these other things lack religion's power to resist the clutching fingers from within. And so, the dark powers that the new atheists falsely identify with religion will finally be free of religion's moderating influence. Finally, the quiet light that has been keeping us from the abyss all these ages will be gone. The real root of evil, the poison of the world, will turn nation against nation, tribe against tribe, race against race - and since there is nothing in national identity, tribal identity, or racial identity that inherently says no to dichotomies [via appeals to ultimate unity] and to violence [by appeals to brotherhood of man], it will be the end of us all...
Excerpts from Eric Reitan, 'The Root of All Evil?' in "Is God a Delusion?".

Religions demand more of man than that they act in accord with merely biological drives deemed positive or negative, drives that connect them most to other animal species. Religions, as with ideologies, asks that man be more than animal, ask that we exercise freewill in life, in abiding contracts from Outside, stipulating obligations based on communications from the Divine. Asking humans to be more than simply as other creations (under modernism), more than as 'man' unto himself as self-defined, existential individual. But as noted before, with decreasing appeals to justification, disregard for truth being the reigning paradigm in ideologies. Perhaps resolutions deriving from interaction among matured religions who still quest for ties to truth, with the commensurate appeals (valid truth claims or not), to transcendent and imminent truth - not among ideologies, etc - are the only sufficiently deep pluralisms possible, the only possibility of getting along.


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