Religions are now again in the news. This time, religions are accused for the wars and conflicts in the world. Almost every day, there is some blast in some part of the world that is caused by so called Religious Fundamentalists and the victims are none other than their own brothers and sisters. As a result religions, particularly Islam, is accused to be the inspiration can cause of the terrorist attacks and violence that has gripped the world in last one decade as most people involved in the violence happens to be Muslims, the followers of Islam.
However, the truth is only partly revealed by terming one religion as violent while calling other religions as peaceful. It is only few decades ago that Christians were fighting against each other in the two World Wars that killed almost 65 millions of people, mostly Christian and resulted of the execution of more than 7 millions Jews including children just because they belonged to a particular religion. It is impossible to imagine how the followers of Christ, the God of love, can engage in such brutalities against each other. A German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer has said sarcastically in 18th century
“The fruits of Christianity were religious wars, butcheries, crusades, inquisitions, extermination of the natives of America and the introduction of African slaves in their place”
It is easy to blame religion for the conflict, more so if the people committing violence do not belong to your religion. However, one dare to look in their own religion, they are bound to find out that their own religion had often been used and can be used for creating conflict and wars. The Biblical concept of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” appears in Bible (Exodus 21:22-27) had been used not only by Jews but also by the Christians. Gita, the Holiest book for Hindus, teaches the concept of eternity of Soul and the need for war in the following words of Lord Krishna
Considering your specific duty as a warrior, you should know that there is no better engagement for you than fighting on religious principles; and so there is no need for hesitation. O Partha, happy are the warrior to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets. (Gita 2:31-32)
The fact is that religions had always been used for wars.
Yet how correct it would be to blame a religion for the wars?
What’s Wrong with Religion
Let us first understand what we mean by religion? Religions are based on the Scriptures which contains the “revealed knowledge” of the Prophets or saints. The knowledge of the scriptures contains certain truths that are believed by the followers of the religion. As per one definition
“A religion is a system of human thought which usually includes a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power, deity or deities, or ultimate truth”.
However, most people of any religion have never read their scriptures and never known these “revealed truths”. They consider themselves as part of the religion simply because they were born from the parents following their religion. Therefore, while they call themselves religious or “theist”, they hardly understand anything of their religion. They are often guided by their Priests, Monks and Imams to know their religions. These people provide the people only “little knowledge’ which suits their vested interest and as always “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and that danger is often manifested in the form of wars.
Not only religion, but every single piece of knowledge had been used constructively and destructively by human beings. The knowledge of relativity and mass-energy-equivalence discovered by Albert Einstein was not only responsible for the birth of “Modern Physics” and the modern development in the field of electronics but also responsible for the development of the nuclear bomb that killed millions of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Can we call Einstein or the theory of relativity responsible for the nuclear weapon or the wars? Why should we not give Einstein the credit for the development of the modern science and technology and development of nuclear energy for the world?