Since there are talks about religion and why people kill in the name of religion, I thought it would be beneficial to some to read my point of view on “Religion, Conflicts and Crimes”. This is the research that I have completed some time ago. You will notice at the end that some of the resources may not be available. Although my views on religion have not changed much since, I tried to be objective on the topic. I lived my life with and without religion. Religion does not define me who I am and my views on the world today. However, religious (Christian) principles shaped my moral and ethical standards, by which I abide and live today. And, science is something I applause to today (you will notice the tone of my voice at time of writing and my thinking of religion and science at that time), since I believe that science has shaped the world in which we live and will continue opening doors to the destinations that we thought were impossible to reach.

The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to the first records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength to some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts of information and anthropological studies revealing the interaction of religion and humankind. Identifying the true causes of unrest and violence, either domestic or international, which results to war, is really difficult to determine. However, it is very important to recognize the precise causes of some of the conflicts around the world, where some might be due to ethnicity and religious ideologies but not all.

So, is the religion the cause of conflicts and crimes? When political alliances, economic difference, ethnicity and religious differences occur in any society unrest and chaos takes place. Similarly, it causes violence internationally which ultimately results in war (Humans and Humanity).

It is commonly thought, since the beginning of the international political system, that religion is the root cause of violence in any society. A more probable cause of conflict is science. This violence, being motivated either by self-defense or a desire to achieve religious dominance over others, ultimately leads to war. Where it could be accepted that religion has proved to be a cause of violence in a society, it is not always the only cause of war.

The basis for war is the struggle for power. This power which is struggled for is not only religious power but also political and ideological. For instance, take the case of USSR and USA during the cold war era. The world was divided into two blocks where both these super-powers were struggling to win their ideological dominance in the world. The former USSR was promoting communism while the USA was spreading capitalism and a free-market economy though both states agree to secularism, which means religion is not a part of politics. (Yergin D 1988) Ask the communist regimes…God certainly wasn’t the cause of them killing 50 million people in the 20th century. Currently in India and Pakistan, the two major countries in South Asia, there is a similar struggle cold war-like struggle going on. Kashmir is the bone of contention to achieving and marinating peaceful relations. (Gellner, Ernest. 1987)

While faiths have indeed inspired men to kill, the casual aphorism that “religion causes wars” betrays an ignorant and selective grasp of history. Man has been willing to kill, since immemorial, for countless reasons: for land, tribe, nation and ideology.

Religion is basically one personal beliefs about how to spend his life. All religions teach the same lesson and possess the same fundamental principles. Respecting humanity and promoting human rights is the fundamental principle that all religions preach in a separate language and according to different cultures. Therefore, how can one blame religion as a cause for war, actually it is the lack of religious knowledge and awareness that people believe and promote religion as a major source of conflict. For instance, growing to believe in Jesus Christ, I have always remembered “whosoever shall smite thee in thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (King James Bible, Mathew 5:39). Many Christians and those who are of other religions believe this principle as well. On the other hand media takes advantage to win profitable markets by promoting this theory.

Not only religion but there could be many other reasons for unrest and anarchy both on state level as well as internationally. Moreover, every ethnic conflict is not a religious war. Though religion has been always the moving target but when the circumstances changes and the political reality comes to our understanding, it is realized that politics has much more to do then religion in such wars and conflicts that is fought in the name of self-defense. Classical examples are the conflicts in Ireland, Chechnya, Nigeria, Burundi, Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Sri Lanka or were during the cold war between the super-powers.

Is Religion or Science More Dangerous? As long as religion and science exist, man has asked the question, which one is more dangerous? However, over the centuries man has figured out that the answer is not that simple. Many aspects are involved that have to be taken into consideration. Some scientists argue that religion can cause more harms, but on the other side believers of many religions point their fingers toward science as being the ultimate danger. Despite the benefits of religion and science, they both can be equally dangerous because they can be destructive, abuse their power and can harm uneducated people.

Although religion can be very dangerous, it has many benefits for mankind. Authentic forms of religion offer hope and are a force for positive change. Through religious ideas and commitments, endless numbers of individuals are inspired to go beyond self-interests in pursuit of higher values. Throughout history, religion has brought out the noblest and best in human beings. For instance, religion has historically been more than just a faith for the Jew; it has been his way of life, involving many of his economic, social, and political attitudes and activities as well as his spiritual life. Religion has been of the highest value in enabling the Jews to survive the persecutions of the past 1900 years, but the return of many Jews to the land of ancient Israel has been motivated by other reasons that are not religious.

Almost every crime committed is a result of one person placing their welfare over the welfare of others. With some crimes it’s not immediately apparent, like hate crimes, but selfishness is the cause of hate crimes. If I’m going to commit a hate crime, I’m going to do it because my city, state, country, world, etc. would be better if you weren’t in it (or so I think). “My” is the key word. “My” is present in the thoughts of every dumbest who does something to make someone else’s life worse. Even terrorism is caused by individual selfishness. If I’m a terrorist I’m going to commit whichever terrorist act I choose for my country, my God, my people, and my glory.

So you see if people weren’t worried about “me” and “my”, this world would be a better place. If I weren’t so selfish I wouldn’t be hurting you (or at least doing things that really piss you off), and vice versa for you.

Even innocent little Grandma, who loves her grandchildren and feeds the birds and squirrels out of tender-hearted compassion, is making this world a worse place by being selfish by driving down the road 10 MPH less than the posted speed. She’s making some people late, and causing the blood pressure of others’ to rise (and you better believe she knows she’s doing this). Why? Just so she can get to the store to get “her” (notice the possessive word) prune juice. Now, she could ask someone else to pick up some prune juice for her next time they’re at the store, or get cataract surgery so she could drive faster, but it’s more convenient for her if she drives to the store. So even innocent little grandma is guilty of making this world a worse place by being selfish. And my point in this goofy example of grandma is that even the most benevolent people have a tendency to be selfish, and as a result make the world a worse place.

In my opinion, selfishness is the root cause of the high majority of human-inflicted negativity. So, we need to demonstrate as little selfishness as possible while living.

There may be question arise: why is religion important? How can it help in today’s society? The answer can be found. It is clear that religion is the one element of life that has connected the races and societies of the world for hundreds of years. It has given meaning to lives that may seem otherwise hopeless. Religion has provided for a universal language and culture among those who believe in a higher power. The spirit or being receiving the worship and praise may not be the same, but the practices are usually similar and serve the same purpose— to give direction, insight, courage, and a divine connection. Religion is the main source of morals and values today. I feel like many people today are not following the word of God. I think that religion is overlooked, and not taught enough. For example, colleges, high schools, and many other places are not even allowed to pray, teach or preach the word of the bible. Religion provides strength, values, and a word to follow. It is expressed in many different ways in many varieties of people. It is a sense of togetherness and connection to certain cultures.

Why would people practice their religion if it was for gaining the power? Flere is the statistics of how many people practice their religion. It is provided so one could make his own judgment and not make any conclusions based on someone’s words. Consider data presented in the table. There are 1.9 billion Christians in World,  1 billion Muslims, and  18.2 million Jews. Do all those believers cause crimes and violence in the world? Think about your neighbors, relatives, and associates and ask yourself if they are the ones that cause conflicts and violence because of that they firmly believe.

Religion Statistics
Figure 1. Mischael McCallion. “Statistics on religion worldwide.” March 1997. Online table. Department of Parish Life/ Pastoral Resources. 15 Nov 2005. <//www.aodonline.org/Aodonline>

The principles and philosophies upon which the U.S. constitutional law is based are not simply the result of the best efforts of a remarkable group of brilliant men. They were inspired by God, and the rights and privileges guaranteed in the Constitution are God-given, not man-derived. I focus my comments on sixteen significant words found in the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof’ (U.S. Constitution). It is clear that the freedom of religion in the United States is protected by the U.S. constitutional law. Does the law support the idea of religion being the cause of conflicts and violence?

The words of the First Amendment to the Constitution are simple and direct, their message and meaning appear to be clear. But through the years presidents, Congress, and the courts have interpreted them in so many different ways that many people today have no sense of the perspective upon which they were based.

Abraham Lincoln responded to a question about which side God was on during the Civil War with this profound insight: “I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side” (J. B. McClure, 185-86).

Madison, Washington, and Lincoln all understood that democracy cannot possibly flourish in a moral vacuum and that organized religion plays an important role in preserving and maintaining public morality.

There are some theorists who believe that religion is the cause of conflict. In the article William Edelen suggests that it is religion that “has always produced violence.” William states the following:

It is religion that, historically, has always produced violence. From Moses to the Crusades, Henry VIII, Salem, Hitler, Kosovo. Today, in our own time, it is those countries without religion that are the LEAST violent.

Violence and biblical religion go hand in hand and yet, our Republican leaders want more of it. Their language would make Hitler smile. Hitler would love their social agenda. (Edelen, 1999)

In William’s article I haven’t found any materials that would support his argument. The assumptions were made, but other factors in all of those conflicts that William mentioned were omitted. I agree that some leaders of those times misused religion, leaving people to ponder if it was worth to believe in anything. The kings no doubt hungered for wealth and glory as well as religious ambitions. Wars fought out of religious reasons are as much political as they are religious even so religion do have to take it share of causes to wars. Wrong! Go back and re-read (or read) the history of these wars. Maybe the “church” had a responsibility in the wars, but Christianity didn’t.[1]

In the report by the U.S. Department of State the sixth Annual Report on International Religious Freedom September 15, 2004, examining the “status of religious freedom around the world” it is clear that there are many countries which control religious stability so that religion would remain for belief or practice in the right way:

The annual report to Congress, mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, aims to “examine barriers to religious freedom, note countries where religious freedom conditions have improved, and describe U.S. actions to promote international religious freedom.”

The 2004 report designates Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Vietnam as new “Countries of Particular Concern” for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The report also renamed Burma, China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan to the list.

The report also identifies countries that have achieved “significant improvement in the protection and promotion” of religious freedom, including Afghanistan, Georgia, India, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

In addition to the “Countries of Particular Concern,” the report identifies many countries that restrict religious freedom through: totalitarian or authoritarian actions to control religious belief or practice, state hostility toward minority or non-approved religions, state neglect of societal discrimination against or persecution of minority religions, discriminatory legislation or policies prejudicial to certain religious, and denouncing certain religions by affiliating them with dangerous “cults” or “sects.” (U.S. Department of State).

At the conclusion I would like to state boldly, that Religion isn’t the problem; humans who make bad choices are the problem (they brainwash other humans that enable them to act upon those misinformed beliefs). Religion was not the basis of the long area of cold war, the conflicts in Ireland, Chechnya, Nigeria, Burundi, Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir, or Sri Lanka, current struggles between India and Pakistan, and many other conflicts, crimes, and violence. There always were those who had the power to govern and they misused it and religion was the pathway for many to make a abundance of money leading to some to gain the power. There are still many of those who would look upon their politicians, leaders, and governors and say that religion is the cause of all those conflicts and wars, because those leaders claim to be either Christians, either Muslims, or belong to any other religious organization, and they exercise their power over their particular “church”. Let us look not upon individuals and make our personal assumptions that religion is the cause of conflicts and crimes today, or has been in the past. Let us be open-minded and build our belief on understanding what really caused conflicts, violence, and crimes in the past, and what causes them today.

[1] You can refer to the history of wars to the Web site: <http://www.lepg.org/>.

Works Cited

“Bill of Rights.” U.S. Constitution. 1791. Online document. Legal Information Institute <http://www.law.comell.edu/constitution/constitution.billofrights.html>

Gellner Ernest. “Culture, identity and politics.” 1987. Online book. Cambridge; New York [etc.]: Cambridge University press.-VIII. 189 p. 10 Nov 2005 <http://prlnt.google.com>

“Human Rights.” Documents & Texts. 15 September 2004. Online report. U.S. Releases 2004 International Religious Freedom Report. 12 Nov 2005 <//www.usembassy.org.uk>

J. B. McClure. “Abraham Lincoln’s Stories and Speeches.” Chicago: Rhodes and McClure Publishing Co., 1896: 185-86.

King James Bible, Mathew. 1979. Intellectual reserve. Inc.; Great Britain. University Press, Cambridge. Jan 2000: 5:39

Mischael McCallion. “Statistics on religion worldwide.” March 1997. Online table. Department of Parish Life/ Pastoral Resources. 15 Nov 2005. <http://www.aodonline.org/Aodonline>

William Edelen. “Religion is the Cause of Violence.” 1999. Online posting. Secular Web library. 11 Nov 2005 <http://www.infidels.org/library>

Yergin, D & Stanislaw,J. “Commanding Heights: The battle between government and the marketplace in the remaking of the Modem World.” Touchstone Books NY 1998

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