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Religion in Our Society: Everyday Ritual of Life In our time of progress and technological evolution, it is hard to imagine more powerful force, except nuclear weapon, maybe, to destroy the universe. However, humans invented machines and guns, became strong and defensive against each other, but not against their beliefs and morals. It is very easy to destroy a building if you have a rocket launcher, but it is much more energy in the crowd, united in fanatic desire to kill. To kill, because of different thinking and beliefs. On the other hand, to force religious practice will only raise hate and distrust rather that fanatism. Religious conflict, needless to say, is presently a very pervasive feature of our international society, and is likely to remain so well into the 21st Century, unfortunately. Every now and then, people switch on their TVs and are greeted with news of religious violence: the Moslems fighting the Hindus in India and Indian-controlled Kashmir; the Christians and Moslems battling it out in Indonesia, the Philippines, Spain, the Sudan and Nigeria; the repression of the Buddhists, Falun Gong and other religious groups in communist China - to mention a few.
As such, there is now an increasing number of people who think that religion is now much more than "the opium of the masses", that it is actually a destructive feature of the society. However, is it? In spite of the above, we must not forget the immense positive role religion has played in our society, past and present. Religion has given people in this world hope and a future where there was aversion. It is worthwhile to notice that people are much more "into religion" in developing and underdeveloped Religion, page 2 countries than in advanced nations. These people, often in the throes of financial troubles, turn to religion as a source of fulfillment and sustenance. In addition, the basic ideals of all religions are, on the average, the same: do not kill, do not steal, do unto others, as you would have them do to you, honor your parents
Thus, we owe our social civility to religion because it has lain down in our hearts the basic rule of law, which is another foundation of government; every law and every constitution is based on these simple beliefs. Several important social breakthroughs have been championed by religious leaders: such as Martin Luther King Jr. (a Baptist reverend), leading the fight for black civil rights, the fruits of which benefited all minorities; Mahatma Gandhi's successful fight for Indian independence from the British, wielding only the Hindu principle of ahimsa (civil disobedience). An even better example is that of Mother Theresa, Albanian by birth, who, despite her strong Christian affiliation, was able to successfully take care of millions of Hindu India's poor. Above all, religion has the capability to unit a people; unfortunately, as there are so many religions; it ends up dividing people.
So what indeed accounts for the religious violence that has so characterized our dispensation? What aspect of religion could make a Palestinian youth jubilant holding high hands covered with the blood of an Israeli soldier? Put simply, it is religion plus politics. Religion has the potential to do a world of good, but when it gets tangled in politics, it becomes another matter. In the days of old, there was often no real clear distinction between religion and government, and this accounts for the numerous religious wars and religious repression that was rampant at the time. These also set the groundwork for most of the religious conflicts we have today, in that it caused imbalances of religious groups everywhere. Religion, page 3 During the Middle Ages, religion was often an inherent part of government.
This is reflected in the Four Crusades, the Holy Roman Empire (headed by the Pope who wielded enormous power) the primary waves of Islamic Jihad, and the growth of the Ottoman Empire, which caused serious religious imbalances especially in the Balkans. At birth, the United States, most of whose citizens were from Europe, took note of these and made a clear separation between church and state. Today, most states have declared themselves as secular, yet there are still many instances for clashes to occur. The main difference between now and then is in the real and true motives. Then, it was largely religion behind the conflicts, but today it is not.
Moreover, this one truth, which is hidden from many. That there is much more to religious conflicts today than mere die-hard fundamentalists on both sides, that behind all that noise is political greed, and a protracted struggle for power and resources. Once such conflicts begin, it is very hard to break its momentum. Take any politician, who is running for executive office, for example, the president. He knows that there is a majority Christian population in the country.
He also realizes that he can win the election if he appeals to this majority. Thus he pledges allegiance to them and swears to support their cause. In another model, politicians of the same religion gang up and form religious political parties, and there is destined to be big trouble if you have two or more of these in your country. A struggle for power between the two strongholds can lead to civil war, and it did in the Sudan. A similar situation exists in Northern Ireland, where the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party and the Catholic Sinn Fein (Pogatchnik, Seattle Times) and its military wing, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) have been struggling for power (Walker, Times). Thus, there have been several confrontations between the Catholics and the Protestants, such that at present fences have been built to separate Catholic neighborhoods from Protestant ones. Even Religion, page 4 though it started as a struggle between two political houses, it has reached the stage where Protestants demand their right to do their traditional marches through Catholic neighborhoods, while Catholics, on the other hand would rather die than have that happen.
As passions continue to burn, violence is inevitable. Sometimes it a struggle over resources that eventually leads to religious violence. Most times the resource that is the subject of contention is land. For India and Pakistan, the subject of contention is Kashmir. And most of the conflict resides in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, because it just happens to be that India is Hindu, Pakistan is Moslem and the majority of people in Kashmir are Moslem. The Kashmiris on the Indian side, being Moslem, want to become part of Pakistan.
Thus, a lot of fighting takes place in Indian-controlled Kashmir. For Israel and the Palestinians, the bone of contention is Jerusalem. The Jews were promised this land in their Holy Scriptures. Pa ...
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