In part one of this discussion, we established that many of the wars of the past century were not religious in nature and their motivation was in fact about as non-religious as one could get.
Religion is not the common denominator of all war. Nor, for that matter is atheism.
We should really extend our original question to “does religion also cause terrorism, torture or indeed any acts that violate the life, liberty and human rights of the individual?”
Recent history tells us pretty emphatically that while religion has often been used as an excuse for barbaric conduct, men inclined towards act of barbarism have found other justifications as well as religion to make their slaughter of their fellow human beings appear perfectly reasonable or “unavoidable.”
Hitler’s ethnic cleansing, for example, actually had “science” as its excuse – the bogus science of Eugenics.
The fact that religion is used as an EXCUSE for an atrocity is no more a reason to condemn religion than the use by the unscrupulous of science as their excuse should prompt us to abandon science.
What men need to knock off is buying the “reasons” put forth by some loony for common assault, grievous bodily harm, murder, arson, extortion and mugging.
All this nevertheless begs the question as to what is happening when a religion apparently becomes the driving, motivating, justifying force behind the collective move of one large human group to do violence to another large human group.
How does a religious group wind up pursuing policies and actions completely contrary to the original teachings of its founder and, indeed, the instincts of its members?
Very few religions were built upon a message of violence. Almost all began life and achieved broad popular acceptance on the basis of “maybe we should all try to treat one another better.” If you look closely at the original “horse’s mouth” words of religious founders, you’ll find this to be the case.
This corruption of a group purpose occurs not only in the field of religion. Many groups, despite being founded upon high ideals and good intentions, operate a million miles distant from that original intent. Democratic governments for example, frequently wind up bludgeoning their own electorate with truncheons and refine all manner of covert ways to chip away at their citizenry.
Socialist governments wind up standing the workers before firing squads; revolutions intended to liberate the people require revolutions to liberate the people from the revolutionary government; resistance groups formed to defend the people against an oppressive power, descend into extortion, gangsterism and the knee-capping of teenagers, with the people they were formed to protect as their primary victims; ….. and so on.
What happens to a group that drives it off the rails and along a route it never intended to take?
A group founded by sane personalities, men of goodwill, and run by men of good will, remains a group of good will as long as men of good will have control of its policy-making, agenda-setting apparatus, whatever form that apparatus may take. Its intent will not be destructive and its conduct will not be criminal. Its degree of success or error will depend upon the intelligence of the people making its dynamic decisions but its INTENT and motivation will, like any sane person’s, remain social and it will try to correct antisocial conduct made in error.
But how does a group turn actively criminal? How does a religion founded upon a renunciation of worldly baubles become a money grubbing corporation? How does a creed whose basic tenets are non-violent find justification for torture, carpet-bombing, terrorism and other acts of sadism in the “well, what He really meant by thou shalt not kill was thou shalt not kill Believers…” of its re-interpreted scriptures?
We’ll answer that question in Part Three.