From Vol. 8, No. 3
What can religions do in the twenty-first century to resolve conflicts non-violently, rather than to perpetuate them or enable them to continue?
When we talk about religion, we refer to faith that relates us. It binds us together in its simplest, most common title. People may have different faiths and religions, and they may practice differently and even their individual faiths may be different from one another at times—but the common title of faith brings us together into one group: people of faith.
Faith brings us together now and it also brings people of the past and present together, for faith refers to people of many religious backgrounds; it covers a great domain. Faith has tremendous power. It has moved mountains and it moves us. Every individual person of faith will be inspired and excited by faith; the gathering of many such individuals creates the most influential movements, historically and politically, positively and negatively.
Such an influential power and motivating agent that can create peace, love and fulfill humanity’s highest aspirations, can also be misused. We have seen the effect of this sharp, double-edged sword from the very beginning of human creation.
The role of religion in creating war and the destruction of humanity cannot be denied. This sharp instrument has fallen into the hands of politicians, has played a terrible role in human bloodshed and has become a major participant in human oppression and the destruction of human lives.
From the beginning of time, manipulators of the human family have used religion to enslave people. History has shown us horrible wars and destruction as a result of the misuse of religion. The name of religion has been invoked to cover every form of barbarism. Nations have taken religion to destroy each other and some nations have destroyed themselves by their own religions. This sharp, double-edged tool offers love, understanding, compassion and a relationship with God, on one hand, but on the other hand, on a social and political level, religion has, all too often, been a tool for manipulation.
There are several factors that have given the twentieth century the title of the bloodiest century in history. One factor is the great increase in the population and other factors involve economics and technology.
The titanic machinery of technology has pushed ever onward, heedless of human values. It needs nourishment, thus it will destroy every natural resource that it can harness to continue its progress and concentrate human power into the hands of a few. All the while technology has created its own justification—for faith in technology has now, to a great extent, displaced faith in God. Faith in technology has blinded us to the pains of its victims and to the knowledge that it crushes whole peoples and cultures, for what is a better source of nourishment for this machine of technology and the greed it engenders than the third world with its many fragile, traditional societies?
The twentieth century has been, by far, the bloodiest century in human history in terms of the cultures and peoples that have been destroyed by the global monoculture that is the natural product of technology.
In these conditions, we need to rediscover faith as a foundation of our humanity. If we are the people who are searching for solutions, devoted to finding ways to honor life, and are tired of greed and are concerned for humanity, then we must see things as they are and avoid hiding behind soothing words.
To resolve upon non-violence, to avoid bloodshed—especially when we see that millions of people are killed and entire nations are destroyed—we have to come together to remove the powerful agent of religion and faith from the hands of the manipulators of nations.
Religion must be freed from the hands of greed and, we, as spiritual people, must avoid the acceptance of political movements as religious movements; religion needs to stand apart from politics, and must be taken as it is—a sacred, private understanding of the Divine, honoring God and the divine command, searching for enlightenment and remaining compassionate and respectful toward the creation of the Divine.
As spiritual people, we need to remind ourselves of universal ethics and the understanding of human rights and honor. We may need to come to terms by issuing an edict and by agreeing that no religious movement will be accepted as a political movement; otherwise politicians will hide behind religion and feed upon the lives of people, as they have done for many years.
To take religion away from bloodshed, as a participant or source, we may need to emphasize that religion must remain a private and revered practice, as it is its truth.
We need to learn and to educate ourselves and every member of the human family to fully understand the necessity of ethics and morality, the importance of honor and respect, the value of understanding and compassion and the need to honor humanity in all its variations: religion, race, age, gender, culture and more. Through our faith we may revere a peaceful life for ourselves and for every human being, and ultimately learn to honor our mother: earth and her children: the human family.