Search This Blog

Friday, April 05, 2013

Religious Wars

I am not sure that I believe the notion that religious wars are endemic to our species; I am not sure that there are such things at all.

What I mean is I am not sure that there are and have been wars fought solely on religious grounds without any other political or economic causes; I am not sure that today's commonly used concept of mad blokes flailing at each other in the name of their gods - and for no other reason - ever existed.

I fully agree that religion is a mighty focus of the groups, tribe, or nation, and often serves the purpose of providing a unifying theme and narrative to disparate groups to unite their efforts into some form of violent behavior, but that is not the same thing.

Religion may serve to differentiate "Me" from "You", and its stream of emotion may be dammed and utilized as a dynamo, but it seems to be subservient to other promptings of the species, promptings for land, wealth, food, or the spur of ancient slights and crimes culminating in aeons long vendettas.

This is an important point, I think, because it is so often spoken these days by people arguing about religion.... which itself is merely a cover for deeper discords. I say "deeper" in a paradoxical way, for you may ask, "What is deeper than religion?"  I believe, however, that most practice of religion is fairly superficial.

There is a proof historical:
The Maurya emperor Ashoka embraced the doctrine of the Lord Buddha after the bloody Kalinga War. He propagated Buddhism throughout his empire, "Ashoka regarded Buddhism as a doctrine that could serve as a cultural foundation for political unity." (Jerry Bentley)
There is the religious doctrine as carrier of imperial policy, and the relation to the Holy has been totally obscured.

Of course, modern critics of religion usually seem to think of Buddhism as somehow being apart from other religions and superior to them. If I had a nickel for every modern atheistical johnny that said, "I don't hold with religious stuff, but I frequently do some Zen meditation.", I would now have about 20 bucks.

That attitude about Buddhism is a stereotype, a positive stereotype, granted, but still a stereotype in that it is a fervent belief in a certain script, rather than a understanding of the real world. It is as if modern day understanding of Buddhism strips the smells and sounds from the religion's followers. I am quite sure that when we conjure up stereotypes of Muslims, there are plenty of smells and sounds, not to mention beards. When we imagine Fundamentalist Christians, we smell the soot of burning Qurans and sweaty Sunday sermons in Alabama. When we think of Jews, there may be the sights and sounds of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Then we think of them coming together. Then they fight.


I believe even the concept of Jihad is an exception that proofs this rule.

No comments: