RELIGION BROTHERHOOD AND WAR. Religion and War by Hal O’Leary.
In the course of preparing this article, I have been made aware of the fact that I am, all too often, guilty of arrogance in assuming an absolute truth of positions that I might take when they are actually little more than conjecture:.
: an opinion or idea formed without proof or sufficient evidence.
I will plead guilty to the charge of “without proof” but not arrogance with an assumption of absolute truth or to the charge of “without sufficient evidence. Indeed, I not only seek out all the evidence I can find in support of my conviction, (a strong belief or opinion, not a conjecture).but I will likewise seek out evidence that refutes my conviction.
Therefore, it is my intention to state the following not as proof of my conviction that the religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, three religions with one and the same God, have often been religions of hate and war rather than the love and peace they preach in their concurrence with “Golden Rule.” The sharpest evidence for their inconsistent views on this universally accepted maxim can be found in their scriptures.
Therefore all things whatsoever you desire that men should do to you, do you evenso unto them, for this is the law and the Prophets.
But then, what of this?
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword
Matt 10:34 NRSV]
What is hurtful to yourself do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah and the remainder is but commentary.
Talmud, Shabbat 3:1
But then, what of this?
O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us.
Blessed is the one who grabs your babies and smashes them against a rock.
Not one of you is a believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.
Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13
But then, what of this?
“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
Admittedly, as has been pointed out to me, the scriptures are open to many interpretations and I agree, but doesn’t this subject any one of them to the charge of being conjecture, leaving the individual to interpret for himself an interpretation based on what evidence he can find? I find it difficult to believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth. Even the supposed absolute truth of mathematics has been challenged. Does not this present a conundrum forcing the faithful to either rely on conjecture or to inform themselves to a point that they can arrive at conviction.
This brings us to the question of how these religions approach the subject of war, and here we find that what is preached is often in sharp contrast with what is practiced.
Over the centuries Christians have developed guidelines to help them think about whether they might have to set aside their usual rule of non-violence. They were first proposed in the fourth century by an African bishop called Augustine. His theory of a just war still shapes the way Christians think about these dreadful circumstances:
> There must be a just cause. War can only be tolerated to defend people in response to tyranny. It is forbidden to wage war in order to dominate others, increase territory or gain mineral resources.
But what of preemptive war, war without justification, war based on lies, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq?
> The decision must be made by the highest government authority.
But then, what if the highest government authority cannot be trusted?
Verse 1 Romans 13: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
> Every possible means of resolving the crisis by peaceful means must have been attempted first.
But then what of the American practice of, “coercive diplomacy,” which experience shows actually leads to war by way of hubris and miscalculation? Can it pass muster as, every peaceful means?
> It must be judged that the war will not unleash an even greater evil than the one currently being suffered.
But then what of the turmoil, death and destruction currently in the Middle East that should have been anticipated?
> The war must be fought with specific constraints: civilians must be protected from attack, there must be a reasonable prospect of success, it must cease when justice has been restored, and the level of violence must match the severity of the evil that is being addressed.
But then what of the estimated 2,000,000 violent civilian deaths in Vietnam and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan which have taken a tremendous toll on the people of those countries. At the very least, 174,000 civilians have been determined to have died violent deaths as a result of the war as of April 2014. The actual number of deaths both direct and indirect as a result of the wars is many times higher than these figures suggest. Success is nowhere in sight. There is neither justice nor any foreseeable ending. The level of violence immeasurably exceeds the severity of an extremely questionable evil.
So, there you have it. It’s not presented as absolute truth. It is however more than conjecture. The playwright Luigi Pirandello reminds us that the past is the only reality, it’s the only thing that cannot be changed, but that leaves open a future that can and must be changed. It seems that so few of the so-called faithful actually choose to live by the morality they claim as a prerogative, while so many of my secular humanists friends actually choose a righteous path of brotherhood and peace.
I present my conviction based on the evidence I have assembled, a conviction that the intolerance of these religions, contrary to the teachings of the Prince of Peace, have been and are, from the time of the Crusades, responsible for untold millions of deaths in wars of their own making. Add to this the horrors of the Inquisition and it becomes difficult to imagine that they could, as they do, lay claim to the founding of morality. With each claiming to be in sole possession of the absolute truth, it only serves to prove the fallibility of all.