Our history is soaked in the blood of honor killings; violent and merciless death in the name of religion and God. Millions have perished before their time, their lives brutally ended for nothing. For religion. We the Jews have most markedly suffered over thousands of years of history anti-semitic mass extinctions. To this day, in our much safer, civilized society, humans feel the shadow of violent religion lurking. There are many manifestations of religious violence, some of it subtle and more commonplace, some of it shocking bloodshed. Be it genocides led by angry mobs in African countries or a lone cold-blooded monster that enters a holy place and opens fire, people continue to be compelled by religion to shoot, hang, stone, rape, destruct – the four modes of death and then some. These people kill out of fanatical religious belief — It is their god who supposedly sent them. It’s the inexplicable history of human atrocities.
Why? I ask you, what is it about religion that compels such cold-heartedness? Is it religion itself? Is this the inherent nature of religion?
I think not. Religion itself is practiced daily by most of the world population without harm, and at times with much value. Religion not only provides comfort and security, when looked at from the angle of a liberal believer it can be so turned and shaped and tweaked as to be quite moral, self-sacrificing and meaningful. Are the individuals cruel, and religion only a vehicle for their cruelty? Is religion merely a reflection of each individual believer’s morality? Are religious values what you interpret it to be, without static values in itself? Are there particular religions or religious belief that is guilty of these cruelties?
We need to note — religion isn’t only a moral guide. What religion teaches –be it good or evil – is only one part. Religion provides social structures and common narratives, it binds people with similar experiences and it has come to embody through the ages a richness of history, culture and the very story of human existence.
It is hard to take apart all these elements and understand where things go wrong. It is easy to see that things do go wrong, but also things also go right. Religion, for its millions of manifestations, can seem like a million paradoxes. It’s the paradoxes I’ve always struggled to understand, the many grays between the black and white and good and evil. Both ink and blood have been spilled on these questions, and still, we’re none the wiser. Maybe one day the raging debate will be better understood. Small miracles do happen.