Religious Conflict is Not About Religion

religion conflictI just want to say, in this moment when Islam is once again a focus of public discussion:

I am an atheist and a materialist by belief and disposition. I readily criticize religious institutions for specific practices and policies. I delight in proposing sociological explanations for religious phenomena.

Nevertheless, I have very little sympathy for, or common cause with, those evangelical and dogmatic New Atheists who attack religious faith as such, blame religion for the world’s conflicts, and seek to abolish religion from the face of the Earth.

Some of my best friends are theists. Some great champions of social justice have been theists. Theism is not going away any time soon. And I don’t think that symbolic violence against religion as such does anything to advance the cause of democracy, human rights, human security, or socialism for that matter.

I think that the root causes of “religious” violence are economic and political (sometimes micropolitical), which is to say: practical, not ideational.

I also think that if religion were to magically vanish tomorrow there would be not one less bit of violence in the world. At best, we might see the causes and goals of violence more clearly, without mystification, for a little while, until new mystifications – non-theistic ones, but just as metaphysical and inarguable as theistic dogmas – emerged to take their place, which would happen within the space of hours.

3 thoughts on “Religious Conflict is Not About Religion

  1. Hi Chris: I think that it is self evident that, even through the distorted lens of historical documents, we can be assured that Jesus, Mohammad and Siddhartha taught about compassion. It therefore follows that teachings about hate and conflict are not religious teachings even though they may sometimes be propagated by religious institutions. I therefore agree with you that we should look beyond theology for the root causes of violence. Atheists and practitioners alike are justified in criticizing any theological position that does not recognize the centrality of compassion.

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    • Yeah, if more people felt this way, the world would be a better place.

      As a sociologist, when I look at any collective phenomenon, like “religion” or “human rights” or whatever, I have to look at the whole thing — not just the ideal, or the thing at its best or its most pure incarnation, but all the practices associated with the thing. So I have to include teachings of hate and violence within the category of religious teachings if that’s how the people involved perceive what they’re doing.

      My perception, though, is that in general people aren’t really driven by ideology, but that we adapt our ideology to the practicalities of our life. So, if somebody has a practical reason to be hateful and violent towards others — not a good reason, per se, but some factor in their own life which makes hatred and violence rewarding for them — and if that person is a religious person, they will adapt their religious beliefs to justify their own hateful and violent impulses. But the real cause of those impulses lies elsewhere. That’s the supposition behind what I wrote above.

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  2. Invasion and Foreign occupation is one of the reason that violence emerge rapidly in Past one decades,not because theism teach violence , how our international media ( BBC, CNN, FOX new , SKY news etc ) portray anything about violence we believe as revelation that is the immortal truth, we never want to discuss root cause, I wonder which iraq & Libiya was better whether with Saddam and Kazafi, or with current imported Democracy, Today whosoever join ISIS is not because they have theism ideology, but hatred,violence, ignore by society etc, most of those iraqi join isis who were teen at time when USA invade them, they witnessed by their eyes that how their mother, sister, relative were killed in name of collateral damage. today they grow up with full of hate and burning with revenge,so they are doing anything everything against those who were with alley and taking side of USA in iraq, and ISIS is Providing the Platform to take their revenge, they are not even bother to know Who are the ISIS,

    Same Goes in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Drone attack has killed More civilian than actual Terrorist, So people are joining any sort of group whosoever against USA and Pakistan establishment, they don’t care what is their goal are , ISIS and Taliban become one of the Portal to blame anything and everything to put on a responsibility of any crime even it committed by any other criminal elements / or political wing, they simply just put on Taliban and ISIS head, and media portray that it was ideology of THEISM so therefore they are killing civilian . I wonder why none of the spoke person of Taliban, ISIS, Alqaida, ever can traced while taking responsibilities on Media against any killing they claims . i am not the supporter of any weaponry wings, but i believe there huge miss interpretation and misleading information floating around Us. we are overloaded with information so we are unable to distinguish the causes and conspiracy theories, nor we are able to classify what is the actual truth, simply we target one of the religion whatsoever is Known in Media ,

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