Saturday, April 08, 2006

Religious leaders are responsible for violence

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it.
- Tom Robbins, writer (1936- )

There is more hidden within this observation than immediately meets the eye.

Religion (or "direction from God") has been at the heart of the vast majority of wars that have begun over the past two millennia or more. That's not to say that religious leaders have been directly responsible for taking their respective countries into war, but that religion has been used as the excuse for going to war.

If war is begun to protect a religion, to protect people's right to practise a religion or at the direction of God, it's considered to be a good enough reason to begin a war.

So what? you may ask. Anyone who wants to start a war will find some excuse or other, so it might as well be religion as another reason. True, but...

Where are the leaders of the religion when political leaders are using their faith as an excuse for war? Are they standing idly by watching it happen? Secretly supporting the proposed war behind the scenes? Helpless to do anything about it?

Religious leaders have never been helpless, nor should they ever be considered to be helpless. They are, by nature and by profession, powerful people whose life objective is to sway the minds of people in the direction they want their followers to take. They are leaders by virtue of their positions.

Thus if religious leaders are seen to do nothing when political or military leaders propose going to war for the cause of religion, then the religious leaders must either support the cause quietly or denounce it publicly. No other positions could be accepted for real leaders.

Note that wherever a war takes place in the name of religion, the religion in question always, without exception, advocates peace at the core of its belief system.

When leaders of a peace-promoting religion support (actively or passively) war, we are left with two choices of what to believe of them. One is that they practise hypocrisy, that they preach peace but support or accept violence when it suits their purpose. The other is that they preach peace but promote a course of violence as a current running within their larger message of peace.

Every war, every act of genocide, every act of large scale violence in the world today may be attributed to one or the other of these choices by religious leaders.

Remaining silent, claiming helplessness, in the face of potential violence is, tacitly, a self condemnation as one who is at least partly responsible for that violence.

Either they are leaders who promote peace or they are supporters of political or military leaders who support violence. There are no other choices.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to urge people to convince their religious leaders to actively support and promote peace.
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