Monday, November 20, 2006

The connection between religion, fear and violence

"With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another."
- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German physicist and satirist (1742–1799)

Any belief is, almost by definition, based on something that is not provable. Anything factual has evidence to prove it, so belief is not necessary.

A commitment to one belief that is not provable makes it difficult for a person to switch easily to another belief. Or, apparently, even a conclusion based on a set of facts, as we can see by those who believe in the creation of the universe in six days when abundant evidence points to an extensive period of time.

Any belief forms part of who we are as individuals. It's part of the foundation of our life.

When any person or argument seeks to knock part of the foundation of our life out from under us, we will greet it with reluctance. Some, in fear, face it with vehemence, even violence.

Today we see fear on the parts of the world's two largest religions, Islam and Christianity. Few who write about these two religions stress the similarities of their common histories and belief set, preferring instead to focus on their differences. This results in war or what we now call terrorism.

Each side fears that the other will take over the ground it has won over many centuries. Despite the fact that each believes in religious tolerance and peace, some members of each have turned to violence and hatred as the only ways they believe the other can be stopped.

Neither religion wants to find the common ground for the two religions because it fears the other may take advantage of that as a weakness and trample it into oblivion.

The strongest belief for many people of each religion is that the other is wrong. That belief is hard to change, especially hard because it is based on fear.

Fear is our strongest emotion. Anyone who lives in fear is susceptible to any kind of evidence that appears to support or justify that fear. As Lichtenberg said, it may be blind belief that ignores the facts or the efforts of others to bring the two factions together, to bring peace.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the connection between blind belief and fear.
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