Losing our religion: Oh no, I’ve said too much

By Lee Feder

Organized religion is the source of most conflict in the world. Believing in God is not unjustifiable. Believing in religious principles is not wrong. However, segmenting people by tenets fundamental to their worldview demarcates inherently incompatible sects that logically must conflict with one another.

A brief look around the world corroborates that religion causes a great deal of strife. The Jews and the Muslims in Israel have been in constant conflict for six decades following a relative peace filled with British (Anglican) oppression of both. In Iraq, religious war between the two principle groups within Islam, Shi’ites and Sunnis, is consuming the state. Military exchanges similarly dominated Northern Ireland a few decades ago with conflict between Catholics and Protestants. In East Asia, Muslims and Hindus keep the world on edge by periodically escalating strife over control of the Kashmir province.

Perhaps most poignantly, within the United States there is a non-violent religious war reeking hell on American culture. Were it not for President Bush’s appeal to pious Christians, he would not have taken control of the White House in 2000 or been reelected in 2004. As crafty leaders often do, he manipulated a group’s core values to advance his own agenda by supporting his positions with God’s word instead of good policy or logic.

Politicians and cultural leaders exploiting people’s beliefs particularly harm the United States. Political analysts have for years safely “given” the Christian vote to President Bush because he strenuously opposes abortion and gay marriage (since all Christians are identical people who vote the same way.) These Christians overlook the ideological conflicts within their own beliefs. If abortion is wrong because it is tantamount to murder, how do fundamentalist Christians justify Bush’s ardent support for the death penalty. If gay marriage is immoral because the Bible says so, what about the slavery that Leviticus 25:44-46 condones?

Moreover, the coalescence of religious fanatics has allowed idiocy to enter the public discourse. There is no “theory of creation.” Creationism is a belief with no objective support. Unfortunately, people confuse a lack of evidence with falsity. People ignore that although evolution rests on evidence it does not give a final answer. After all, if the Big Bang proves true, who created that which exploded? What caused the explosion? To publicly condone certain religious beliefs, though, defines America as a fundamentalist Christian-only nation, which the Constitution refutes.

As the Founders understood, religions differ, but no single one is “better” than any other. However, the delineation of people into religious groups creates cultural tension, especially when the factions devolve into fundamentalist sects which has happened domestically with evangelical Christians and in the Middle East with the (U.S. supported) Wahhabis.

Ultimately, if people followed Jesus’ advice to keep their religion personal, the world would be a less violent place. If rabbis did not denounce all Palestinians and if Mullahs’ lacked the standing to promote jihad, Jews and Muslims would have less divisive worldviews.

Christians need to spend less time discussing Christian principles and more time living them; Muslims need to stop arguing that Islam is peaceful and demonstrate it. As the world currently exists, we obsess over superficial defining characteristics, skin color, religion, etc. and their advantages over others’ attributes while ignoring underlying philosophical principles and ideas.

Organized religion fails because it segregates and constructs a confrontational mindset. Inter-religion struggles represent the most egotistical confrontations in history. The evil in religion emanates from the never-ending fight to prove correct one definition of good where no such explicit definition exists.

When I close my eyes at night and envision the world I want, the society I expect, and the peace I demand, it features people interacting and following their hearts regardless of their religion. To realize that fantasy, we need not wear our stars on our shirt or crosses on our necks to define who we are; we exist regardless.