The Religion Factor
Earlier I made the point that intolerance of differing religious beliefs has played a “role” in almost every conflict that surfaces on this planet. To this a reader responds:
“Are you seriously claiming that the troubles in Northern Ireland, for instance, are because Catholics are Catholics and Protestants are Protestants?”
Actually, that is about a thousand miles from what I am saying. There are millions of Protestants and Catholics coexisting here in the United States and other countries and they certainly do not go to war with each solely because of religious differences.
There is a reason for this.
But first let me comment on the idea that religious belief systems do encompass more than orthodox systems. Basically the point of belief systems that causes the conflict is differing ideas of what is right and what is wrong.
Even though communism is basically atheistic, they have very strong ideas of right and wrong that is pursued with religious fervor and intolerance. This firm belief and intolerance has caused a high percentage of communist nations to be a threat to bordering nations as well as differing belief systems within their borders.
The reason that religion does not cause a major problem within most of the nations of the free world is that rule is established by democratic vote where all religious people have a chance at governing offices. But if we look at the initiating factors of war in our history and the hot spots of the current world situation we will find a common thread.
The common thread is that in almost every case a strong belief system is very dominate in a certain geographical area.
Again if we look at World War II we find that the Nazis had very strong religious type beliefs of what was right and what was wrong and when their domination extended to encompass the whole nation of Germany, they became a major threat to the world.
The other major threat to the free world during the great war was Japan which was dominated by an emperor who the people esteemed to be God in the flesh. It was largely because if the great religious hold that the emperor had on the hearts of the people that they proceeded so aggressively in his name toward world dominion.
I am convinced that if the Axis Powers had won World War II that the next conflict would have been the Nazis against the Japanese.
Because the religious beliefs of the two groups were both zealous and incompatible.
Now let us look at the problem in Northern Ireland. I lived for two years in Great Britain and talked to thousands of common people about religion so I have a fairly good feel of religious thought there. The dominate church overall is the Church of England, but most of the English do not take religion that seriously. However, the Irish Catholics are another matter. They seem to take their religion much more seriously than American Catholics do and many have great resentment that Ireland is subject to the commonwealth that is overall dominated by the Church of England who they view as an upstart religion. If the Commonwealth were dominated by the Catholic Church I would venture to bet that the conflict in Ireland would not exist.
In other words, if the Irish Catholics felt that they were governed by someone who saw eye to eye with them religiously, there would be peace.
Question: Are you claiming that the problems in the Middle East are because Jews are Jews, and Muslims are Muslims?
Again, it is not because Jews are Jews and Muslims are Muslims per se, but it is because these two religions so dominate the two sides of the equation in their territories making their differences very obvious and so easy to hate.
Here in America the two sects get along fairly well because neither has much power to impose their will upon the other.
The religious ideology of these two groups is obviously a cause of much of the danger that exists, not only for the Middle East, but for the world as a whole.
Many of the Muslim leaders in the Middle East call the United States “the great Satan,” that needs to be utterly destroyed by holy wars. This belief has a purely religious foundation that has been the cause of much terrorism and destruction of U.S. lives and property.
Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm called upon all his neighboring countries “in the name of Allah” to unite with him in defeating the great Satan. He believed he was in an end time “mother of all wars” to destroy his enemies in the name of his God.
Today many of the Palestinians believe that the Jews are out of favor with Allah and believe the only solution is similar to Hitler’s “Final Solution” that they need to be completely eliminated – that Israel as a state should be wiped off the map.
Israel does not want the neighboring nations completely destroyed, but because the Bible declares that God has given them certain lands to hold on to “forever” they will strive until they conquer and hold such lands so God will not be made to appear a liar.
One fortunate event is occurring, however. The younger generation of these religious groups has contact with the outside world to a much greater extent than did their forefathers and they tend to not see so much black and white in their religion. Many of these would accept the Principles of Unification if they had a chance to examine them.
Question: Do you believe that the Spanish conquest was seriously and primarily in order to convert the “heathen” to Christianity, and not because of a pretty naked greed and lust for gold, and land?
As I said, religion played a strong role in all these conflicts. Lust for other people’s property played a part it is true, but lust for English or French property did not make the Spanish so brazen in conquest as they were toward the Native Americans.
The difference in approach was due largely to religious beliefs.
When Cortés and other Conquistadors arrived what struck them even more than the possibility of riches was that the natives were “heathen” and their belief systems were far removed from the teachings of the Bible as they saw it. Even more important to many of them than gold was to make sure that, if these natives did indeed have souls, they then be saved. They therefore forced then to bow to the crucified Christ on the cross or die.
Montezuma’s belief in the coming of his white God Quetzalcoatl caused him to yield his powerful empire to Cortéz and a couple dozen men. This yielding to religious belief by the native Americans made them look like easy pry and thus many other Spaniards were encouraged and came to conquer other lands in the Americas in “the name of Christ.”
The Conquistadors mistreated the American Indians much more than fellow Christian nations because they were not sure if they had souls. Because of this belief they thought nothing of enslaving the native population and killing anyone who may complain.
Question: Do you claim that the conflicts in the Balkans are also due to irreconcilable theological differences between Christians and Muslims?
Yes, I am going to say that. Again we had a predominately Christian group against a predominately Moslem group with religious differences being a prime cause of hatred.
Question: Are the Chinese in Tibet primarily to convert them to their officially atheist ideology??
This, in addition to retrieving ancient territories, was indeed their goal.
After the conquest of Tibet, despite the promise of religious liberties the Chinese forced many Tibetans to deny their faith and killed and tortured many monks and eventually the Dalai Lama had to flee for his life.
Overall 1.2 million Tibetans have died from the Chinese occupation (as of 2001), many from starvation.
One in every ten Tibetans has been imprisoned by the Chinese government for periods up to 10 and 20 years many for religious differences. The use of torture against Tibetan prisoners of conscience is widespread. Women-including nuns-suffer sexual violence and rape.
As a means of further reducing the Tibetan population, Tibetan women are subject to strict birth-control policies, including forced or coerced sterilization and abortions. This reflects a religious type of belief system with the Chinese.
Nearly all of Tibet’s 6,200 monasteries have been looted and destroyed, and most of their irreplaceable religious texts and artworks have been lost.
There is no freedom of speech, press or religion in Tibet. It is illegal even to own a picture of the Dalai Lama. Reading a web page such as this from Tibet could land a person in jail or worse.
To increase the power of indoctrination schools are forbidden to use the Tibetan Language.
A quote from an interview with a Tibetan refugee sums it up: “[The Chinese] distributed land and for many of us it was the first land we had worked for ourselves. Then when our granaries began to fill they taxed and rationed us and nationalized all property. We own nothing now, not even our souls and our dignity.”
An escaped monk tells this story:
A monk named Palden Gyatso spent 31 years under Chinese imprisonment, and finally escaped in mid-1992, had many a story to tell. He spoke of being tortured with electric batons. About the size of a collapsible umbrella, an electric baton has a button on the handle where the thumb rests. At a touch of this, a 70,000-volt-shock is released through two prongs at the nozzle of the baton, fashioned so that it can be inserted in a person’s body. Gyatso, who led a 100-strong force of freedom fighters during the 1959 nationalist uprising in Lhasa, spoke of being prodded with a baton which gave him electric shocks all over his body (Guardian). It was also forced between his clenched teeth, breaking off four of them, then plunged into his throat and the maximum shock applied. This monk also recounted the many times he lay unconscious, covered in vomit and urine. Gyatso also described other instruments of torture used against him. Evidence of thumb links were deep scars on his wrists. These thumb links are sharp-edged handcuffs, which were used to manacle his hands together behind his back, one arm crooked over his shoulder, the other pushed up in a half-nelson. As the time of his escape came near, Gyatso became increasingly obsessed that no one would know what had happened to him and thousands of others, and even more importantly, that no one would believe him. Therefore, with the small amount of funds he accrued from his jobs at prison labor camps, he bribed Chinese guards into selling him some electric batons and thumb links. With these possessions in hand, this man, who had trained for a life of prayer and now sees his only purpose as a witness of Chinese barbarity, made a daring flee to India. Since then he has enlightened international leaders and the general public as to the blatant human rights violations against Tibetans.
Try and tell this monk that religious differences did not cause his people pain and suffering.
Differing religions and philosophical beliefs can coexist peacefully as long as there is understanding and equal opportunity for all. But when one line of thought dominates at the exclusion of others then any opposing belief is in danger of persecution. – because it is the nature and disposition of almost all leaders to misuse authority and power.
There is hope in creating a more peaceful planet in reminding people of all religions that all men and women are brothers and sisters and that to love one another is much more pleasing to all versions of Deity than hate.
August 17, 2001
Copyright by J J Dewey
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