Anguished by the violence and angry rhetoric justified by both the righteous religious and non-religious I am moved to begin blogging on this site for progressive talk today. I hope we can have a conversation about this important topic because the world is in a mess and the responses have been mostly terrible. I’ve heard many progressives blame all religion for the violence, citing the horrible histories of the organized religions as evidence. I think this is due to a misunderstanding at the intersection of politics and religion. My father used to tell me, “If you want to get along with people never talk about politics or religion, and I learned not to talk to him about them. But to me, especially in light of world events, I want to share my viewpoint to add to your perspective.
The term “religious war” is an oxymoron, in my mind, because the words are opposites, in that they do not connect. That is the connecting of politics to religion is a political act. I have an old Dictionary from the 1960s that defines religion as “one’s relationship with the powers and principles of the Universe, …or God” Religion is personal, “look within,” and in the realm of the inner individual, war is in the realm of the outer collective, where politics resides. Politics is “the practice and theory of influencing other people on a global, civic or individual level.” So anyone claiming that their religion beseeches them to proselytize or make war or commit violent or belligerent acts they are being political, trying to influence other people, not enrich their inner relationship with the universe or God. That does not mean politics has to be bad, however, because people can be influenced in good ways too but should be understood as political not religious. It is a good thing all religious adherents aren’t violent, only a tiny percentage are, or there would be fighting everywhere.
The bridges between the divisions in our society need to be built with understanding, something the media would consider unprofitable, no doubt. Understanding is “the ability to comprehend while being sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant, forgiving and having insight or good judgment.” I recently heard an African woman talking about violent clashes in Nigeria between Christians and Muslims explaining how it was not a religious issue at all, rather it was political violence being pursued by men. She is right and it applies to all the so-called religious conflicts in the world. She was part of a group of women organizing women to protect their children and their churches and mosques from this political violence. The women on both sides saw religion as peace and that if you’re not about peace, you’re not really about religion. It made me think that there is no greater sin in any religion than to justify violence or authoritarianism with your religion.
Every religion honors the Golden Rule as a central tenet, those who ignore that in order to pursue violence or oppression in the name of “defending” their religion are on some very shaky ground. Besides, anyone who believes their God needs defending must believe they have a weak God, not an all-powerful one. I think our society needs to make a concerted effort to understand religion as one’s relationship with God and not some mission to make people all think alike. Our world was created so extremely diverse it boggles our imagination, every grain of sand, every leaf all similar yet uniquely individual just as we all are. There is a Divine lesson in that.
The root of all collective human conflict is economic injustice. The media, owned by large financial institutions, does not want you to think about that. Instead they think up all kinds of other things to blame, religion, race, drugs, aggression, bad individuals, whatever. I think it is all to divert us from any focus on the economic disparities that have been created by design, not by chance or Providence, but by powerful institutions run by powerful men. Such a system exploits innovation for products and services to be sold for profit but resists any innovation in beneficial products that cannot be exploited for profits or in how our international banking and monetary system could work to solve poverty, unemployment and war world around, instead of creating it. To use religion as a justification for spoiling Creation for future generations is risky if you believe your actions in life will be judged in the end. There are some good examples to emulate, Jesus, Gandhi, King and many others.
Tennessee Republicans have introduced legislation that would establish the authority of God in the state’s constitution and I’m sure they will insist they know what He says. When talking to voters, they really can’t afford to tone it down, because while the rich tend to be secular, selling free-market pillage to the people getting robbed is not a very effective strategy. So they have to mask their agenda behind appeals to popular religion so the non-rich will vote against their own economic interests. This is too bad, because the way back to the Garden is in the other direction, not economic domination by the financial elite, but democratic sovereignty by a nation of free citizens. Everyone holds in their heart the vision of the peaceful garden, the harmonious world we all want, there has just been too much confusion on what we need to do to get there. I believe we need to revive the American Revolution and not allow the financial elite to make off with our economic sovereignty this time. And that my friends is going to be the thrust of this blog, to promote national and international economic sovereignty as the cornerstone of a new world democracy.