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Vital Perspective said in February 4th, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Jordan’s King Abdullah II Visits New Orleans, Mississippi…

King Abdullah II of Jordan was in the Deep South on Friday, touring parts of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The king said he had spoken with Mayor Ray Nagin, who accompanied him on the tour, and discussed ways Jordan might help the city r…

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Amy said in February 6th, 2006 at 6:16 pm

“[T]he people who abuse religion, and not the relgions themselves, are responsible for belief-based terrorism.”

That’s a very nice and oft-repeated idea, but I don’t know if I entirely agree with that. While I acknowledge that the majority of people who follow any given religion are peaceful (if not necessarily progressive), it seems to me that when volatile political/economic situations meet ancient religions with violent roots (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the most salient of these), extremism and bloodshed is almost always the unfortunate result.

But what do I mean when I say that these major monotheistic religions have “violent roots”? I mean that, not only are their holy texts fraught with descriptions of martyrdom and violent battles, but that all of these religions have some kind of message to encourage the maintainance and expansion of the faith (often, if we learn by examples in these holy texts, by whatever means necessary). More importantly, though, each of these major religions promotes an “us vs. them” paradigm, wherein the followers of the faith are the good guys, and the non-convertible are “infidels,” “unsaved,” “heathens,” and “enemies of the faith.” In pluralistic, “PC” cultures like ours, the people who cling tooth and nail to this dualistic paradigm are on the fringes of society (i.e. Mike Bray, Timothy McVeigh, etc.), but this is not the case in less economically developed cultures. Even in non-theocracies, the devoutly politico-religious are often a populous and powerful force to contend with.

And then there’s the issue of where faith-based identity ends and political/ethnic/cultural identity begins. In the Middle East especially, that line is extremely blurred. The way many middle easterners see it, they are not “extremists” who “abuse their religion for ideological/political gain,” they simply understand some of the teachings of their religion to mean that they have a god-given duty to protect their people and their way of life.

In fact, some who have resorted to belief-based violence justify their actions by claiming that they are working for the good of all of humankind. Jewish and Christian “extremists”/”activists” come to mind. Some Jews believe that, until they restore the holy land to Jewish control, and erect a temple on a certain spot, the Messiah cannot come and save mankind. Similarly, Christian “postmillinealists” believe that they as Christians are responsible for creating the political conditions necessary for a 1,000-year reign of a worldwide Christian theocracy, which they understand to be a pre-requisite for Christ’s second-coming.

So yes, IMHO religion itself is largely, if not exclusively, responsible for the violent acts of its devoted followers. Organized religion (which will ALWAYS be its prevalent manifestation- collective action and group identity are powerful things) provides an unmistakable “us and them” dichotomy that is all too easy for people to exploit or misinterpret. And are these “extremists” really misinterpreting their religion? I could get into a classic materialist justification for religion and how it’s outlived its practical purpose, but that’s another rant for another day. So I leave you with this:

“Imagine there’s no heaven,
it’s easy if you try,
no Hell below us,
above us only sky…
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…”

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sox said in February 21st, 2006 at 1:44 pm

each time you refer to him as the king , i think elvis and jerry lawler

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Rima said in April 6th, 2006 at 6:31 pm

Sorry, Sox.

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