Religious warfare is not a relic in the dust of history. It is not something that used to happen and no longer does because humanity has “evolved’ beyond such barbarity. No, as the daily news reminds us all the time, religious warfare is still very much with us, and is endemic to many corners of society — even in countries which are not officially at war with anyone.
The attitudes that provide the soil in which the seeds of such warfare can grow are almost everywhere. It is hard to find a corner of the world in which no one harbors some sort of prejudice or sense of superiority. Such prejudice and sense of superiority, however, are attitudes that start in several places at the same time, making the resolution of the problem of religious warfare a complicated one.
Most attitudes start at home, in childhood, with the influence of the parents and the community around the family. Attitudes are also a by-product of tradition — which itself comes out of long-held cultural beliefs — often prejudicial — which in turn were born centuries ago under malefic influences.
Some of those malefic influences come not only from prejudicial and judgmental teachers, but also from religious beliefs and traditions, not all of which are in harmony with the unconditional love of God. However, the majority of worshipers from any faith are peace-loving and do not want to use their religion as a springboard for war; only minorities within each faith wish to do so, so credit must be given to those who are essentially peaceful. Anyone who wants to, however, can find excuses for prejudice and war within the scriptures, by isolating certain passages without the larger context tin which they may appear. It can be argued that these ancient books must be reformed so that everything is in accordance with God’s will and God’s law. Until that happens, however, humanity must use its intelligence to discriminate between the true and the false, between Light and Darkness, between universal love and limited, conditional love and its tendency toward vengeance in God’s name.
If you read the holy books carefully, you will find passages that reflect the true justice of God, as well as our fundamental commonality as children of God. For example, in the Qur’an, 60:8:
“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes — from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
In other words, killing people just because they are not Muslim is a crime against God as well as humanity.
From the Bible, New Testament, Book of Colossians, 3:9-11:
“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him– a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”
In other words, no one has the right to say one group of people is less worthy than another — which is what those who kill people of different faiths have done.
From the Upanishads:
“Who sees all beings in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”
In other words, if we are all connected as children of God, what right does any of us have to shoot someone of another culture or faith?
Let us imagine, for a moment, that we are in a crowd of worshipers of different faiths in a large temple built for the purpose of helping to unite people of all backgrounds under the one God who loves us all equally and unconditionally. Why are we all there? To get over-excited and riled up against each other for being different? No, we are all gathered in that temple to seek an experience of celebrating our common spiritual bond as eternal children of God, regardless of which earthly religion we may have been born into. If this is possible, then so is a cease-fire between two groups of people of different faiths out on a battlefield. If this is possible, so is the re-education of radical religious terrorists — after all, are they not children of God gone astray? And has God ever let any of His children fall by the wayside without picking them up and urging them to return to the bosom of truth, repentance, forgiveness, right understanding, unconditional love and compassion?
The history of the world is full of stories about men and women of one faith taking up arms against their brothers and sisters of another faith, including persecution, torture and outright murder. All of this is clearly contrary to God’s Will, and to the nature of our innermost souls. Defending one’s faith with violence — be it verbal or physical — must be a thing of the past; defending the unity of God’s love by reaching out across the globe with compassion and forgiveness must be the practice of the future — and we can start right now!
Let us pray:
“O Divine One, we pray for all thy children, whether they be on the path of truth and the Light or on the path of falsehood and Darkness. We know that we are all one spiritual family. Help us all to come together in peace, forgiveness, and universal love, and to create a world in which all may live in harmony. AMEN.”
Rev. Roger Davidson