Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Religion and Violence

One of the problems with religion (of any sort) is they don't always deliver what they promise. It would be nice to believe religions generally make for better living, that they involve godly urges, and improve the cultures they impact. Except history shows that that for every Gandhi or Mother Teresa, there are examples of something else religion can arouse.

Muslim extremists aren't the only ones using violent means to achieve their ends. In the United States, we have, in the extreme Christian right, the militias. A recent story was about one with the idea of killing people to bring on the Apocalypse. We all know the gods can't take care of business without some human help.

Religions encourage their adherents to believe they are right-- sometimes with a simple sense of moral superiority but sometimes at the point of a sword.

How widespread do you expect this kind of thing to become?

(This week-end we watched 'Goya's Ghosts' which is about the Spanish painter Francisco Goya and the Spanish Inquisition. It is about how religion, when it has too much power, can become abusive. It's not a pleasant film but it is a powerful one.)


Paul said...

The fact that some people of a certain religion practice violence does not mean that religion is bad. Non-secular "isms" have produced a lot of violence too. Witness Mao, Stalin and Hitler for example. Fanatics pervert religion and isms for their own purposes. They use God to make it seem right and I hold them, not God, responsible for that blasphemy.

Rain said...

That's the argument we hear about everything, Paul, when adherents don't want to take responsibility. Like when the environmentalist fringes put stakes in trees to hurt loggers if they cut them. It didn't stop the right though from lumping all environmentalists into the same group.

Here though the issue is not about blaming all religions. It's about stopping people from justifying something evil when it happens. There were right wing talk programs that did justify this as they did when the guy flew his plane into the IRS building. Is there accountability for anybody about anything?

The main question here is-- are we about to experience more of it? If the ones perpetrating the violence got in control, would they become like the Catholic Church did in Goya's day?

There is another interesting aspect to that film. IF you confessed under torture, and most did, like the young girl Natalie Portman played, then there was no forgiveness or way out. They could not admit that anybody would confess under torture and like Cheney today they had to see it as all good.

IF religion gained power like that today, where it could do such, as our government so recently did and for all we know still does, would religion use that power-- any religion? That's the real question and it's about power as much as religion. Religion is one of those things though that wants to claim itself above such abuses-- while it regularly exhibits it but the faithful must look the other way.

Religion btw has nothing to do with god or god's desires. It is about humans. It does not prove god is one who likes torture... but what it would say is that if god intervenes, then maybe he/she/it does because otherwise why wouldn't god stop it?

wally said...

Over the past 30 years or so the evangelical fundamentalists in this country have joined in an unholy alliance with the far right factions of the Republican party. They seem to be pushing the agenda of the Christian Reconstructionist movement which is to create a Christian theocracy in this country. They think it is their duty, mandated by God, to bring about Armageddon by waging war in the Middle East. And while they're waiting for the Second Coming they plan to enforce Old Testament law on the citizens of this country relegating women back to their submissive roles as wives and mothers. Dissenters, adulterers,and homosexuals would be exterminated. Violence would be government policy. Life would be no different than under the Taliban. During the 2008 election campaigns I walked away from the Southern Baptist church I had attended for years because of the anger and spite exhibited by people I had thought were kind and spiritual. The Southern Baptists are more political than Christian. What's happening with Christians today does not resemble the life that is presented in the scriptures.

Annotated Margins said...

I see three kinds of religion:
1) that which is political
2) that which is social
3) that which is kept to one's self.

The second has a tendency to become the first. Both have a tendency to get out of hand.

The third is personal, cherished like a loving memory, shared with those whom we care about.

Bumps Stump said...

Hi Rain . . It's interesting for me to look in on some of your comments on religion. Especially fascinating to observe the links to the right wingnuts, Bush, Cheney, and so forth. In a way it's kind of sad that you are so determined slam these people just because they don't agree with you.

Oh well, as you know, I think serious questions usually have more than one answer, and that debating them has a way of centering and reaching an agreement. Sometimes compromise is the best either side can do.

Of course, I'm refering to political arguments . . but should not the same concept preside over a contentious discussion of religion?

The text of the Qu'ran includes several nasty thoughts. Certainly it contains more stinkers than the Holy Bible. Yet they both have a pretty good share of bad stuff. Comparing the two religions it is crystal clear at once that neither has an unblemished record of humanity.

Christian history is filled with examples of brutality, murder, and worse. It is a fact that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, have been killed in the name of the Christian church. The Crusades. The Inquistition. The corrupt ambitions of clergy. And so on.

Islamic history contains similar terrible events that we now view as not acceptable in any modern society.

So what?

The danger to humanity comes from fanatic radical extremists who fail to accept that their Holy Book, the one that is the foundation of their belief system . . . contains terrible errors, events of brutality, and meaningless wars. Until they finally figure out that extreme religious fundamentalism on both sides is wrong ... there will be conflict.

Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Idi Amin, and many other evil leaders, were from the lunatic fringes of their respective societies, and they all used hate and fear to pursue power.

Without making any attempt to compare or equate evil intent, I find several extremists on today's stage planting seeds of hate: Rev. Farrakhan, Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Wright, Morris Dees, and many more of the radical fringe and often evangelical leaders on the Christian side, to be acting against the people they serve.

These guys are almost as dangerous as the fringe environmentalists like your tree stakers. . . and the people who are always right.

Hope your morning coffee is great!


You might find this link interesting:


Rain said...

hi dixon and yes, my morning coffee was good. My point about Cheney is only because he's still out there justifying what the Spanish Inquisition justified. He hasn't left it behind and therefore, it's still a possibility to see it happen again.

And the right wingnuts did justify the guy who flew into the IRS building and these Christian militia types. What I would like to see is both sides turn against wingnuts and recognize that by saying anything moderate about them, it encourages more to do the same thing. As i mentioned, the left wing can go way out also. Some years ago, we had a building burned near us because it was a forestry company. If we defend such, we are not helping the situation.

Some religious leaders have spoken out against the extremes. More should or this kind of thing becomes a crusade. I agree that the extreme wackos, like the guy who sent letter bombs to college professors, are the ones we have to fear; but if they have an environment in their communities (of course that guy had no community) that makes it seem logical to do what they are doing, then that is wrong too. Words have meaning and the bloggers/radio talk guys who spurt out the hate talk aren't innocent in what happens next. When such people say Obama is trying to destroy this country, is a terrorist, etc etc. tell me what that might do to a mind that is already distorted? It's not wrong to draw comparisons that are accurate, to question where things are going but everybody needs to be careful to what level that goes.

Rain said...

and I don't think I am discussing Bush with this. He's not out there defending torture. If you haven't seen Goya's Ghosts, I recommend it for the risks of political and religious excesses and how they impact, ordinary innocent people. Although the exact story is fiction, the setting and historical context is accurate. Today we have seen a lot of that return in a way that is very disturbing, not under the banner of religion (unless you think about the boys abused under priests while nothing was done about it) but it is a very real risk when power is corrupted.

Kay Dennison said...

I agree with you as you know. And I think that old Bumps has drunk too much of the kool-aid.

Right now I'm struggling with my own church so I'm a bit detached from the right wing Christians at the moment but I still don't think they are acting in a Christ-like manner just as the radical Islam isn't acting like Mohammed.

Just my take.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I find it very difficult to get attached to any Religion. I am Jewish by birth and culturally, as well....And I enjoy the Heritage of my family and feel related to most other Jews by familiarity of these cultural things. I am not interested in being involved in or belonging to any Temple or "practicing" the religious part of it....And have no iterest whatsoever in any other organized religion, either. I believe I am a spritual person and live my life in a decent and human way.
I find it very hard to buy into many of the things the Bible tells us because I know it was written by Men and re-written over and over by men, ad infinitum....I do not believe it is the word of "GOD". It is the word(s) of men.
The Cruelty that seems to be part and parcel of so many religions is repugnant to me and it is what "man" has brought to all of it. Things done in the name of God which have no relation to any God that I may believe in---well, it just makes me angry. These things are done by "MAN" and the fact that most of the time none of these people want to take responsability for any of it--Well, I do not want to have anything to do with any of it, and I don't understand the people that do.

I would very much like to see that film and will put it on my Netflix Queue...And Thank You for that, my dear.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I gave Goyas Ghosts a 4 on Netflix. In L.A. there will be a new Cardinal when Cardinal Mahony retires. It's all over the news. He will be the first Latino cardinal in the U.S. He holds the hard line theologically but is liberal with immigration and some other issues.

I'm studying the Old Testament this year and it sure is clear that religion does seem to breed violence in so many cases--and it's that way cross-culturally over time.

Rain Trueax said...

A link that might apply to this subject. Francisco de Goya