On LinkedIn’s Sociology Religious group, Aman Shah of Pakistan asked a simple question: Does local / religious leader play an important role in settling feuds?
Well, not as simple as to garner a simple answer as “No.” In fact, it is not just religious leaders and not just local conflicts that use religion as a source of division. We see this on a geopolitical level as well.
Here in the United States, the idea of religious and political leaders using religion as a source of conflict began well before the birth of the Founding Fathers. We see religion in the midst of the conflict in the Massachusetts’ Bay Colony between William Bradford and Roger Williams that caused the latter to be banished from Plymouth to start Rhode Island Colony and Plantation.
During the presidential election of 1800, those who supported Thomas Jefferson used John Adam’s religion as a cause for alarm that he would force Christianity on all Americans. Adams’ following warned against Jefferson for he would abolish Christianity as a recognized religion. Both were wrong, of course, but that did not stop partisan newspapers from reporting their skewed side of the conflict.
In the 20th century, the United States again used religion as a tool in the Cold War with the “godless commies” of the former Soviet Union, Cuba and China. In the mid-1950s, “In God We Trust” became the national motto and was ordered by Congress to be placed on all currency.
Today, the “war against Christianity” is still being waged by more conservative and fundamentalist Christian sects, especially against the “godless atheists and humanists” in our mists. Religious leaders from these Christian churches have also advanced the war on terrorism as a war against Islam, for all Muslims must be terrorists. That Muslims believe in a different god, Allah, and must be stopped from spreading their heathenish message throughout the world, especially in the United States.
These same leaders advance the misconception that the U.S. is a Christian nation, not by virtue of the population but by law; thus secular humanists, atheists, agnostics and people of faiths other than Christianity become evil – the enemy. We know this is a false perception, but the “feud” is enhanced through the media and pulpit.
Overseas we saw sectarian conflicts in the “Troubles” in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, Jews versus Muslims in the Palestine, Christians versus Muslims in central Africa and the Middle East. We see it in Sunni versus Shi’ite in the Arab nations.
Wars are fought because of religious differences and for territory, as we are now seeing in Russia and the Crimea. We saw it as a secular war, mostly, during World War I. But religion and religious sword flailing was most prevalent during the Holocaust of World War II in Europe, along with ethnic cleansing in China and Korea.
We use religion because it is the easiest way to discern differences. We use ethnicity to differentiate “Them” versus “Us.” We use religion to have our god on our side and not “Theirs;” that god’s blessing are only for “Us” and never for “Them” for “They” are evil. All of “Them,” without exception.
Just ask the rabbi, priest and imam who preach hate instead of love, differences instead to common humanity, and conflict instead of understanding.