Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why Do People of Faith Fight?

Why do religious people fight? It seems to me that the root cause of inter–religious warfare is to determine whose religion is the right religion. Think about this for a moment. How do you know that your religion is true and another’s false? You can’t find any objective criteria for proving truth claims made by any religion. There is no way to know if Immaculate Conception, Virgin Birth, and Original Sin are true or not. You either believe in these things or you don’t. Believing doesn’t make it true any more than not believing makes it false. So how do you know what you believe is worth believing?

There are two classic answers to this question: Either you get lots of people to believe as you do, or you kill even more people for not believing as you do. Ideally you do both.

What intrigues me is how you get people to kill for their religion. I have tried to get people stirred up enough about what I hold to be true that they might consider a march on Rome or Jerusalem or Mecca, but nobody takes me seriously. I can’t even get one of my stronger students to challenge the Dalai Lama to an arm wrestling contest. What am I doing wrong?

Is it that I believe less strongly than others? No, I am adamant about what I believe. I am certain I am right, or at least that others are wrong. Seriously, I have no doubt that Jesus is not the Son of God, Mohammed is not the Seal of the Prophets, and Torah is not the Word of God or the Jews God’s Chosen People. While I find great wisdom in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I deny the basic truth claims of each, and would not die or kill for any of them. But then I wouldn’t die or kill for my ideas either.

Maybe that is the problem. I’m not willing to kill for what I believe, and have no desire to see anyone die for what I believe. Unless you are willing to kill and die for your beliefs no one takes you seriously.

While I can’t bring myself to do either of these things, perhaps I can get behind the idea that people who disagree with me will spend eternity in hell. I will work on this for a while and see if I can stomach condemning people to endless torture after they die. I suspect I will fail. Maybe I’m just not mean enough to be a real person of faith.

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