Sunday, October 26, 2014

Stop fighting over who created the world

I love memes, so when I saw this one, similar to one I blogged about on my environment blog, I thought it worth a brief comment.

It is a difficult sentiment to argue with, and why would you want to? The key is that violence should never be the solution to any problem, let alone metaphysical issues. Indeed, when Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, it seems to me that fundamentally Christianity is not about killing people for any reason.

That said, the meme betrays a couple of things, Firstly, we tend to take for granted that religion and politics should be separate (though I hope not that religious people shouldn't be in politics, these are not the same thing), and hence no issue (particularly in the middle east) is simply religious. It is political. Secondly, we would not want to forget the complex history of places like the middle east, and how western politics has helped shape the violence, even if it isn't the cause without remainder.

Thirdly, people are quit to forget that atheism kills as well as religion - think French Revolution, Hitler (he simply courted the church), Pol Pot, Mao, Stalin, Lenin, etc. These were all attempts to stamp an atheistic world view onto people, resulting in the death of religious leaders, intellectuals, pretty much anyone. It is intellectual dishonesty to suggest otherwise.

Dawkins would accuse people like me of compromise for not being literalists and fundamentalists. This is about as logical as accusing pacifist atheists of doing the same for not seeking to burn churches.

None of this is to deny the role religion plays in violence, and hence the meme as such is something I can agree with.

This leaves us with the opposite problem of the meme, which calls for us to fight against those who are destroying the world - in what sense can we 'fight' if we are opposed to fighting? Surely it doesn't mean it is ok to kill for non-religious reasons. It also doesn't mean we should go to war at the drop of a hat. It does mean that we should oppose violence in whatever form we find it, and perhaps pragmatically that means military interventions at times.

It does also mean we need to examine very carefully events that we see, and move past simplistic sloganeering.

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