Religion a main factor in wars
I am responding to Rev. Cliff Cutler’s belief that religion is the solution for and not the cause of violence (Jan. 15 issue).
All wars are not caused by religion, but there have been, and are, many wars where the main component is religion. There were the Crusades, the French Wars of Religion, war in Afghanistan and World War lI, to name a few. Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
But as much as religion can be a source of and alternative to violence (“Love thy neighbor…”), God and Bible have been used and abused through differing interpretations to justify heinous acts against others and yes, wars. Wars are not always about shooting. There are religious wars waged against women and gays. The Ku Klux Klan believed they were reestablishing Protestant Christianity and that Jesus was the First Klansman.
Literal readings of the Bible have been used to defend capital punishment and stoning of women. Capital punishment is still murder but is state-sanctioned murder. The Taliban ‘s fundamentalist interpretation of Islam has resulted in barbarism and war against women.
George W. Bush, who became a born-again Christian at age 40, said, “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did. And then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’ And I did.”
We know how misguided this justification was, but it is only one example of how people who believe in the idea of God speaking to them can justify any action. How about all the killers whom we have heard say, “God made me do it?” How about Pastor Hagee, who incited violence against gays by holding them responsible for Hurricane Katrina. He said, “Katrina struck because gays were planning a sinful parade.” An example of scapegoating, just as the Taliban said that the floods in Pakistan were because of schooling for girls.
I agree, as an atheist, that wars do occur even without religion. Politics and personal greed can move one to become violent and organize war. I am not convinced, though, that violence associated with religion is because “people have not been educated in their faith.” Many knowledgeable people do not think their violent impulses are at odds with their religion. Religion is just one activity that can help people become aware of and control violent impulses, but human history does not record that “an understanding of religion is the antidote.”
Free speech has ‘no qualifiers’
I loved Len Lear’s op-ed piece on the French cartoonists’ murders. It is superb. It should be online and tweeted. I am sending it to a friend in California who also was of the opinion that the cartoonists brought their deaths upon themselves. As you made clear, there is no appeasing these extremists, and freedom of speech has no qualifiers.
No Charlies here
So many people proclaiming, “je suis Charlie,” I am Charlie, after the tragic slaying of cartoonists and writers of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. In reality, so few of us stand up for a cause greater than ourselves.
I can think of no two groups less like Charlie than our political “leaders” and the mainstream media who cover them. Cut from different cloths, both strive to be members of the same club. Look no further than the White House correspondent’s dinner to understand what that club is all about. Mostly, about themselves.
Charlie Hebdo is irreverent and defiant: necessary ingredients to independent thinking, leadership and liberty. Politicians have no such inclination; quite the contrary. Public service is a by-product of their selfish personal interest. The public, mere pawns in the politician’s ego driven climb. Journalists, with rare exception, are most interested in gaining access to the politicians and doing nothing, like demanding accountability, that may jeopardize that access.
Offensiveness has no place. Being “in the club” is the end game. Listen to most any interview between a journalist and a politician: more mutual admiration than insightful conversation.
For the most part, truth seeking, fact finding, accountability and the public’s interest are riding the rails of narcissistic self-censoring, politicians and journalists. Je suis Charlie? Not in this club.
Christopher J. Dean