7/28/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
First of all, I wish to thank those who so well responded to my previous posting “Times Must be Difficult for True Believers.” There are times when I wonder if what l write is “preaching to the choir,” and am thereby inclined to become discouraged. I'm sure I am not alone on this. Your responses usually offer even more input to what I have written. They are experiences and commentaries I value just as much as my own.
Peace in the Middle East: A Way Forward
A peaceful Middle East is an oxymoron. A major reason for this has always been the tradition of what the national media (in fear of religion, I'm sure) refers to as “sectarian strife.” Considering that the region consists of religious sects aplenty, the inﬁghting tradition is kindling waiting to burst into ﬂame with every provocation, however slight. Property is destroyed, members of factions maim and murder each other, and governments are stressed out. After a war in which hundreds of thousands of lives perished, infrastructure was decimated, and the U.S. spent an estimated three trillion dollars before departing, “sectarian” violence still persists in Iraq.
Over and over, the same patterns repeat themselves, with no real resolution. Peace talks fail and accords are tenuous at best. Notice that in spite of the fact that the cause of so much violence is religious differences, no one, nowhere, in governments or media, dares to challenge religious claims to privileged status and respect, as if it has nothing to do with their problems. And this is in spite of the fact that the soil is soaked and the waters have run with the blood of believers of each of the religious factions for thousands of years, and this still continues. What is to be done?
Wouldn't the best answer to ending thousands of years of bloodshed and misery in the Middle East be to resolve sectarian differences once and for all?
Here is one suggestion: hold a religious summit in a public court of law with representatives, experts, theologians, and clergy of all the faiths. Have each and every faith and sect of that faith present their cases and the evidence for their claims. Allow all the time needed, even years if necessary, to come to conclusions. Have the best legal minds of the world available to assist them. Spare no expense. (Surely the payoff would be peace and the saving of lives, and far more has been spent throughout the centuries in warfare and civil rights abuses there.)
Weighing all the factors, let the evidence be revealed so that all will be in agreement as to what is really true, which may not be what has necessarily been traditionally believed. Let judgment be passed, based on those findings, and may that judgment stand.
Tragically, this scenario will never take place. And so, tragically, more lives will be wasted, more homes destroyed, more refugees from these nations will strain the resources of others, still more will seek asylum in countries where religion does not dominate. This scenario will not take place simply because evidence and truth have nothing to do with religious systems, any more than any other superstitions do.
You can see how such a “summit” would threaten every religion. The implicit message is this: Let the thousands suffer and die rather than openly challenge beliefs.
The problems between differing sects holding “the truth” is embodied in the inner workings of the religions themselves - and individuals who take them most seriously. Nothing is resolved, and the individuals become conﬂicted with their own desires, conscience, and wills, in striving to live up to their belief systems. Indeed, as the Islamic believers point out, the word “jihad” means not only a war with the forces outside the religion, but a struggle against the inclinations of one's own nature. Such a state is a pressure cooker without an adequate steam-release valve, waiting to explode in any direction, and that valve is controlled by religious leaders who decide the outlets to their advantage.
But, natural inclinations are only natural. Feelings are only feelings, neither “good” nor “bad.” It is only actions that are good and bad, with various shadings.
All the sectarian problems in the Middle East, as well as anywhere else, are man-made. Religions create problems where they damned sure ought not to be. So, it isn't just a matter of physical lives destroyed or disrupted, but mental and psychological ones as well.
Why just keep giving religions privileged status and never criticizing them? Give me a break. Too much is hanging on this war against reason, with beliefs in punitive invisible powers impeding everything worthwhile in life. Put them on trial. Drag out the claims and “evidence” into the spotlights. I want to see some guts with the media, while they still have free speech. The kind of guts we ﬁnd on this site would be a start.