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Religion, Source of Conflict or of Peace?

Is religion largely a force for peace in the world, or does it often cause war and conflict?

All the Yes points:

  1. Religion is a stronger force than any material incentives. It is far better at directing behaviour …
  2. The very existence of theocratic states, for example, Iran, proves that religion can be a legitimate…
  3. Biblical commandments are the basis of Western ethical and legal systems. Religion teaches us toler…
  4. In the states where religion develops freely and people have free access to places of worship, churc…
  5. Most wars are not started by religion, although religion is often used by manipulative leaders in or…
  6. Western states grew as a result of religion and religious philosophy. Western European and North Am…

All the No points:

Religion is a stronger force than any material incentives. It is far better at directing behaviour …

Yes because…

Religion is a stronger force than any material incentives. It is far better at directing behaviour towards social betterment than either laws or physical force. For example, both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr conducted non-violent protests based upon religious beliefs. By contrast, states that reject religion, such as Revolutionary France, communist Russia and China, or Nazi Germany, are often brutal and aggressive.

No because…

Religion is extremely dangerous because it can be used to justify brutal actions. Crusaders not only killed many Muslims in their attempts to win control of the Holy Land, they also massacred many Jews and Eastern Christians in the process. The Inquisition carried out its torture in the name of God. Hitler’s followers, among them the so-called German Christians, were also believers in their Fuhrer. Religion should never be involved in politics because it can be used as an instrument of control or to achieve a ruler’s aims.

The very existence of theocratic states, for example, Iran, proves that religion can be a legitimate…

Yes because…

The very existence of theocratic states, for example, Iran, proves that religion can be a legitimate source of political power. Governments in theocratic states are much more stable than regimes in secular countries because leaders are viewed as appointed by God. Political stability, in turn, leads to economic welfare.

No because…

Theocratic states become totalitarian regimes because they are based on obedience to a ruler who is seen as God’s representative rather than on a democratic constitution. They may be stable (although huge protests against a rigged election in Iraq in 2009 could suggest otherwise) but they are not essentially concerned with their people’s welfare. By prioritising religious imperatives over economic development, and by their intolerance of the questioning entrepreneurial types who drive economic progress, states like Iran have become corrupt, authoritarian and poor.

Biblical commandments are the basis of Western ethical and legal systems. Religion teaches us toler…

Yes because…

Biblical commandments are the basis of Western ethical and legal systems. Religion teaches us tolerance for people of other races and religions. Usually believers are more peaceful, law-abiding and tolerant than non-believers.

No because…

Religions like Islam justify “holy” wars against the “unfaithful”, meaning people of other religions. This can also be seen in the violence of the crusades launched by Christians in the medieval period, and by later wars between Protestant and Catholic Christians in Europe, as well as in the more recent violent attacks by extremist Hindu groups against Christians and Muslims in India. Religious convictions like these paved the way for the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

In the states where religion develops freely and people have free access to places of worship, churc…

Yes because…

In the states where religion develops freely and people have free access to places of worship, churches, mosques, temples and synagogues have always served as a shelter for the poor. Some of the greatest works of art were created in the name of God. Furthermore, Woodrow Wilson suggested that a strong affinity exists between religious commitment and patriotism. Love of country, just like love of God, certainly inspires good deeds.

No because…

Religion has led to the creation of great art, but it has also caused its destruction. Remember the Taliban’s destruction of the great Buddhas in Afghanistan? Still worse, religion can be a source of extreme nationalism. In Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is described as “mighty warrior”, “just king” or “righteous judge”. He punishes the unjust, the unrighteous and the disobedient. The idea that a nation is the instrument of God’s will has led to war and the subjugation of people viewed as ungodly.

Most wars are not started by religion, although religion is often used by manipulative leaders in or…

Yes because…

Most wars are not started by religion, although religion is often used by manipulative leaders in order to justify them. In the same way, other ideologies such as communism or ethnic nationalism are also pressed into service by dictatorial regimes to rally their people behind a policy of aggression. Whatever the justification, most wars are started for economic reasons or for territorial gain.

No because…

Whether religion is a genuine reason for war, or only its pretext is not important. What is vital is that religion can be, and often is used to make people fight in the name of high ideals to further aims of hatred. Without an appeal to religion, leaders would often be unable to mobilise their people in war. Thus, religion causes more harm than good.

Western states grew as a result of religion and religious philosophy. Western European and North Am…

Yes because…

Western states grew as a result of religion and religious philosophy. Western European and North American societies are still based on Protestant ideals of diligence, thrift and moderation.

No because…

North American nations emerged only because of economic factors: the existence of famine and overpopulation in Europe on the one hand, and the free markets of the United States on the other. The realities of capitalism, not the tenets of religious faith, prompt people to be diligent and thrifty. After all, the USA has a much higher proportion of observant Christians than most European states today, but they share similar political, economic and cultural values.

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Olisaemeka Oranebo
2 years ago

Religious orientation is a powerful force for peace. African traditional religion for instance holds that the actions or inactions of man can either alter or foster the cosmic harmony, which in turn impacts on man’s well-being (peace).
It is true that for centuries conflicts have been spurned in the name of religion, however, one must not dismiss the fact that the principles that promote peace are clearly and fully outlined in the Christian faith.

susan griffin
2 years ago

The reasoning behind the separation of church and state is defined above. Religious beliefs can be a positive of society until the very human “my way, is the right way” mentality takes over the majority of any government or society. Religion’s failure comes from and points to, the failure of dogma, or humanistic applied definitions in the teachings of each religion. The conflict arises from argued and fractured renderings of conservative orthodoxy instruction through adapted modern world views of the offshoot denominations contained within. Rather than promoting the “Creator’s” core message and value of living together peaceably, generally at the heart of all faiths, the differences of culture, practice and thought are proclaimed with overtones alluding to the “wrongness” of other beliefs. In doing so, the message of peace which is at the heart of religion is rendered empty, and generally leads to persecutions, intolerance, and war – the very reasoning so many left the “Old World”, and continued to leave their “home” nations behind – until recently, to access the “New World melting pot” which proclaimed, though imperfectly, a religion freedom for All. Sad to see how far we have left our Founder’s intent behind, and appear to be turning into that very burdensome and tragic “my way, is the right way” religious viewpoint which the majority of citizens overthrew in the 18th century, and stood together as we built an army of many faiths, to achieve our independence. If we fail to return to Enlightenment and Common Sense soon, I fear we shall become as predicted, “A grand experiment, doomed to failure…” and liberty and justice for All shall be forever lost.

Henry
3 years ago

Religious organizations are essentially political and are a way that people band together to gain power. Every religion says it believes it knows the “true way” and that other beliefs are inferior. And more wars and violence have been inspired by religious (political) conflicts than all other causes.

The leaders of religions are often corrupt, insane or evil. Much is done in the name of religion that is actually the opposite of what the specific religion preaches. Look at the fundamentalist politicians in the US who pretend to be Christian while doing everything possible to harm the weak and poor, lying about everything, simply to gain power. It’s not just the false Christians. Criminal Muslims seeking power have committed the most evil crimes. In Afghanistan the drug dealers pretending to be religious Muslims have murdered and destroyed the society. And of course ISIS and similar extreme groups are nothing more than murderers masquerading as religious people. Hindus and all of the worlds religions have engaged in the most brutal violence.

The various religions have inspired some of the greatest art but art is a HUMAN characteristic and does not require religious fantasy to inspire creation.

Matthew Nicholson
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Religious belief is not all the same. Everyone misses the point about religion because we fail to distinguish what type of religious belief we are talking about. Everyone believes something and the nature of that belief might bring conflict. The USA has a gun culture whose adherents believe they have the right to carry a gun to defend themselves against violence. This belief in the gun is not a religion as such but it is a belief system that makes that country a dangerous place to be with or without a gun. The UK has the opposite attitude to guns. In the UK the assumption is that if you carry any weapon then you are breaking the law and a danger to the public. The UK citizen is far less likely to be murdered than the US citizen.
Some religions permit and encourage violence while others are less inclined to encourage violence. In central america the indigenous religion used the ritual sacrifice of young girls to appease their gods. The Hindu burial of men routinely burned or buried widows with their dead husbands before the first British Governor of India banned the practice. He also destroyed a religious cult worship of Kali where devotees strangled travellers at night and robbed them. So all religion is not the same.
A religion that encourages violence is not the same as a religion that discourages violence, so the question is framed incorrectly and therefore the debate is sterile and inconclusive. We should be careful that what we believe encourages peace rather than conflict, and we should abandon beliefs that encourage a violent response to conflict, while encouraging beliefs that lead to a harmonious and none violent life.
Bearing in mind that atheism does not have a particularly peaceful record, the peaceful belief we chose might actually be a religion.
One of the problems is that we all have a tendency to mould our religious belief to our prejudices rather than moulding our self to the demands of the religion. So peaceful religion can be distorted by hate filled adherents.
Every belief system can be corrupted. The problem is that humanity has a potential for violence and we need a way to understand and eradicate the violence within ourselves. It is much easier to recognise the errors that can be blamed on something outside ourselves than to acknowledge that we are the problem.

Alicia
7 years ago

The argument and points of this question does not makes logical sense. If you ask the question, “Is religion a source of conflict, or of peace?” You should answer with, “Religion is a source of conflict because…,” or “Religion is a source of peace because..,” rather than “Yes because…” or “No because…” The question being asked is not a yes or no question, therefore, cannot be answered by saying “yes,” or “no.” Just a tip.

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