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Avalos: 'True' religion begat violence

September 10 2011 at 9:55 AM

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Avalos: 'True' religion begats violence

By Hector Avalos
Published: Sunday, September 4, 2011 8:05 AM CDT
Sept. 11, 2001, changed the lives of many people, most importantly those of the victims and their loved ones.

Although I was not affected directly by this tragedy, 9/11 did change my professional life. I had studied the role of religion in violence prior to 9/11, but after that date, I gave much more attention to the issue.

As a result, I published "Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence" in 2005. I have since been asked to contribute articles to "The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence" (2011), and the forthcoming "Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence."

This Sept. 11, I will speak at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind., as part of its lecture series on "New Perspectives on Faith for Progressive Christians in the New Millennium." Yes, they know I am an atheist, but they also think an unexamined faith is not worth having. That is also the case with a number of churches in Iowa that have invited me to speak on these issues.

I usually explain there still are two major approaches to viewing the role of religion in violence: One, religion is essentially good, and violence is caused by deviant forms of a religion; and two, religion is inherently prone to violence.

We witness the first approach when we hear Osama bin Laden "hijacked" Islam, and he did not practice the "true" Islam.

Within many Christian communities, we hear Anders Behring Breivik, who confessed to the bombing and shootings in Norway that left at least 77 people dead on July 22, was not a "true" Christian.

It is statistically true the vast majority of Christians and Muslims do not commit violent acts.

However, claiming opponents don't hold the "true" version of Islam, Christianity, or any other religion, simply perpetuates a mechanism that can cause religious violence in the first place.

That is so because when you proclaim there to be a true form of a religion, you also are making heretics out of those who disagree.

So, by declaring bin Laden and Breivik to be heretics, one simply perpetuates this orthodox-heretic model again.

More importantly, such a division ultimately is based on faith claims. Since competing faith claims never can be adjudicated by objective means, then violence often becomes the solution in settling arguments.

Those who hold that religion, especially monotheism, is inherently prone to violence include Regina Schwartz, the author of "The Curse of Cain" (1997).

She argues monotheism is inherently violent because its belief in "one true God" automatically divides the world into those who believe in the true God, and those who don't. Moreover, she argues monotheism is inherently violent because there is only one god who owns and controls the world, and so his followers feel entitled to control the entire planet.

In a planet with rival forms of monotheism and other types of religions, it does not take long before there is a push for supremacy, the American Indians being one major casualty in our own country's history.

Indeed, when people ask me why fewer American Christians are as militant as some Muslims today, I usually respond it is because their work was done in past centuries, when they killed off or "pacified" most of the American Indians and attained Christian supremacy in the Americas.

So most Christians can afford to be peaceful now. But if the remaining Indians ever wanted to fully reclaim their land, culture and religion, you might see Christian militancy re-emerge vigorously.

Although brutally frank, such criticism is mostly welcomed by the churches in which I speak. Those churches realize that self-criticism is a healthy and peaceful way to avoid traps that have caused trouble in the past. For the human species to survive, we must change our way of thinking.

So this Sept. 11, a good self-critical question is simple: Would you rather live in a world where people settle arguments with facts and reason or with faith claims?

Hector Avalos is a professor of religious studies at Iowa State University. He writes monthly for the Ames Tribune.

9/11 Lecture

Who: Hector Avalos, professor, religious studies, Iowa State University

What: 9/11 commemorative lecture on "Religion and Violence: A New Theory for an Old Problem"

When: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 6

Where: South Ballroom, Memorial Union, Iowa State University

[Edited by PRev1: To Close HTML Tag for Link from Title.]
[-- Avalos: 'True' religion begats violence ]

This message has been edited by PRev1 on Sep 10, 2011 11:49 AM

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Seoc Colla
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'Religious' violence/ intolerance

September 10 2011, 10:35 AM 

If there is peace within, there will be outer peace in a person no matter their 'religious' views.

It does seem true that people who have been force-fed some doctrine or other always have a deeply unsettled nature, pointing to inner conflict.

Could that conflict be between their innate reason being competetively/ forcibly denied expression by the induced 'foreign' unbalanced sense of despair and loss?

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The truth

September 10 2011, 11:34 AM 

Yes! Native American people were subdued in the name of christianity. But so were/are black people, in many cases hispanics and gays. We also have people with disabilities that are singled out as being "God's afflicted".

I don't believe actaul religions are being hijacked in a order of faith, or true belief, but rather just as an excuse, a means, a justification and a tool to attain their selfish greedy ends.

I would point out the Dominionist who are entering politics to achieve the ends of their beliefs are just as serious a threat as the KKK.

Anyone can fill themselves with hate just as they can fill themselves with love. The direction is self mapped. Thiscncept o is contained in many of the messages y keeps delivering and repeating ( not that I necessarily agree with the linguistics she presents).

Anyone who spends sufficient time in a self pity party can end up being a nut-job and a threat.

The messages from Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Budda, Ghandi, MLK and hundreds of others does not contain any of the bigotry and destructive measures these disturbed power hungry self centerd sicko's display.

I must agree to a degree that their are elements of monotheism that can be troubling. The Jewish peoles plight and persecution is in many ways a result of bveing "God's Chosen". But again I have to point out that it is the greed perceived as reward as being "God's Chosen" that is the root of the condition.

Remember: Religion is a belief, therefore it is concious and may be examined by the believer. Religion has the basic tenets for good and the believer has the choice to seek out the message of life, or internalize the message of destruction.

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I heard someone

September 10 2011, 6:15 PM 

On a podcast the other day, give an explanation on the difference between the old mystery religions and ... the secret societies that we see in operation today.

The mystery religions delved into enlightenment and empowering of the individual for the benefit of all mankind. They focused on Sophia -goddess of wisdom.

Secret societies focus on gaining power and control over the masses ... to outwit, outsmart, deceive and manipulate by stealth.

It can be a bit confusing, trying to delineate between these two philosophies because BOTH seem to be shrouded in secrecy.

However, the guy gave a really good example of determining the difference between the two and why enlightenment is seemingly shrouded in secrecy.

He said, 'if you have a deep meaningful sexual experience with someone you love and are committed to ...

... do you go and talk about it openly with the guys at work? Do you brag about it?

'No you don't ... because you RESPECT the relationship and the sanctity of that union. There are some things you don't share openly because that destroys the beauty of it.'

I thought that was a pretty good explanation.

A true spiritual experience and a true spiritual walk are things you can't just talk about with or to anyone. With certain special people who comprehend and have experienced the same -yes. With others, who are mostly interested in jostling and arguing -no.

When you look at the message of Christianity -go into all the world and make disciples- it is NOT a spiritual message. It's a call to unite, organize and ACHIEVE. It's a political message.

Not that political is evil but ... political is a material manifestation of united strength in numbers ... whereas spiritual is individual strength through character development.


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Seoc Colla
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Re: I heard someone

September 12 2011, 5:50 AM 

Ah, YES. Great post Vince.

The journey through Life is essentially a solo job - as are our decisions which spark an endless and ever-increasing series of effects, to which we have uncomfortably chained ourselves.

There will be times, of course, when we walk in fellowships here and there, but the onus is ever on us.

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