Religion Should Not Divide Us

We have spent the last six months trying to figure the cause of the Sept. 11 attacks. We’ve debated and argued about the Taliban, Iraq, the poverty of the Muslim world, American foreign policy, American support for Israel, world economic policy and everything in between.

To a certain extent we took comfort in debating these issues because, in theory, they can be fixed. But you know what? You still can’t make that leap. There is nothing our nation could ever have done, no policy or military engagement that could possibly justify the mass murder of so many innocent civilians.

Today, we watch as violence in the Middle East continues to escalate. We can’t undo the damage of Sept. 11, but we can do something to prevent more innocent people from dying. To do that, we have to address the issue of religion.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not solely about religion, but that is what stands in the way of any meaningful resolution. The Palestinians want to reclaim their holy land and the Jews want to keep control of their holy land. The only problem is, it’s the same land.

If you step back and take a look at the major conflicts in the world today. Hindus vs. Muslims in India, Muslims vs. Jews in the Middle East and Catholic vs. Protestant in Northern Ireland, isn’t it obvious that we’re being really silly?

It’s time for the world’s religions to take a collective deep breath and do some serious re-evaluating. We need to realize that no one religion is perfect, no one religion is right about everything. We cannot apply religious beliefs to land or political disputes. People need to stop using their religion as an excuse to be inflexible.

Beyond that, we can’t let religion divide us. The Western World, for all its advances with regards to racial and gender equality, continues to be seriously segregated by religion. Excessive pride in one’s spiritual beliefs will often lead to a feeling of moral superiority and then to condescension towards those who don’t hold similar beliefs.

Think about it, in this country where we supposedly have separation of church and state, religious views are a major part of all high-level political campaigns. Politicians make important speeches in houses of worship and often the leaders of various religious groups will endorse candidates. I mean, it is not everyday that an atheist is elected to serve in government? We use religion as a way to separate ourselves, a reason to say that we are not alike, when of course, we are. We are all humans.

The question remains, how to solve this problem? Some say education. It’s never bad to have knowledge. Awareness will certainly lead to acceptance and greater sensitivity.

I wonder if we couldn’t try to find some religious common ground. There could be a massive conference where people could just agree that there’s a God and that God wants us to love each other. And then that would be it. The major world religions could forget about all the other stuff that causes trouble and agree on that much. We wouldn’t have to fight over details and names, just agree on the central idea.

It’s an absurd proposition, but a nice dream. What would be wrong with relaxing a little about the whole God issue? Maybe then we would realize that we are all the same, humans first and Christians, Jews and Muslims second.