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      The history of human civilization has long been connected with theological beliefs as a way of coping with the environment. These belief structures eventually were assembled and became what we today refer to as religion. Religion was created not only as a coping mechanism and a guide but also to record "the aspirations and accusations of innumerable human beings in the face of suffering and wrong"(Armstrong 77). Though religion was created as an aid for civilizations does it or can it truly give a society justice or is it the cause of injustice and violence in its respective community? As civilizations grew so did conflicts which were fueled by religious ideology; massacres, expulsions, inquisitions, even the conquering of new worlds, all were precipitated by religion. Whether by God's will as in the conquest of the Americas or because Jupiter demands it as in the expansion of the Roman Empire, all demonstrated that religion does have the power to create violence. Therefore religion, this tool developed to a better aid us through life, is actually a powder keg which causes a great number of problems for those who may subscribe to its teaching.

      The practice of religion creates fanatics or fundamentalists who attempt to force their beliefs on others by force or subversion. In today's society as the world seems to advance ever closer to the precipice certain individuals have adopted the mind set that the only way to save the world from Armageddon is for a strict adherence to their various religious indoctrinations. These individuals have been assigned to the group, fanatics or fundamentalists, however each group has a varying perspective as to whether or not these individuals are good or bad for the social majority. "The most extreme example of this combination of anti-Semitism and nationalism was the so called German Christian Movement...that embraced Nazism and tried to Nazify Christianity by suppressing the Old Testament, revising liturgies and hymns, and promoting Jesus as an Aryan hero who embodied the ideals of the new Germany"(Barnett). Though an extreme example of fanaticism, the attempt by these Christians to make Jesus "Aryan" possesses the same intricate qualities of what fanatics believe is their supposed interpretations of religious texts. These fanatic sects of Christian, Muslim, Hindi, Sikh, etc all believe that their religion is the supreme and that the moral codes and disciplines of their holy books should be adopted by all. This strong belief and dedication to one's faith therefore creates conflict because non-believers will not relinquish easily their individual beliefs. Take for example the years of conflict in the Balkans, the Greek Orthodox Christians had the belief that in order to assure peace the Albanian Muslims should convert to Christianity. Slowly the Orthodox Christians began to change the laws which governed Bosnia, until the Muslim minority began to resist and Bosnia declared her independence. The term fundamentalist in this case not only depicts the ubiquitous religious connection but also the second meaning of the word as it pertains to the Muslims in Bosnia. The term fundamentalist can also be equated with patriotism, for the Americans during the American Revolution were seen as having fundamentalist views. In much the same respect as Britain attempting to shape America in her own image, the Serbian Christians attempted to force their dominant religion on the Albanians as a way of controlling them. Their fanatical view however would lead to bloody war in which most of the Muslim Kosovars and Albanians would be slaughtered all in the name of their righteous "God." These religions through the propagation of a peaceful society therefore engendered the creation of its own fanatical sect through the presentation of unattainable perceived goals for example oneness with the universe. "Wasn't this the same bliss the Christian mystics had spoken of? For the first time, I felt I had some understanding of the great joy and peace that St. Francis enjoyed with God's creatures"(Willis221). The religious ideology that the practice of one's religion would in some way allow the individual to exist in a utopian society thus is the driving force behind a church's or mosque's desire to dispatch missionaries. The main goal of all religions is to dazzle others with the promise of "bliss...great joy and peace." The use of these drugs therefore addicts the individual to the religion and like a junkie they must have a fix every X amount of hours. Observe for example how transfixed new believers are to their faith that they tune out the world around them so that they may experience more of this biblical utopian world rich with wealth. The utopia created by these evangelists and fanatics therefore galvanizes their flock (as believers are commonly referred to) and thus the Shepherd in this case, the spiritual leader, can assert his power and lead the sheep to the field where they shall attempt to dominate and destroy all those of different mind. Thus the practice of one's religion slowly creates its own ticking time bomb which eventually explodes into violent wars, massacres, or other destructive forms of violence.

The Book

      The origins of religious texts were conceived and written by man. When one questions a believer as to what or whom was the driving force behind the creation of their religious texts they will tell you that it was their God, prophet, or messenger. On the contrary all religious scriptures were written by ordinary men who had the same blood, the same vices, and the same view of the world. The human species has forgotten that God and religion were man made creations which attempted to explain the unknown, religion and God, were never truly conceived as the rules by which one should live their lives. Though the Quoran attempts to give you ways in which to live your life as does the Bible, both of these books are works of fiction created to intrigue and amuse. They were not developed to be worshipped and be used as tools of revolution or violence. "The traditional explanation is that the Five Books of Moses were written by Moses himself...traditional Judaism and fundamentalist Christianity believe that the text was dictated by God to Moses on Mount Sinai...still others say Moses was the sole author, but there's nothing "divine" about it except in the sense that all great works of literature and poetry are "inspired"(Dex and Eutychus). Therefore Moses a man is believed to be the author of the "Five Books of Moses" also called the "Holy Grail" which is what The Bible was ascribed from. The ever perpetuating symbol of someone holding a Bible has a powerful affect on those who believe in God in the same way as Moses holding the ten commandments in his hand as is portrayed in various religious inspired films. This similar situation was what occurred during the Salem Witch trials where women and men were put on trial for supposedly practicing witchcraft. The people burnt at the stake were not really witches but because of the fear of "God" and his wrath, the people did whatever there leader said in order to appease their deity. "It interpreted the scriptural image of God's judgment too literally and assumed God was a sort of Big Brother in the sky...divine Tyrant imposing an alien law on his unwilling human servants" (Armstrong 81). The image created by the priest that these people were possessed instilled in the believers such a fear in much the same way as the "holy spirit" supposedly posses those at an evangelical church and forces them to act in extreme manners. The imagery of the "divine Tyrant" serves as a psychological control mechanism which gives the church leader his power and also complete domination of a society. Therefore the priests during the witch trials were the judge, jury, and executioners and the supreme dictators of their respective towns. The utilitarian purpose of religion having been served, it was to have been destroyed if not for the misinterpretation of what the religious scriptures represented. "The last proved particularly troubling because it implied the absence of the supernatural and purely human authorship of scripture"(Wacker). Somewhere along the evolutionary line the tool of religion became a "supernatural" invention instead of "a purely human idea." No longer was it written by humans but it was created by some higher being. But why would this higher being create so many religious texts? Why not the one all knowing book? The answer though fairly obvious still escapes the human psyche. Call it fear of the unknown, hope, or desire, the books still hold power given to them by the believers and for as long as people believe that they are magical things then the constant clashes between the different ideas in each text will continue to cause suffering and violence.

The Obelix

      Religion has been affiliated with war since the dawn of human kind. Every war in history has either been caused or influenced in some way by religion. From the incitement of a crowd in the name of god to the wholesale butchery of thousands because it was God's will. Let us begin with one of the bloodiest and longest fought religious battles "The Crusades." On one side were the Christians who decided to attack the Muslims and on the other were the Muslims whose culture and religion was flourishing at the time when Christianity was in decline. The Christians viewed the Muslims as "destined for hellfire" and as "the enemies of God"(Armstrong 78) and thus they were to be exterminated at any cost. Unfortunately "the enemies of God" won every battle yet the Christians filled with religious fervor and hatred continued to attack. in this example we see just how strong a narcotic effect religion has, no matter how many times they lost, the Christians continued to approach the Muslims like moths to a flame. "Pope Gregory XII was so impressed by the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre of French Huguenots by Catholic mobs in 1572...that he...commissioned a commemorative medal"(Carroll). To say that religion does not condone violence would be a foolish mistake. In much the same light as Pope Gregory commissioning "commemorative medals," religion also was to blame for slavery because of the lack of action on the part of the church. The Protestants vs. Catholic battles in Ireland have continued for years yet these two similar religious groups refuse to embrace each other as brothers or good Christians. The conflicts between Hindis and Muslims, created Pakistan because both groups have such hatred for each other. Also there is the battle between the Jews and Palestinians over the "holy land" which continues its deadly dance as future generations become entangled in the conflict. These are but a few of the examples of conflicts caused by or influenced by religion. However one of the greatest atrocities condoned by any religion has been the mass genocide of millions of Jews which occurred during the Second World War. Before the war started, the Catholic Church had tacitly begun to lend credence to Hitler: "it has become abundantly clear that the Church's failure to respond to the horrid events was not due to ignorance; they knew what was happening"(Barnett). The Catholic Churches support of Hitler allowed him to begin his extermination of the Jews because the Jews were seen and are still viewed today as the murderers of Jesus. The Church also gave "support for programs and other anti-Jewish violence"(Barnett). As is evident from its history, the Catholic religion, though a supporter of peace, embraced Hitler because it served their own purpose. Though this may seem a harsh critique of the religion this is what occurred during these years. Though not reflective of all religions Catholicism like all major religions in the world today possesses a bloody history of wars or sacrifices which still permeates today as various wars erupt over holy lands or places of religious worship.

The Quest for the White Whale: Moby Dick

      Religion has long stressed the idea of forgiveness as a way of propagating peace as it tacitly encourages violence. In similar respects to Captain Ahab's inability to forgive the white whale, religions seem also to be unable to represent or enact their moral teachings of their various concepts of "forgive thy neighbor"(The Bible) and thus like Ahab they echo these few memorable lines "Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath"(Melville Ch 135). "To err is human to forgive divine;"(Anonymous) What does this construct mean? Does it entail if someone hits you, you are to forgive them? If you have been wronged you should turn the other cheek. Even when applied to more pressing matters the conclusion is always the same, the act of forgiveness has been lost. In theory it may seem a noble prospect but it is never practiced in reality, people succumb to their primitive urges for it is all they know to do. The two faced nature of humans is nothing new and is even encouraged in the holy scriptures to which we revere. "Vengeance shall be mine, saith the lord."(The Bible) No longer do you supposedly offer "the other cheek," now you shall go and correct this supposed wrong. The contradictory nature of these religious texts creates a hysteria which is programmed into the individual, anything challenging those religious belief must then be annihilated. There will be no forgiveness for thy neighbor if he has wronged you, it is your human or civic duty to terminate him for his transgression so that he may not commit the same insult again. The word forgiveness has an empty meaning in the modern vernacular because it is ignored and has no credence to anyone. Thus the support of this idealistic idea of forgiveness serves but as a metaphorical mask through which religions are able to spread. "Christian Culture led to a sacralization of cultural identity in which dominant, positive values were seen as "Christian" ones, while developments viewed negatively (such as secularism and Marxism) were attributed to "Jewish Influences"(Barnett). The "positive values" of "Christian Culture" is and was used as a way of asserting the churches dominance over the people. It might seem that this process of exalting forgiveness would have the adverse affect on a community, however the "positive values" gave support to the biblical scriptures that "vengeance shall be mine" because God said so and anything "the Divine" decrees is of the "Christian Culture" and thus may have no ill affect. A modern day example of this concept occurred in Spain after WWII. The Catholic Church in order to maintain its control sided with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in order to destroy "the enemy" also known as "Marxism" which began to grow in post WWII Europe. Instead of being forgiving because the teachings of Marxism did not present a stellar depiction of religion and in some respect denounced and rejected it, the Church sided with Franco and sought vengeance against the Socialists, Communists, and any other group or idea which might oppose their power. Therefore the concept of "turning the other cheek" is but a vacant depiction of supposedly "positive Christian Culture." The idea of being loving and forgiving is an alien concept because Christians use "God (the symbol) to prop up their own loves and hates which they attribute to God himself...Muslims denigrate people who belong to different ethnic and ideological beliefs"(Armstrong 80) which is contrary to the teachings of forgiveness in their religious books. Religions also condone inequitable class systems even though all in a society should be equal, the belief in this equality was the force behind communism and was used as an argument to criticize the Catholic Church which has a cultural and religious class system where the King and the Pope are the rulers. Thus forgiveness has been sacrificed by the denominations of the world and like Captain Ahab religion must continue its quest for the "white whale" even at the cost of its life.

Yin & Yang

      Religion has been a force of change for many centuries but is it the cause of violence? Religions can be interpreted as either Yin (bad) or Yang (good) depending on the viewers perspective and background. For the majority of this paper the focus has been on the detrimental aspects of religion but does religion serve ultimately a "peaceful existence"? Does it even cause most wars? Modern day society is very aware of the abominations and atrocities which have transpired because of religion, for example the Inquisition, yet people still seem to revere these institutions. "The first is that most of the important opponents of war, persecution, oppression, and slavery in the history of the West have also been driven by religious conviction."(Carroll). According to Carroll, religion opposes violence, protects the individual from "persecution," "oppression," and "slavery" thanks in part to the various scriptures which embody peace and unity. Religion seems to be able to portray itself as a force for changing the world we live in for the better. However does religion not persecute as in the persecution of the Jews, oppress and enslave its believers, and is it not a proponent for warfare as has been the case in recent times in The Balkans because of its inability to represent its altruistic ideas? "Nevertheless he insisted that even if God existed, it was still necessary to reject him since the idea of God negates our freedom ...religion tells us that we must conform to God's idea of humanity to become fully human"(Quote of Jean Paul Sartre, Armstrong 68). If religion opposes "oppression" why does the idea of God which religion represents "negate our freedom?" Why must the individual relinquish his or her sense of self in order "to become fully human?" Were religion a real force of peace and harmony then it would not require that there be dogmatic rules which state if you do not practice in a certain way or do as the church dictates then you will be excommunicated. The contradictory nature of religious texts creates confusion because it makes difficult its ideas therefore an individual may not be able to discern any meaning from the text on the issues of what may or may not be good or bad in a society. Take for example this excerpt from The Bible: "put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword"(The Bible, Mathew 26:52), this verse directly contradicts another in the same book of Mathew "vengeance shall be mine saith the lord." One verse tells the individual to be kind and forgiving as the other one encourages you to go forth and wreak havoc. It is this confusion between "put your sword back" and "vengeance" which allows for religions to act in either a good or bad manner depending on how the religious institutions might envision the situation. This can be seen in the way Islam opposes violence yet still supports it. Although violence is seen as evil by most Arab states they still condone its use because it is against one's enemy. Therefore it can be inferred that religion is only good for the practitioners and not for those of different faiths because they are of no importance. "The God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims got off to an unfortunate start, since the tribal deity Yahweh was murderously partial to his own people...elevating the values of the tribe to an unacceptably high status"(Armstrong 79). Even though the believers have an "elevated" belief system they too however are destroyed by their oppressive religions. Therefore religion is only a force of change for those of like minds since it is "murderously partial to his own people" in much the same way as Yahweh was.

The Day of the Dead

      Religious doctrines, war, forgiveness, all seem explicably linked to the cycle of a religions lifespan. Religion is the precipitator for violence and warfare because of what it represents to groups of individuals, hope and an end to the suffering and injustice of the world. However because each religion believes that it is supreme above the rest a tribal battle is always fought because neither religion will accept surrender nor will they limit their expansion. Armstrong put it best when she said "human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning. The idols of fundamentalism are not good substitutes for God"(Armstrong 86). Therefore religion is the cause of violence in a community because of its inability to adapt itself to what it was meant to be, the inability to represent the compassion and ideals of "God" thus means that religions will continue to war with each other because it is all that they know to do. The vacuum of life must be filled by something even though what fills the void may create its own destructive force to engulf us all. Thus the battle for Thirdspace which is the portal know as the mind continues as time passes by for each religion shall attempt to conquer and dominate Thirdspace.

Annotated Bibliography

Armstrong, Karen. "Does God Have A Future?." A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York; Knopf, 1993. The New Humanities Reader, pg 77
      In "Does God Have A Future?," Karen Armstrong discusses how each religion has created a variety of concepts which supposedly represent God but in reality are mere fabrications which have been created to oppress an individual. She concludes that the only true representation of what God is, is that of the mystics whose concept of God is all encompassing and not limited to a physical body or idea. This articles posses various in-depth study of religion and the question of the concept of God this helps in better aiding the analysis of the affects of religion on a society whether it may be a force of change or oppression. Both the good and bad viewpoints are examined therefore making this a comprehensive skeleton for the development of the research paper that was the reason for its selection.

Willis, Jan. Dreaming Me: An African American Woman's Spiritual Journey. New York; Penguin Putnam inc, 2001.
      In "Dreaming Me," Jan Willis discusses how she began her life as a confused black woman during the turbulent sixties and had to make the choice between "peace and a piece." She was lured to follow the Black Panthers by their enigmatic leader however before committing completely she decided to go to Nepal to learn the principles of Buddhism. Her religion saved her life because those she was involved in the Black Panthers were killed however her quest for spirituality nearly killed her because of her dedication to achieving "The Great Seal" which is a different plain of spiritual thinking. This article was selected in order to represent the proof that people have various experiences in their lives which they somehow pervert into being something that God allowed to occur. It also demonstrates how fanatical religious believers are because the protagonists chooses religion over violence only to almost lose her life because of her religion and the practice thereof.

Carrol, Vincent. "It's Not About Religion," National Review Online, September 26,2001; available from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-carroll092601.shtml, Internet; accessed 27 February 2002.
      In "It's Not About Religion," Vincent Carrol took the opposite viewpoint in support of religion as not the driving force behind the events of September 11 and the other wars of the past. Carrol points to the fact that power corrupted the leaders in charge of the religion thus they started religious wars in a mad dash for more power. She tries to demonstrate using various religious texts that religion condemns violence and supports peace. This article represents an opposing view that violence is cause by religion. Though there have been atrocities caused by religion the author believes that it is the human nature that is the cause of the tension between different types of races.

Barnett, Victoria. "The Role of the Churches: Compliance and Confrontation," Anti-Defamation League, available from http://www.adl.org/braun/dim_14_1_role_church.html, Internet; accessed 27 February 2002.
      "The Role of the Churches," discussed how during the Nazi quest to take over the world, the Catholic turned a blind eye to savage brutality committed by these devout Christians. The article continues by stating that the churches knew about these events but turned a blind eye to what was happening thus Hitler could continue his brutal policies of genocide. The article was chosen because of its proof that churches were indirectly and directly the cause of the Holocaust because of their desire not to act because of their belief that the Jews killed Jesus. It shows that each religious sect will only treat its believers as human beings while ignoring non-believers.

Wacker, Grant. "The Rise of Fundamentalism," The National Humanities Center, available from http://www.nhc.rtp.nc.us:8080/tserve/twenty/tkeyinfo/fundam.htm, Internet; accessed 27 February 2002.
      "The Rise of Fundamentalism," speaks of how this movement began to flourish in the American Midwest because of the prejudice which exists in these parts. The Evangelists and Pentecostal churches with their charismatic interpretations of religious scripture attracted many people to their faith because of the false promise of a quick deliverance from the problems of daily life. They interpreted the Bible using their own philosophies and continue to stick with a strict codified interpretation of God's will. This article selected as proof of how religion infects the believers and then destroys the environment they live in. Also gives credibility to the argument that even though people are religious they still will commit crimes for example lynching because it is supposedly God's will according to their interpretation of the Bible.

Jovanovic, David. "Religion and War in Yugoslavia," Swans Commentary, available from http://www.swans.com/library/art7/djovan01.html; accessed 27 February 2002.
      "Religion and War in Yugoslavia" discusses the continuing racial, political, and religious war which has existed in the Balkans and most recently Yugoslavia in the twentieth century. Dubbed the powder keg of Europe this region has been the starting point for all the world wars and continues today through the ethnic genocides committed by Muslims against Protestants and vice versa. The article discusses the population makeup of these regions and why these two groups seem so intent on eliminating each other. The article was chosen because of the necessity for proof that religion does cause wars, genocide, and violence in a society based on analysis of the war in Bosnia.

Lifka, Mary Lauranne. "Religion and War: Inseparable," Salt Online, available from http://bvmcong.org/salt/salt/winter2000/lifka.htm; accessed 4 March 2002.
      "Religion and War: Inseparable discusses the historical relationship between the way people are governed based on the belief taken from religious texts. It also elaborates on the ways the Catholic Bible seems to support violence and also how religious texts have historically advocated the use of violence in various forms to accomplish their goals. This work was selected for more in-depth analysis of the socioeconomic issues which led to the war in the Balkans because of the close proximity of various religious groups.

Fuller, Graham. "Islam, A Force for Change," Le Monde Diplomatique, available from http://mondediplo.com/1999/09/16islam; accessed 12 March 2002.
      "Islam, A Force for Change" discusses the alternate perspective that religion specifically Islam aids in the fruition of a society. Because of the religion people are able to live in peace and avoid the rigors of life also it provides them a safety blanket by which they may live their lives. It also uses examples of how Islam was able to bring math and the arts to various regions of the world and aids in the support of non repressive government regimes. This article selected in order to establish a contrasting viewpoint to my main theme and also as a way of aiding in having both pro and con articles converse on the issues of whether religion is the cause of violence in a society or is it the people who are responsible.

Maitra, Romain. "Hindu Power Politics." Le Monde Diplomatique, available from http://mondediplo.com/1999/09/11india; accessed 12 March 2002.
      "Hindu Power Politics" elaborates on the power struggles which exist in India between the various religions of Islam, Christianity, and Hindi. Apart from relaying the history of the clash between the Muslims and Hindus it also states how the religion of Arya Samaj has been convoluted and used in order for people who supposedly are religious to gain power. Because of the power achieved those in charge use their hatred for others to attack the other religions and blame them for all the problems which exist in their societies. This selection was chosen for its proof that perhaps it is not religion but the corruption of it which causes violence in ones society. It represents an opposing viewpoint to the various articles used in this project.