In the modern world religious differences appear to cause some major problems, wars, discrimination and opposition. In reality, it appears that religion plays a minor role, and it is the individuals who use religion as a cover to gain power and to manipulate people to do some heinous acts in the name of God. Philosophy of religion, therefore, is important to predict future conflicts and to resolve current differences. The following philosophy of religion essay analyzes the impact of religions on the modern day, explores how religion tolerance existed in the middle ages and states that religion is to the main factor of modern problems, terrorism and wars.
It is possible for religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam to peacefully coexist with each other and enrich each other’s lives only if religions are not used for political purposes. For instance, throughout history Muslims have coexisted with the Jews and Christians. Most Muslim Medinas (old cities) always had Jewish and Christian quarters, not because these groups were discriminated but because they willingly chose live with the same-minded individuals. In fact, Jews frequently lived close to the kings and other Muslim monarchs, who used their services of money suppliers and “rentiers”. Ancient Christian churches are found throughout the middle east and remain untouched even at present.
It is necessary to note that when religion is used to achieve political purposes it becomes intolerant even to people who believe in the same God. For instance, throughout the XVI century there were numerous fights between the Catholics and Protestant Christians. It is partially because the protestants were discriminated and oppressed, they sailed on “Mayflower” to America. It is necessary to note that the same desire to benefit politically and financially led Catholics to engage in so-called Northern Crusades against the Russian Orthodox Christians. In both situations, the Christians were fighting Christians. By the same token, Saladin, the great Muslim leader, who fought the crusaders in the middle east frequently fought different Muslim sects for the purpose of uniting all Muslims under one rule and one religion. Saladin’s attack on the sect of Assassins, illustrated the confrontation between the Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. Once again, it all was done to consolidate power not really for religion.
Indeed, each of the above religions claims a unique relationship with a personal theistic God and with special geographical like Jerusalem, yet each of them appears to be tolerant towards representative of other religions. Christianity, as per philosophy of religion, is claimed to be the meekest religion with absolute tolerance. Islam calls the Muslims to Jihad (Holy War) only against those who damage or threaten Islam. It is only in Judaism, which relies primarily on the Old Testament, the Jews are given explicit power by god to eradicate ‘goys’ (pagan tribes) as did many of the founding fathers of Judaism. Still this issue is seldom discussed because one can be accused of anti-Semitism. In no other religious book (New Testament for Christians or Koran of Muslims) it is explicitly said that one can or should kill people and eradicate them from the promised land because of their religious difference. Aristotle noted that religion can be used frequently for political purposes and to gain power to manipulate others. “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side. – Aristotle, Politics.” (http://atheism.about.com/od/weeklyquotes/a/aristotle01.htm?nl=1).
Philosophy of religion and religious pluralism
Religious pluralism is probably more feasible with religions such as Buddhism and Taoism, especially taking into account the fact that Buddhism is frequently considered to be a philosophy not a religion at all (http://www.amtb.tw/e-bud/releases/educati.htm). Just like many sects, that appear to be extremely tolerant and all-inclusive in order to retain more followers through giving them extra freedoms, Buddhism does not reject any religion at all. It is necessary to note that the reason why Buddhism is not imposing itself on other religions is because throughout history Buddhists were oppressed and fought by other religions such as Hinduism, or Islam. In order not to impose additional pressure on the supporters of Buddhism, this religions appears to be very benign and peaceful. As noted earlier, many sects, especially created in the past 50 years also try to be extremely tolerant and all-encompassing, i.e. permitting people from other religions to attend meetings and convert. Religious fights occur when one religion becomes extremely popular at the expense of other (existing religion) so the believers donate money and pay tithe to another institution. Catholics started to fight the Protestants not when Protestantism was in the embryonic stage, when killing 5-10 leaders would mean continuous monopoly of Catholicism, but when it grew very popular around Europe and when the Protestant churches started to accumulate enough resources. When Protestants moved to the New World (America), Catholics did not chase them they, because it was a new territory that did not generate profits for the catholic church. By the same token growing popularity of Protestantism in Africa did not cause any strong Catholic reaction. It is not the religion that causes violence, but the religious leaders to support the wars and use religion to motivate the believers to fight.
Finally, speaking about the hypothetical scenario in which The Vatican, The Kaaba Shrine in Mecca, Jerusalem, The Dome of the Rock, the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem or the Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini were destroyed by religious terrorists, in order to given the answer one would need to know what religion they represented. Since the case speaks about the destruction of all major artifacts of the world’s largest religions one would doubt that representative of those religions did it. Still, it can be some newly formed sect that denies and competes with the ‘old’ religions. In my humble opinion, the existing world powers would use this situation for their own sake. The USA would possibly link that sect to Iran, in order to justify the invasion of this oil-rich country using lies as it did with respect to Iraq, when the President and the CIA lied about the weapons of mass destruction to lure Americans to Iraq (http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/10/06/iraq.wmd.report/ and http://whitehouser.com/war/cia-confirms-bush-wmd-lie/). The Muslims could link the attack to Israel and send more suicide bombers. Israel could in turn call these terrorists to be Muslims and could also attack the neighbors. Still, in most cases the war would take place in the oil-rich areas of the middle east by the countries that are looking for a pretext to engage in an attack. Since Italy at presents is not given any share in the US-British-dominated Middle East oil business, and it does not have enough military resources to wage the war on its own, it would only blame the terrorists in the Press. By the same token the Buddhist nations are likely to blame the terrorists in the press without committing their military abroad. In all cases, these countries would improve the domestic security and possibly engage in witch hunts against minority religions, especially those that directly compete for the pockets and tithes with the dominant religion.
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