Every religion has had historical episodes of violence
August 28, 2001
It must have been reassuring for many to read Shaun Samaroo's letter [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] to the press (SN Monday August 20th.) Mr. Samaroo said brotherly love, kindness and forgiveness are virtues extolled by "Christian thought."
Me, I need a bit more "Christian practise" and a little less of "Christian thought" to restore my confidence in the brotherly love Mr. Samaroo spoke about. Some modern Christians in Bosnia and Northern Ireland seem to have taken Jesus' words to heart when he said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword" Matt. 10:34.
It is believed that over two million people have been killed in Sudan as a conflict between Muslims and Christians rolled on without much "kindness and forgiveness." Here the faithful use famine as a weapon of extermination.
There are too many instances of violence, mayhem and murder involving all religions to recount here. And maybe there are instances of brotherly love also.
I, like Charles Darwin, believe that modern thought, which grew from the gradual enlightenment of human understanding, followed the progress of science and not the unchanging rules of religious dogma. Below I gave a few reasons for my belief.
Isn't it true that were we to adhere to religious thought we would still believe the earth to be flat and that it stood at the centre of the universe with the sun and planets revolving around it in fixed crystal spheres? Wouldn't we think that comets are the fireballs thrown in anger by the right hand of God and that these bodies are messengers of doom and despair?
Wouldn't we believe that ordinary events of nature (like earthquakes and storms, etc.) are due to divine punishment or caused by miracles, angels and demons who routinely intervene in such things? Would we have studied physics, chemistry and other sciences to understand such phenomena in a rational manner?
And how did the religious community treat those who endeavoured to use "God's gift" of an evolving intelligence? Copernicus had known since 1500 AD that the sun was at the centre of the solar system but fearing the wrath of the Church he kept his knowledge secret for over thirty years. Remember too Giordano Bruno, Galilei Galiler and many others who suffered for their scientific views.
One would believe that if religious dogma is the source of all truth the churches would have been on the cutting edge of science and not the persecutors of it.
Finally, I disagree with Mr. Samaroo that it was the power of Christ's message which prompted a change in Paul's life. Paul, who was called Saul, was a Jewish Pharisee (I'm not sure why Mr. Samaroo called him a tax collector) who disparaged Christ's message. In fact, Saul was the chief persecutor of those who
believed in Jesus. Saul considered this new sect a serious threat to Judaism.
Saul's conversion (together with his name change to Paul) was not based on Jesus' message but rather on a traumatic and terrifying event on the road to Damascus. Paul had an instant change of heart when he was struck blind and spoken to by Jesus. Immediately thereafter, Paul became an outstanding teacher of the faith and displayed a comprehension of every aspect of Christianity.