What is the meaning of life? Is there an afterlife? Where did we come from? These are questions that everyone has asked themselves sometime in their life. Religion provides answers to these and many other unanswerable questions. Invented by primitive beings, religion is one of the oldest institutions in history. Although many branches have been founded, religion itself has changed ver little over time. Therefore it has remained primitive and unenlightened (Bender 20). Today the answers to the universal questions are becoming even more important. Technology and overpopulation have left mankind feeling insignificant and confused. Although religion can provide answers to these questions, each religion has a slightly different answer. The consequences of these conflicting views have led to the most gruesome bloodbaths the world has ever seen. Although religion is the basis for moral beliefs, it causes tragedies such as culture wars in which many of these beliefs are forgotten. Theologian J.M. Yinger defined religion as a system of beliefs and practices through which a group of people struggle with the ultimate problems of human life (qt. In Relin 2). It is difficult to place exactly when religion started because each religion builds upon an earlier one. Therefore, religions scholars say that all religion is based on thoughts formed by primitive, uneducated people many thousands of years ago (Bender 19). For example, many years ago Christianity was a branch of the Jewish religion. Judaism was a mixture of beliefs from the ancient civilizations such as: Hindu, Egyptian and Assyrian (Bender 19). Religion has always been a part of out lives and along with it comes religious controversy. However, in ancient times, there was little worldwide travel, and the mail system had not yet been invented (Bender 19). This made it was for religious groups to simply ignore one another. As global communications improved it has shrunk the world. There is more interaction between different religions, resulting in more controversy. D.M. Bennett explained the reason for controversy when he said, It cannot be denied hat there has been too much intolerance and illiberality entertained by the adherents of all systems of religion toward all opposing spirits (qt. In Bender 105). Those who say that religion causes more good than bad argue that it is necessary for the spiritual peace, moral strength and national pride it can provide (Manning 12). It has been recorded that the church has provided many services for mankind in the past and continues to do so. These religious activist say that no matter how much evidence you have of religious harms it still doesn t change the fact that many people need religion to survive. On the other hand, the issues involved in religious controversy for those who say that religion does more harm than good are also very strong. They included the religious wars for past and present. Today wars rage in places such as: Northern Ireland, Egypt, Algeria and Bosnia (Meneilly E15) In Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestants have been fighting for many hundreds of years. Those that live in the midst of the fighting refer to the violence and hatred that they see everyday as The Troubles (English 4). In Egypt, militant Islamist want to turn the government into a religious based system. To achieve their goal the Islamist have become violent and continuous clashes occur between the militants and the police. These types of wars have been occurring across the entire Middle East. In North Africa, the nation of Algeria is also experiencing the same kind of clash between the government and the Islamist (Hubbell 9). These conflicts have also reached the United States in the form of the a bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993. In Bosnia, Muslims, Croats and Serbs have been fighting for the past twenty-two months in that has been called the battered and bloodied symbol of the world s worst civil war (McGowan 7). The Turkish Muslims converted much of Bosnia to Islam while the Serbs and Croats remained Christian (McGowan 7) Those that focus on religion harms also agree that religion and politics do not mix. Along these lines, they also believe strongly that religion and education should not be intertwined. These people say that there has not been nor ever will be enough tolerance for individual religion to exist in harmony. Religion has been a part of society as far back as recorded history can prove. With religion comes controversies that will probably plaque human civilization to the end of time. Religious supporters argue that the church organization can be a symbol of stability and civilized life. Admittedly, this has been proven to be true in places such as Alaska, Zaire and the American Frontier. In Alaska, When parents began to grow older and more feeble it was the custom for the children to kill them. After converting to Christianity, this barbaric practice was soon ended. IN Zaire, tribes stopped warring among each other after converting to Christianity. On the American Frontier, churches have helped to establish schools and colleges. Religion gave these primitive civilizations something to base their morals upon. However, these times of peace have never lasted long. Eventually their religious interpretations were twisted around for personal benefit. Their mental health was affected by their need for acceptance. Their missionary role models taught greed and corruption. The conflicts, both mental and physical, that religion has caused across the world greatly outweigh these few examples of peace. In the Middle East, also known as the blood drenched Holy Land, is filled with religious war. To understand why it is such an emotional issue, it is needed to look at the background. In the 13th century BC, the Hebrews conquered what is now known as Palestine. Thy created a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its capital. Then revolts soon destroyed Jerusalem and many of the Jews went into exile, but some still remained in Palestine, however, there was no longer Jewish State. The exiled Jews dispatched throughout the world and many were often victims of persecution. Even through all the torment and terror, Jews still had hope that one day they can return to their homeland. In the 19th century, Jews were able to be a pat of European and American life. Jews became convinced that their people could not feel whole until they had a state of their own. Many began to migrate back to Palestine. The Arabs that now occupy the Holy Land saw the Jews as foreigners and intruders. By 1946, Jews made up over a third of the population. Small wars began to break out and the tire UN decided that the best solution over the land dispute was to split it into tow states. They Arabs got angry and attacked, but fail to do any major effect. Thus began the war in the Middle East.
Israel is a sacred and holy land to many Jews and Christians. The belief that the land of Israel belongs especially and exclusively to the Jews creates and maintains conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, who claim the land. The holiness of the land seems to have been its main clamity. From the biblical sanctification of the Promised Land, the consecration of Jerusalem as the holy abode of Yahweh to the present Zionist movement, the holiness of that particular place has been its curse. It will remain so as long as secular things are called sacred and as long as the sacred justifies the profanity of particalurism. In fact the problem of Palestine is becoming more complex and dangerous because it is regarded as holy not by one group but three. Now that Christians and Muslims join to the sacredness of Jerusalem and Palestine, the chance of peace with will be futile. In Jerusalem, there is a cared rock for Muslims, a holy tomb for Christians, and an ancient wall for Jews. There are all sacred. Wars have been fought around and over them. . Two groups identify one area as the most sacred place and are willing to fight and die for it. This mean even in the name of the holiest place, are candidates for sacrificial human victims. The right to conquer land by force has always been justified by religion. There have been so many contributors in this particular conflict. Religious differences between the Jews and Muslims for example, have tragically contributed to instability in the Middle East. Another reason for so much conflict is the diversity of the religions. There is an abundant of minority religious groups throughout the Middle East. All three sides are just as bad one another. The death toll has been so high. Israel is killing Palestinians in the Occupied Lands at a rate, adjusted for time-period and population, much greater than the death rate in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Thousands of Palestinians have been and are still being cruelly beaten, with serious injury and some deaths as the result-often beaten quite at random, with no charges and with no disclosed grounds for any suspicion. Thousands have been arrested and confined in prison without charge or trial under conditions that are so inhuman that the US s government would hold it as a violation to the constitution. The violence throughout this and other areas clearly shows that religion bring apart people that are alike in many ways. Many people living in places of religious harmony such as the United States are not aware of the violence that still exists today. The people of Northern Ireland are well aware of this violence. They lived with it and see it everyday of their lives. For four hundred years, Protestants and Catholics have been killing each other. It began in 1541 when King Henry VIII conquered Ireland and gave Irish Catholic land to English Protestant (English 4). In 1967, Catholics had a civil rights movement to end discrimination in voting, employment, and housing. Although this attempt for peace was a step in the right direction, it never materialized (English 5). Imagine your husband or wife being shot by the other side . Everyone in Northern Ireland has been personally affected in someway. The natural reaction is embitterment and this puts the situation out of perspective. This result is revenge usually being chosen over peace. The hatred can be shown in this commonly heard Catholic joke, What do you throw a drowning Protestant? Answer: His wife and wains (English 4). Religion has seen many nations ripped apart by war and will probably see many more in the future. Another country, like Northern Ireland, that has been affected by religious war is the country of Bosnia. The religious differences in Bosnia instantly resurrect tribal or ethnic hatreds. In Bosnia, there are three religions. The Bosnia Muslims obviously are Muslim followers, the Bosnia Serbs are Eastern Orthodox Christians, and the Bosnia Croats are Roman Catholic. The total population of Bosnia was 4,365,000 in 1992(McGowan 4). Out of this population, the people stand as the following: Muslims, 2 million; Serbs, 1.3 million; and the Croats are 750,000(McGowan 8). This war is another way that religion is so bad. The Muslims of Bosnia want an independent, multiethnic state under Muslim control. Serbs and Croats, however, faced the prospect of living under Muslim rule. With this fear, the Serbs went on their ethnic cleansing . This is a deliberate effort to kill or drive away non-Serbs. Muslims were massacred in cold blood. More than 200,000 Bosnians have been killed and more than 2 million have been made refugees; the worst such carnage in Europe since World War II (McGowan 8). Men were put into concentration camps and women into rape camps. Children are separated from their parents and are homeless while others join the army to aid the war (McGowan 8). It is obvious that this is nothing but religious conflict. The warfare in Bosnia has been around since 395 AD. How much longer will we continue to kill our fellow humans in God s name? Although religion was helpful to primitive cultures in that it gave them guidelines to vase their lifestyles upon, it has been proven to be the sole cause of some of the world s worst wars of past and present. Religious intolerance has kept the world back thousands of years. Looking at all the problems I ask myself, will they ever end? The answer I find is no. these problems will never completely end, but there are things we can do to lessen the effects. It is easy to say that since religoin causes conflict we should end all religious practices. However, this is just not possible. So the only option we have left is to try to live peacefully with religion. To this will require much more tolerance, less political involvment, less corruption and more logical thouht. We can no longer blindly follow what our religion tells us without first questioning the logic. We should not depend so entierly upon our religion and what God said hundreds of years ago. With time comes changes and this change much be incorporated into our beliefs. Without acknowledge change where would we be? The world would still be flat and all freethinkers would be killed. S, if you find yourself with a difficult decision to make do not ask what your God is telling you to do, instead, ask yourself what you should do.