Role of Religion in the World Community
As the saying goes, there are two sides of a coin. On one hand, Religion could be viewed as a blessing and a source of inspiration. On the other hand, Religion could be seen as a source of trouble and confusion that may turn many into becoming prejudiced and skeptical. A careful analysis of this conclusion will enable us to see why Religion is viewed as having one side that is positive and constructive and another other side that is negative and destructive.
Positive and Constructive Aspects
Religion as judged from its ideals is positive and constructive. However, in a number of instances when judged from the way adherents behave religion may give the impression of being negative and destructive. Let us first explore the ideals of some of the major religions before we go to the negative behavior of some of the adherents. This may enable us to instill more respect and better understanding of the teachings and views of our respective major religions. It may eventually enable us to view religion as the best instrument of peace.
Judaism views the Old Testament as its source of inspiration and eventual behavior. It is commonly known as the Bible, which carries a variety of books among which the Pentateuch, which talks about the creation and experiences of the forefathers of the Jewish people. The Nevi’im covers the early and latter prophets. It covers the history of various wars along with the teachings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The Ketuvim covers the psalms, the suffering of the book of Job, the experiences of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ruth and the Book of Daniel.
Christianity views the New Testament as its source of inspiration and eventual behavior. Hundreds of spiritually oriented individuals over the past 2,000 years provided a lot of literature, which elaborated on the inspirational teachings of Jesus Christ. One of such writers was St. Thomas Aquinas whose theological writings are second to none. Some of the leading figures that served as inspiration to millions may be enlisted at random as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Avila, St. Anthony of Padova, and St. Augustine.
Islam views the Koran as its source of inspiration and eventual behavior. It is viewed by some to be the Bible of Moslems. One good piece of literature is Hadith, which records the sayings and deeds of Prophet Muhammad. Several inspiring pieces of literature were from India and Persia that were translated into Arabic, which became a source of inspiration and spiritual upliftment. The Book of Misers is a collection of stories about the avaricious. The Orchard consists of stories illustrating the virtues of Muslims are supposed to possess.
Buddhism relies heavily on the teachings of Gautama Siddhartha, who is commonly known as Buddha. A popular writing is the Amithaba, which consists of the various concepts of God, non-violence, and religious tolerance. There is also the Buddhist Bible consisting of a collection of key Zen documents that enabled the spread of Buddhism in English speaking countries. Gospel of Buddha, which covers Buddha’s work and life compiled from ancient records. These documents, in addition to others, are notably positive and constructive.
Hinduism tries to understand good human behavior from such literature that includes Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavad-Gita. Ramayana praises the heroism and virtues of Aryan warrior-princes. Focus is made on speaking the truth and making sacrifices for the sake of virtue against the evils of greed, lust and deceit. Mahabharata attempts to be an encyclopedia of morality. One of its heroes is Krishna. Bhagavad-Gita is seen as Hinduism’s most popular scriptures, which was followed closely by Mahatma Gandhi.
We got a view of the positive and constructive aspects of such religions. Since millions tend to abuse religion, we need to analyze well their behavior.
Judaism is a very good religion, which in olden times it was viewed as God’s religion, the one He provided to the famous prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Among other things, in Judaism we find the phrase “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” This means if you destroy the property of others, your property should be destroyed in return.
Judged from how Israel reacts to Palestinian protestors for the confiscation of their land, the Israelis opted for “one thousand eyes for one eye and one thousand teeth for one tooth.” This generated hatred for the State of Israel.
Christianity is based on genuine love for one’s neighbors. Jesus made it clear to his disciples saying: Do to others what you would like others to do to you. He also advocated the elimination of retaliation exhorting his followers to be good even to their enemies. The USA many Christian members in the US Congress view abortion as murder since life is viewed to start at conception.
Yet, these same US government officials continue to put billions of dollars on the manufacture and sales of weapons and the promotion of wars. And to turn an insult into injury, they referred to the brutal massacre of civilians in Iraq as collateral damage! This means for these American Christians life is sacred only from conception to birth. What happens after is not much of a big deal!
Islam is obviously a very good religion, as testified in its authoritative literature. Unfortunately, many of its followers go to extreme as to create a bad image on this holy religion unnecessarily. For example, the Koran speaks of the Jihad, which consists of the waging of a “holy war.” Within the context, such a war is to be waged against our own vices, which should be replaced by virtues.
Muslims are expected to replace hatred with love, pride with humility, anger with tolerance, and so on. The tragedy with a handful of vocal Muslims lays in the fact they take pride in promoting a holy war against the other children of God, since God views all people as His own children. This kind of Jihad is best described as a cursed war that is meant to please Satan rather than God.
Buddhism has perhaps proven to be the most peaceful religion in our earthly community. Buddhists seem to have least attachment to the material things of this world. They tend to lead a very simple life and they never hesitate to help all people in need they come across. They do not seem to have members that go to extremes by way of habit, like we do find in the other religions.
In many circles, Buddhism has often been described as a very peaceful religion whose members are generally saturated in virtue. They tend to do good to those that may wish to harm them. Their chanting instills peace and serenity among those that happen to be present. One hardly ever finds the ambition among Buddhists governmental leaders to dominate others.
Hinduism may be viewed as the most peaceful next to Buddhism, even though we do find in history quite a few Hindus that waged wars. Even here, they tended to reveal much less aggressiveness than that revealed by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Their tendency to pray and meditate seems to have become their characteristic. They are mostly concerned with their individual happiness which they would yearn to share with others.
In conclusion, all major religions have plenty of good to offer. Our negative and destructive experience about religion always stems from the bad behavior of its adherents. Let us try to learn and fully benefit from each one of them without being influenced by the negative and destructive conduct of the followers of such valuable spiritual inheritance.
Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.:
– President, International Association of Educators for World Peace, Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education, Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament.
-Professor Emeritus, Alabama A&M University.
-Hon President & Professor, SBS Swiss Business School, Zurich.
-Member, TRANSCEND-A Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Jan 2013.
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