Beyond the Cusp

September 20, 2012

Violence, Religion and Civilized Society

Despite the evidence of modern times, many religions have experienced periods of violence by their adherents. Christianity had its period where violence was utilized in order to purify Europe of the unbelievers and even between different branches of Christianity, especially Protestants against Catholics. Judaism had violence in the earliest periods of the religion. Though much of that violence was committed in defense against attacks from outside, there was the conquering of the lands of Canaan in the period between the end of Moses under the leadership of Joshua through King David who finally unified the twelve tribes and took control of all the lands both east and west of the Jordan River. Islam has had periods of conquest as it spread by both conversion and conquest, which cannot be denied. The Hindus had a period of violence in early Indian history. What comes as a shock to many Westerners is that Buddhism also has utilized violence in its history. There has yet to be a religion which completely in all cases eschewed violence in any form. Any religion that would take such a stance would not survive as soon as it came in conflict with any other religion willing to use violence as by total rejection of violence would quickly turn every practitioner of such a religion into a martyr who soon would have nobody to mourn or note their sacrifice. Most religions have their most violent periods early on as they are becoming established. So, how can one measure any religion in order to determine whether it is in a phase where it depends or relies upon violence or is in a period or stage where it prefers reason to violence?

The true test of the extent a religion actually exemplifies violence is if violence holds a position in their religion where it is condoned and accepted as a preferred manner for spreading the religion or if it is the preferred manner to be applied initially when defending the religion. So, if a religion calls for the death of nonbelievers and such a call is still considered an actionable cannon of the religion, it very likely that religion is still in a stage where violence is an integral part of said religion. Also, if a religion demands that any rejection, insult, refusal, injury or blaspheme be initially and immediately responded to with violence, especially if this demands any individual or group from which the causality originates be put to death or otherwise physically threatened or harmed, that religion is likely in a state where violence is an integral and inseparable element. That is not to say that any protestation or even the worst denunciation of those who insult, disparage or attempt to cause discomfort of a religion or its adherents need be responded to with flowers, hugs and kisses. Righteous indignation and vehement and critical responses may very well be called for or needfully expressed should those besmirched feel the necessity to do so. But burning down buildings and destruction of property belonging to others are signs of a tendency towards violence and the actual murder of people seals the deal and is a sure sign of violence being incorporated into a religion. The only time that causing bodily harm or destroying property can be considered appropriate is if it is in response to such violence being utilized first against one because of their religious beliefs. But even this violence has limits which if transgressed would indicate too close an association with the use of violence by a religion or group.

Threatening violence is not necessarily a fait accompli that those making such threats will actually resort to violence. Such threats, as long as they are not carried out, may be something of a cultural norm and an expected behavior in response to any feelings of threats or rejection from the outside. Such reactions may not be the preferred response to misunderstandings or even threats but can be understandable as long as they do not lead to actualizations of said threats. There can be a great amount of leeway and understanding to responses as long as such passions do not result in destructive actions. But once the line has been crossed and violence taken, then it is no longer a cultural difference and have become an unacceptable act. Where in much of history violence was the normative mode for most societies, both inward and outward, life was brutal and survival of the fittest, or the one with sufficient wealth to hire the fittest, was the hard and cold rule of most societies. With the onset of modern weapons, especially those quantified by their abilities to be weapons of mass destruction, we have reached a point where if violence is not deterred and made no longer an acceptable for settling differences between cultures, societies, ethnicities and especially religions, then the continued existence of humankind is in question. This, above all else, is the overriding reason that violence as the first and preferred response to insult and slight must become unacceptable to all of humankind. Visceral hatreds need to be overcome if the civilization of humankind is to not only survive, but to thrive and attain all those goals that are the promise of a peaceful future. In order for civilization to continue requires we find a way to end violence as the first response in any situation where a clash of differences occurs. To allow violence to continue in any part of the human existence as the answer to any antagonism, slight or provocation is to leave the potential for a festering injury which will result in a slow and agonizing death of our civilization. Unfortunately, there are some who do not yet realize this and are oblivious to the potential their harms can inflict, or maybe they are counting on everybody else to capitulate because they know the dangerous threat that exists in such violence.

Beyond the Cusp

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