Alternatively, we could phrase the question: Are differences in religion more destructive of social harmony than racial differences?
Consider two social divides along important fault lines. The first social divide is that of people of the same race (or ethnicity) who are of different religions. Specific examples include but are not limited to the people of Northern Ireland (Catholic and Protestant), the people of Nigeria (Christians and Muslims), the people of northern India (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs), in Egypt (Muslims and Coptic Christians), and the Shia versus Sunni divide in Iraq. The second social divide is that of people of different races (or ethnicities) who hold to the same religion. Specific examples that come to mind are the multiracial, multiethnic congregations found within both Protestant and Catholic churches in the US, the Muslims in Sudan (Berber and Negro), the Christians of South Africa (black Africans and the white Afrikaners of European ancestry).
Note: There are other examples where we see that race and religious differences coalesce for a large segment of a nation’s population as in Sudan before South Sudan gained its independence from Khartoum (blacks in the south were mainly Christian and the Berbers in the north are Muslim). In some countries, the religious divide also follows tribal divides as in Nigeria. As well, the Hindu Tamils of northern Sri Lanka were brought to the island from India as a cheap source of labor by the British. The native Singhalese are mostly Buddhists. The Chinese minority in Indonesia is largely Christian whereas the majority Malays are Muslim.
We see that the first social divide of same race with different religions has produced terrible violence as in the above 5 examples listed. So, our question is valid, albeit agreement or consensus on an answer may be controversial and elusive. To be sure, there has been strife and violence in places where the second social divide above exists. But, it seems that this second divide has given rise to less violence to date. (We would be negligent if we failed to note that the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 was largely due to virulent tribal hatreds.)
We must also consider that ideology serves as a substitute for religion for many nonreligious people. Today, we see such ideologically driven people acting as violent fanatics much like religious extremists do. A study of 20th century history informs one that ideology can be deadly to tens of millions of human beings. (The atheistic ideology of communism killed tens of millions in Russia and China.) One might consider The Second World War in Europe to have been a conflict between 3 ideologies (Anglo-American bankster capitalism, National Socialism, and Bolshevik Communism). Ideologically driven wars are as destructive as religious wars. (The near total destruction in Germany in World War II was similar to that in the religious wars of the 16th century that resulted in many German districts being almost completely depopulated.) We must repeat what we have said in much earlier posts on this blog: people need to govern their religious fervor with reason or risk degenerating into fanaticism. This admonition applies to ideological fervor as well.
People identify very intensely with the religion they practice because they invest so much of themselves (both emotionally and psychologically) over their lifetime in their religion’s belief system. Whereas a person is born into a particular race or ethnic group, commitment to a religion is the result of conscious effort over the course of one’s life. Many individuals cannot bring themselves to question their religion or its excesses or the abuses within it. This can be for 2 reasons. The peer pressure to conform that exists in religions that require social consensus in belief and practice can be and is quite powerful. But, we need to consider that the individual who has invested so much of himself into his religion over many years will find it difficult to objectively and rationally question it or its premises. Such internal questioning in the mind leads to stress and anxiety and can even be thought of as an attack on, or threat to, the believer’s identity. Emotion fuels religious fervor and emotion often short circuits any attempts at remaining rational and objective. As one can see for one’s self these days, this is also true for ideological fervor.
This blog post is offered as food for thought.
other related thoughts
An interesting item that the world saw on its television news and on its social media this past weekend was the many masked, black clad Antifa thugs carrying signs proclaiming “No Hate” while they engaged in (and started the) violence against those they disagreed with in Berkeley, California. We cannot make this stuff up, dear readers. No signs advocating for free speech were to be seen among this herd. I guess that irony would be obvious even to them.
We must be careful here, America, because violence begets violence. But, people do have a God-given right to defend other innocent people and themselves from bodily harm. If you threaten with bodily harm and violence my family, or other peaceful individuals, or myself, it won’t matter what color your skin is to me. You’ll cause the same reactions.
A word or two about race in America. What is rarely discussed in public is the fatigue factor on this issue among many white folks. Many are tired of hearing the charge of racism thrown at them even when the charge is completely baseless and unfounded. It does appear that many people of color will, when it is expedient or advantageous to do so, make use of the term racism to cover or divert attention from their own failings as individuals or as a community. We have heard comments from white individuals that tell of people who did give blacks and other minorities a fair chance in employment and in the business world but who now find it harder to do so after tiring of being incorrectly and frivolously branded a racist at times when these nonwhites failed to make the grade so to speak in their performance. The point here is that when the charge of racism is over used and incorrectly used (really abused) too often it drives people to become weary of working for fairness and a truly level playing field for all. Thus, always playing the race card is actually counter-productive and harms racial harmony. Yet, that is exactly the situation we have in the US today.
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