By Trevor Goforth
With each day and each terrorist attack, it is obvious that radicalism within the Islamic culture is on the rise. While I do not suggest that all people who follow Islam believe in this distorted view of their faith. It begs the question.
Do we need religion in a culture? Can we realize that hate is something that is something that is taught? Can we also remember our past as well?
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
With that being said, we must realize and understand when we are critical of a religion and in this case Islam, we who have grown up in the western/colonialist society, we must remember our own puritan past. In that past there were inquisitions, witch burnings, lynchings and the mass attempt at genocide of indigenous peoples. I am not advocating for the terrorists but stating that our “Christian” heritage has been marred with this sort of purge mentality in the past.
Militancy is on the rise in many parts of the world. Today, religion is being used as a tool to unite and mobilize people in a radicalized manner. Religion is also being used to dominate politics, education, way of life and even thinking. With radicalization on the rise so is its influence. In popular view, religious radicalism refers to extremely violent acts in the name of religion. Extremists are willing to undertake violent acts in the service of God and have little sympathy for their victims because these victims are the enemies of God. Just as importantly, religious radicalism inculcates the will to readily sacrifice one’s own life for the returns of ‘martyrdom’ that comes through the perceived service of God. However, religious radicalism or religious extremism is not defined by violent acts alone.
There are different aspects of religious radicalism seen in different measures in different parts of the world. The first aspect is the intense drive to expand the religious law of a particular sect. For instance, Jewish religious extremists want the supremacy of the Halacha while Islamic fundamentalists preach the supremacy of the Koran.
Even within our current culture there are groups of Christians that would restrict people from being married based on sexual orientation, and would roll back laws based on civil liberties banning immigration from certain countries. While I am all for better security and immigration policies we must not forget our past of violence in the name of “god.”
Early Judaism, for instance, presented the deity as a fearful personality who would shower wrath on followers but for the power of priests who shielded devotees from the same. The Church of Rome has a history of retarding scientific advances by punishing anyone who voiced an opinion contrary to the Church’s doctrines. Muslim invaders of Afghan descent went into India attracted by her immense wealth not only plundered wealth but also defiled and destroyed religious monuments belonging to natives. Such examples show that violence in the name of religion is a recurring theme throughout the history of humans. Unfortunately, mankind is still fighting this plague even today.
So there is no religion that has not been guilty of this kind of mind set. The desire to purge religion from our culture can also turn into a radicalism of its own as well. I for one believe that as a culture we will always have some form of spiritual and religious believes as humans will always turn to their gods to explain the unknown that science cannot explain. But in doing so, let us be reasonable and rational.
I am a man of deep spiritual beliefs and I am open to other peoples way of life and cultures. I believe in equality for all people and religions. In the end we are all human in this journey we call life.
Let’s start by changing the ethos within our own faith movements (regardless of what religion you follow) let’s try and read all scripture as just a guide and not take it so literally. Let’s change the culture of hate and xenophobia and puritan mentality with love and compassion.
Like all things in life, we are species that are constant evolving. I hope that we can evolve into a species that learns to respect all peoples regardless of what we believe or do not believe. If not then our religious beliefs and our religions that teach them need to evolve into the trash.