Saturday, May 16, 2009

All Bubbles are Equal

Wars are fought for many reasons, including territory, politics, oppression, and religious differences. Throughout history religious differences have been a major excuse for declaring war. More people have lost their lives in the name of God than for almost any other reason.

Our war against terrorism is really rooted in religious differences. The terrorists are religious fanatics who use their religion as an excuse to attack innocent people.

The fanatics we’re dealing with now are Muslims. They follow a very strict and oppressive form of Islam, but they twist its meaning to suit their own selfish agendas.

But Islam is not the only religion that has fanatics, either now or in the past. Christianity has also had its share of them, and some have been just as treacherous and deadly.

Fanatical Muslims talk about jihad, meaning holy war. Some are willing, even proud, to die for the cause of their religion. That is why the terrorist groups have no trouble in recruiting suicide bombers. They believe to die in a jihad secures their place in the afterlife.

But, although early Christians were persecuted, once Emperor Constantine converted himself to Christianity for political reasons, it was the Christians who did the persecuting, the plundering, and the oppressing.

If the term jihad makes Christians feel uneasy, the term crusade must send chills down the spine of Muslims. The Crusades were campaigns fought by Christians against the Islamic nations. The Crusades were a series of five wars fought over a 200-year period beginning in the 11th century after Pope Urban II exhorted all Christians to take up arms against the infidel Muslims.

Then there was the Inquisition, which brought imprisonment or torture to those Christians who were judged to have committed heresy, or to converted Jews and Muslims who were not Christian enough in their new way of life.

Christians have invaded new lands, such as Scandinavia and the Americas, and have sought to spread their Gospel to the infidels. The ones they could not convert, they enslaved or slaughtered.

Even within Christendom itself there have been fighting factions. Witness the unrest that once plagued Northern Ireland for decades. It was unrest fueled by the religious intolerances of Catholics and Protestants in that region.

One must be very careful not to judge a person solely on what religion he chooses to believe in. Just as all Muslims are not terrorists, all Christians throughout history have not been crusaders, oppressors, and marauders.

It is interesting to note, however, that what compels the religious fanatics to take up arms and riot in the streets is the same motive that compels some fundamentalist mainstream Christians to proselytize. They have a staunch, deep-seated conviction that their religion is the right one, and that their god is the true one. Other gods are false; other ways are evil.

Modern Christian fundamentalists don’t take up arms. They are stealthier and more clandestine in their attempts to win converts. They lure kids into the fold with games and ice cream cones and then tell them fables from the bible. They scare them into believing in their version of Christianity by telling them if they don’t believe they will go to hell. Then they send their young recruits out to gather their friends into the flock. And much of the time, all this is taking place in the tax-supported public schools by groups such as the Good News Club.

The people of this planet, if they belong to a religion at all, belong to one of about four or five major belief systems. Among those are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism.

One can view each major religion as a giant bubble on the surface of the earth, unable to combine into a single larger bubble. The occupants of one bubble realize that the other bubbles exist, but they do not really understand what it’s like to be inside any bubble but their own. They can’t see the whole picture. Their own bubble is right and righteous; the other bubbles are flawed or imperfect. And woe be to those who live outside any bubble, for they are surely lost sheep.

Sometimes, the residents of one bubble try to expand their own by devouring neighboring bubbles or by seducing another bubble’s residents to come over to the good side. That attitude either leads to war, or at the very least causes ill will between bubbles.

We might all do well to step outside our own little bubbles and look at the world from a different perspective. View it from a perspective outside of any bubble. View it from the perspective of an alien who knows nothing of religion.

One might then come to the conclusion that all bubbles are equal. And if all bubbles are equal, what would be the point of having bubbles at all? Perhaps the worldview taken by a religion, any religion, is just as flimsy as the film of a soap bubble.

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