CREDOS : Is religion bad? — IV

Gregg Easterbrook

Similarly, the tension between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland has a religious component, but its essence is class-based and nationalist. Protestants in Northern Ireland tend to be well-off and Anglophile; Catholics, to be working class and to want the Brits out. Suppose religion vanished tomorrow morning, and these two groups divided themselves by arbitrary labels that had nothing to do with faith. Let’s say one position was arbitrarily designated “Orange” and the other “Green.” Do you think the conflict would instantly end? No, it would continue as before, if not worsen, since Christianity — both Catholicism and Protestantism — would no longer be present to urge each side to love its neighbour.

Similar ethnic, class, and nationalistic disputes underlie pretty much every fight that looks on the surface to be about religion. Suppose the Christian and Islamic faiths vanished.

September 11 might still have happened. Within the Arab world, where many resent the West, violent fanatics might have vowed to kill themselves solely on secular grounds. Indeed, it can be argued that since the perpetrators of September 11 openly violated the Quranic prohibition against killing the innocent, they weren’t true Muslims anyway. What they were was terrorist fanatics.

Men and women of all faiths must feel deeply chastened about the continuing violence in the name of religion. We ought to feel the very worst about violence, or hatred, perpetrated by those who say they believe what we believe. But this does not mean we should give up those beliefs. —, concluded