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How Does A Religion Become Violent?


fatherman
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My church recently hosted a Palestinian Christian....yes a Palestinian Christian. He is on a mission to help Americans see a clearer picture of what is happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians. During the course of his presentation he described one of the ever-shrinking regions of Palestianian territory (I believe part of the Gaza strip). He said that it is walled and gated. The gate opens about 1 hour a day at varying times. Children can't get to there schools. Folks cannot get to their jobs. The sick cannot get to hospitals. They are literally pint up.

 

At this point, he says, "Do you see now? Do you see why people turn to fundamentalism? This is how car bombers are born."

 

If this is true, then religion (at least in part), is an expression of what is inside of us. If we feel love, then our religion has love. If we feel anger, then our religion has anger. If we feel violence...

 

What is happening there is not right. Based on the progress of the maps of Israeli and Palestinian occupation since the new Israel was born, I can only conclude that the Israelis want to cleanse the land of the Palestinians. Justice is needed here. Compassion is needed here. Why am I just waking up to this reality?

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I met a Palestinian Christian in the US once. He had no desire to go back.

 

People express their intellect through religion. They express their emotions through religion. I'm sure most people do both. I'm also sure some religions let people express themselves in healthier ways than others. Some might blame religion for that, but I find it hard to believe that something more natural like the mob would do better.

 

If you're going to dominate other people, can you ever let them up again safely? I suppose white southerners are lucky there weren't more reprisals against them by African-Americans. Maybe it wasn't luck. I wonder how many reasons for that there were.

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Hi Guys... It just goes to show that torture can take many forms. Many of us woke up to this reality of the Palestinians and the Israelis a long time ago. Jimmy Carter's been taking a lot of heat over it all lately because of his recent book. We're all seeing the result of what happens when people ignore the foundational rule of several religions...to treat others as we would wish to be treated. But governments just keep on ignoring this reality to serve economic and political expediance.

 

flow.... :(

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why s the assumption made that this is about religion?

 

 

Religion is often used as a cloaking device for the real issues.

 

 

I think it is way too simplistic to say this is about religion

 

 

the question is much more basic - the rights of human beings to live in a situation where external forces have intruded - for right or wrong - without a resort to justice for anyone involved

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why s the assumption made that this is about religion?

Religion is often used as a cloaking device for the real issues.

I think it is way too simplistic to say this is about religion

the question is much more basic - the rights of human beings to live in a situation where external forces have intruded - for right or wrong - without a resort to justice for anyone involved

 

I believe that is the consensus here, Jack. These folks are backed into an ever-diminishing corner. Their feelings are not a perversion of their religious beliefs (in this context) as is assumed by many. Their feelings are justifiable given the context.

 

What about in other contexts? In other religions? In life in general? Certainly our beliefs (of any sort) influence our feelings and behaviors, and our feelings can likewise influence our beliefs. What about the Amish community's response to the school house killer? Was it their religious belief in forgiveness and compassion that allowed them to feel forgiveness and compassion for this man and his family? How did they create this remarkable witness?

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Set the Amish for a moment since they are what I consider a special case.

 

The Hindus and Moslems have committed and continue to commit atrocites against each other in India/Pakistan and lest we not forget the Gandhi was killed by a Hindu who was angered at Gandhi's loving attitude towards Moslems.

 

 

I am sure that may good Shintos were responsible for the barbarism against the Buddhists in China in the 30s.

 

When we are involved, we call it Nazis killing Jews. If we were some other faith, we might call it Christians killing Jews. Or Germans killing Jews.

 

And was it Jews or Israelis under Sharon in Lebanon who conducted two camp masacres? Was it Serbs or Othodox or Chrstians who slaughtered Moslems (or are they Bosnians or Albanians respectively) in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 90s, and would do now if NATO and the UN weren't involved?

 

What role does religion play? Perhaps it is only our fantasy of self-importance that we think religion plays any role at all.

 

How many of us have prayed by name for the 19 hijackers of September 11th, even though Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies? How many of us cannot or will not pray for George W Bush? When push comes to shove, when we do we just act like mammels rather than as people of faith?

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Religion was invented within societies as a collection of human institutions to teach its followers codes of moral and ethical behavior. Think of religion as a self-organizing factor in cultures around the world that have functioned from the earliest appearances of civilization. Some ignore the teachings and carry out atrocities such as you have mentioned. But over the millenia, I believe that it might be said that religion has succeeded more often than it has failed as societal institutions ( in a collective sense ) or we wouldn't even be here.. Three steps forward, two steps back methodology.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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I am as everyone surely noticed the quibbling sort -

 

and I must demur from the concept that religion was "invented."

 

That makes it sound as if it came from "them" and was imposed or superposed on "us"

 

 

Religion arose from us, from us all, collectively and eventually codified by those who arose from the community with a special feel or calling to such, but religion is organic, not invented, in human community and personal life

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Religion was invented within societies as a collection of human institutions to teach its followers codes of moral and ethical behavior. Think of religion as a self-organizing factor in cultures around the world that have functioned from the earliest appearances of civilization. Some ignore the teachings and carry out atrocities such as you have mentioned. But over the millenia, I believe that it might be said that religion has succeeded more often than it has failed as societal institutions ( in a collective sense ) or we wouldn't even be here.. Three steps forward, two steps back methodology.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

Flow you are quite right. New religions oftern start off with high ideals and soon fall into idol worship created by egocentric personalities who wish to be the emissaries of this idol Once you have a group that begins to idolize this god, they start to demonize gods worshiped by others. The egocentric leaders promote this behaviour because it enhances their power over their flock of believers. The believers then "rise up to the cause" of their belief against the sinners and infidels in order to receive their "reward in heaven". This is how the atrocities appear.

 

BobD

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I am as everyone surely noticed the quibbling sort -

 

and I must demur from the concept that religion was "invented."

 

That makes it sound as if it came from "them" and was imposed or superposed on "us"

Religion arose from us, from us all, collectively and eventually codified by those who arose from the community with a special feel or calling to such, but religion is organic, not invented, in human community and personal life

 

Jack...we're both right here. Since I used to work professionally with scientists and engineers who did "invent" I understand the process somewhat. Invention usually spontaneously arises from the within. It defines something in the world that is novel, has utility, and above all is non-obvious. It is usually that which appears serendipitiously.

 

That is the context within which I made my statement regarding religion. It is not something that was originally imposed upon humans from the outside and by others. It was an expression of the self organizing desire of societies to provide a moral framework for their ongoing and future lives. What religions have been turned into by those who may have unscrupulous intent is another matter alltogether.

 

Bobd...thanks for your thoughtful response.

 

flow.... ;)

Edited by flowperson
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Religion is often used as a cloaking device for the real issues.

 

I agree. However, I also believe that religion does far more than serve to cloak questionable motives. So the real question for me in all of this is "What is the connection between religion and atrocity?" Could it be that religion is just a veil of language used by people to justify their actions? Thus, without religion nothing would change. Could it be that religion is the cause of their actions? Thus, without religion the world would be a better place.

 

I believe that we can identify a form of violence as "religious violence." In identifying this, I want to separate it from other forms of violence, such as political violence. Religious violence is a form of violence that is not just masked by religion, but derived from it. For example, suicide bombers who believe that their individual actions have cosmic/apocalyptic significance in a world that has gone to hell in a handbasket. In this form of violence, we have sociopaths who have had their psychosis fueled by religious delusions of grandeur. This is not a matter of psychosis merely hiding behind religion, but a symbiotic relationship between the two.

 

The significance of this is that there is a form of religion (fundamentalism) that feeds this type of violence. Moreover, I believe that community cultural norms do indeed have an affect on participant. Developmentally, fundamentalism is a stage of human spiritual development that equates to the cognitive development of late childhood (see James Fowler, Stages of Faith). The cultural norms of fundamentalist community actually demand that human adults function as children in an adult world. The collision of the two worlds drives up insecurities. As insecurities rise, so too do anxieties. As anxieties arise, the "reptilian" (non-rational) part of the brain dominates behavior. The fundamentalist community norm is a stance of “war” against the “outside” that reinforces and stabilizes this atmosphere and behavior. As people participate in this community, the strength of the norm actually (I believe) “rewires” their thought processes. As the rewiring intensifies, the less likely the rational part of the brain is able to overcome the emotional reaction of the reptilian brain. Emotional instability then also increases. As “buy in” to the community myth of cosmic war increases, the potential for (ir)rationalized violence in the name of all that is holy also increases. The result: a community that nurtures and empowers faithful soldiers to march off to holy war against the evil that threatens this world, recognizing that sacrifice (of self or other) is inconsequential compared to the eternal significance of the call.

 

It is important to note that participation in a fundamentalist community can actually pervert the emotional healthy of a normally rational adult into that of a child. And the potential consequences of “children” with power functioning in an adult world can be devastating to the societies in which they live.

 

So, at least in certain circumstances, I believe that religion is not just a veil, but indeed the cause of evil in this world. As religious folk, what pray tell shall we do with that?

 

 

Resources:

Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil

Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God

Ellis, Practicing Exile

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It is important to note that participation in a fundamentalist community can actually pervert the emotional healthy of a normally rational adult into that of a child. And the potential consequences of “children” with power functioning in an adult world can be devastating to the societies in which they live.

 

 

Too bad I cannot tell that to my deceased mother who raised me in a fundamentalist church. But I can tell all my fundamentalist relatives!

 

 

Howver, this is bs. It is just finding a moral high ground way to turn someone, in this case, fundamentalists, into the "other." And that is the source of violence and war.

 

Were you able to view the ones who want to call to call "other" (and unhealthy, devastatng, perverted, bold for words used above) as "one with me" rather than "other" we would be in a far better place.

 

As it stands, this is the place of the "hea;thy" progressives who must be wary of the perverted, devastating fundementalists who function as dangerous children in our society.

 

That is so arrogant and divisive as to be beyond outrage in its simplisitic reduction of human beings into such categories with such terminology.

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As anxieties arise, the "reptilian" (non-rational) part of the brain dominates behavior.

 

As someone with experience in neuroscience I would like to point out that this is fantasy. Paul MacLean is a respected neuroscientist who wrote about his model of the brain as functioning in 3 parts, the brainstem which he called the reptilian brain, the emotional brain known as the limbic system, and the rest of cerebral cortex. This hasn't caught on among neuroscientists, who are content to call the brainstem "the brainstem". Calling it reptilian is not at all precise. It's like saying our arms and legs are reptilian. There are significant differences between mammals and reptiles even in these areas where we have a lot in common with non-mammals. But there are also areas where mammals and reptiles are very different. The telencephalon, including our entire cerebral cortex, is one of those. Far from the brainstem being the whole of a reptilian brain, reptiles have their own telencephalon that is different from mammals. Without that they wouldn't act like reptiles. So it doesn't make sense to say there is a reptilian brain within us. MacLean was using the term metaphorically.

 

The first confusion about this was the shift from what MacLean published as The Triune Brain into something dualistic. Carl Sagan made this mistake in Dragons of Eden where he identified the limbic system as reptilian. It is not. From the hippocampus on up, all of the cerebral cortex, both limbic and otherwise, is only found in mammals. The prolonged relationship of mothers and children that exists in mammals is reflected in the mammalian brain. So mammals have structures like the cingulate gyrus that are responsible for interpersonal bonding and love. Other limbic structures include temporal cortex where research with the location of epileptic foci show large areas that produce fear in us, a second largest area that give people a good feeling, a contentment, with lesser areas for other emotions. These are purely mammalian. A reptile has behaviors that look like fear such as running away, but they don't have the brain to experience the fear consciously the way we do. Maybe reptiles have their own sort of consciousness. It's hard to say until some reptile starts describing his or her consciousness for us.

 

The biggest confusion, though, is that there is some battle between our emotional brain and "rational" brain, a misnomer since our cognition is not very rational. MacLean was indeed postulating his model of a triune brain as something modular where the different areas were competing with each other. Others have seen the left and right hemispheres this way. It seems much more likely that however modular the brain is, the modules cooperate much more than we feel conflict between them. If you look at verbal and nonverbal brain, sensory and motor, the modules in the brain are many more than three. There are over 30 areas where our entire vision is mapped onto one small area of cortex for us to extract different features from our world, such as color, movement, and faces. These don't fight each other. Why should any modules fight each other?

 

The problem is that while neuroscientists weren't interested much in The Triune Brain, it became popular with psychologists and New Age thinkers who use the dualistic version of this idea similarly to how it was used in the above quote. This has nothing to do with science. It is simply a different way of talking about the age-old duality people make between feeling and thinking. This is certainly a real aspect of our consciousness. Some people talk about it as a split between how we would act nonverbally vs. verbally. Others see emotions as these more animalistic parts of us compared to the "rational" part of us, even though that's not so rational. Of course we don't notice how often our feelings and thoughts are in agreement, which they frequently are. We notice the conflict.

 

Now it's easy to resolve the conflict if one says thinking is good and feeling is bad. Only if you pay attention to people who think this way, you may notice that their anger comes out as intellectual judgments of others rather than obscenties or angry actions. The limbic system of the most intellectual person in the world is probably just as active as it is in people who expressive their emotions more directly. Neuroimaging hasn't been done long enough to make this clear.

 

What is clear is that there is no justification for all the conjecture psychologists, New Age thinkers and people who get their ideas from them make about why anyone is the way they are. It is just an extension of the conflict we sometimes feel between feelings and thoughts, a conflict that may not be about competing brain areas as much as it is about competing worldviews expressed across the entire brain.

 

Which worldview is better, thinking or feeling? I suspect those who favor just one or the other make many mistakes. I believe the best worldview is one that integrates everything I am. That's not scientific. It's a hypothesis I have from what others have thought and from my own experience. That's the best we can do on this subject. There is no authority to explain why people are the way they are in great detail or what's the best way we can live knowing that.

 

As far as religion being worse than nationalism or other social systems in promoting violence, maybe XianAnarchist is right, but I don't see any evidence for it in the conjecture I've read. As I said before I find it hard to believe that there would be less violence without religion, but that is an opinion, nothing more.

Edited by DavidD
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