Does Religion Hold the Key to World Peace

Sectarian violence in Iraq and other regional countries in the Middle East could be represented as an example of the failure of religion to inspire peace. How can the idea of a God caring for humanity be reconciled with the diversity, militancy and intolerance of so many groups professing to know the will of God?

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The failure of people of faith to stand together in the interests of peace and understanding has not only encouraged disbelief in God, but supports the claim that religion is an active source of harm in the world. However, throughout their history, it has remained a fact that the major religions have done more to unite the world than they have done to divide it. Further, there are strong grounds for claiming that the murderous sectarianism being witnessed in places like Iraq is of secular nationalist origins rather than originating from true belief.

The major religions have thrived on peace, not war, and the size to which they have grown is not a testament to the historic military might of their host nations but their capacity to communicate and inspire. To find the true cause of the divisiveness and sectarian aggression challenging the security situation in Iraq and the world at large, we must correctly analyze the ideological arrogance provoking violent militancy within the human community, as I shall do in this article.

Having mentioned Iraq, it is important to state that this essay is not exclusively focused on the schisms within Islam but within all the major religions. It is also important for me to state that I am writing this article from the standpoint of a secular thinker rather than associating with a particular religious tradition of my own. Because of this, my concern is the social and political efficacy of the religions rather than a desire to dispute or confirm the truth of any one of them.

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Here is my challenge to adherents of all religions: the greatest confirmation of your doctrine’s truth and beneficence in the long term is going to be the capacity for the adherents to agree with one another and so dedicate themselves to attaining a peaceful and tolerant society. To encourage this outcome, we must consider the pluralistic theology of the late British theologian John Hick, whose hypothesis states that different religious sects all perceive the same divine reality. A God that is really the supreme power in the universe would surely be reachable and perceivable to all intelligences and cultures in the universe, which makes reaching God a task that is necessarily dependent on maximum communication and understanding. By extension, rejecting alternate experiences of the divine through alternate traditions is tantamount to rejecting contact with God.

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Harry J. Bentham
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