Why Do Religions Teach Love and Yet Cause So Much War?
Transcending the trauma to get to the truth of the world's faiths.
BY: Ken Wilber
Throughout history, religion has been the single greatest source of human-caused wars, suffering, and misery. In the name of God, more suffering has been inflicted than by any other manmade cause. Does that strike you as odd? And if that statement is true, does it not follow that "peace on earth, good will toward men" demands the death of God?
An integral approach to spirituality takes that assertion very seriously. Yet it also accepts the idea that religion in some sense contains deep and abiding truths about reality, possibly about Ultimate Reality itself. It is one of the distinctive aspects of the integral approach that it claims to be able to reconcile those two astonishingly contradictory items.
Religion causes more human war and misery than any other manmade cause.
Religion is about Ultimate Reality.
The only way to reconcile those two items is to recognize that, at the very least, religion contains two very different aspects. One clearly divides humans; the other might be able to unite them. "Peace on earth, good will toward men" obviously rests upon differentiating those two aspects and placing each of them in a larger context. Exactly how to do so is one of the goals of the integral approach. But one thing is certain and historically undeniable: if we cannot do so, religion will continue to be the death of humans until humans have the death of God.
It is common, of course, to say that all religions-or certainly most of them-teach some sort of brotherly/sisterly love, that all major religions have some version of the Golden Rule, and that religions therefore have acted to introduce love and compassion into the world. Once again, however, that flies in the face of historical fact: for every year of peace in humankind's history there have been fourteen years of war, 90% of which have been fought either because of, or under the banner of, God by whatever name. (More on this atKen Wilber Online
Again, it seems as if there are almost two different kinds of religion, one of which brutally divides, and one of which unites (or can unite). How do we tell them apart, and how might we begin to switch allegiance from the former to the latter? If you believe in God and yet don't have an answer to that question, you are inadvertently contributing to the wars of tomorrow, yes? And it won't quite do to say that the world would be peaceful if everybody accepted my personal savior or my path to Spirit. Surely that is the cause, not the cure, of the problem, yes?
In my previous Beliefnet column ("What All Religions Have in Common"
), I introduced the idea of an "integral approach" to spirituality. Most Beliefnet columns are self-contained pieces; few of them require any familiarity with earlier or later columns. The integral approach has about a half-dozen major components, however, each of which needs to be understood in order for the approach itself to make sense. This means that my column will be a series of installments, each of which builds upon its predecessors.
Does this sound interesting to you? If so, then let's begin.
In my previous column I didn't spell out, or really indicate what an "integral approach" to spirituality would include. Many readers naturally assumed that this was simply another version of "universalism"-the belief that there are certain truths contained inall
the world's religions. But the integral approach emphatically does not make that suggestion. Other readers maintained that I was offering a version of the "perennial philosophy" espoused by Aldous Huxley or Huston Smith. Does the integral approach believe that all religions are saying essentially the same thing from a different perspective? No, almost the opposite.