Saturday, September 11, 2010

TO BELIEVE that the WTC attack, nine years ago today, was the result of religion is both naive and simplistic. People kill people, not religions.

And people go to war and kill one another because they feel threatened. Economically threatened. Many around the world see us as enemies not because of our religion -- although that provides a convenient shorthand -- but because of the pervasive and intrusive 'Western' culture that is changing their way of life.

Which is really a world culture now and should not be particularly identified with America or Europe. At this point, even if we don't recognize it, we are as much 'victims' of this, well, new world order as anyone else in the world.

Religion can be turned to men's uses, as can anything else in this world. They will take what they want from it and ignore that which contradicts their desires. Not all, of course; some actually have learned and benefited from the teachings of their faiths over the years!

I value organized religion as a counter-balance to the 'tyranny' of government and economic power. In a world of big governments and big international corporations, maybe we need big religions (and big do-good organizations of all sorts). The concern should be that those organizations that might be on our side become co-opted by the government. This is really what happened to the labor movement in our country.

It is also what has happened to religion over and over. We owe a lot of our freedom of religion today to the long history of independence in the Roman church. Although in the wake of the Reformation, Catholicism certainly colluded with 'loyal' governments to fight the spread of Protestantism. This was the same sort of co-opting we should fear -- those governments were using religion to reinforce their own power over their people. Both sides.

Yes, religion is used as an excuse for war and misdeeds of all sorts. So is nationalism; after all, wars between nations have killed far more people that religion ever could. But nations, too, are people and people can change, learn, become better. Despite themselves!

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