They kill In the name of God
As a social institution, monotheistic religion is meant to provide a benevolent dimension to society. Christians, Muslims and Jews presumably worship the same God to gain spiritual comfort and to acquire a moralistic underpinning for human behavior that might otherwise be like that of the animals.
But an examination of the current state of world affairs suggests that many of God's most devoted worshippers are behaving in a manner that certainly must dismay the Almighty. They are killing other believers in His (or Her) name. What could be more disturbing to people of any genuine religious faith than to see Islamic extremists rioting in the streets, exploding bombs, beheading victims, and performing other acts of terrorism, all the while shouting in Arabic: "Allah-u-Akbar!" ("God is Great!")?
In Nigeria, Muslims are slaughtering Christians in the country's northern region because a Danish newspaper cartoon lampooned the Prophet Mohammed. (I wonder how many of the rioters read newspapers or know where Denmark is.) Not to be outdone, in the country's southern region, where Christians dominate, Jesus' followers are killing Muslims.
The Danish cartoon wasn't really needed to provoke the latest rampage. Nigerians have long been murdering each other over religious and ethnic/political issues-- horrible acts at least partially stirred up by British colonialists who established national borders and disregarded the natural habitats of rival tribes.
Similar religious violence has majority Muslims pitted against Christian minorities in Sudan, Chad and neighboring black African nations. Even in a more modernized Islamic country like Egypt, the tiny Coptic Christian community lives in fear of violent threats.
But today's primary religious killing grounds, as the media are graphically reporting, are in Iraq, which the U.S. invaded three years ago to introduce tolerance and democracy. The two major denominations of Mohammed's followers are bitterly divided by doctrinal differences that are based on a 1,200-year dispute over the Prophet's successor .
Iraq's religious conflict has vital political implications. The country's minority Sunnis have traditionally governed the majority Shiites. The situation was overturned, however, by the arrival of the Americans who, in addition to their idealistic crusade for democracy, came searching for weapons of mass destruction and seeking revenge for 9/11.
Although they are the majority in Iraq, the Shiites are the minority sect in the Islamic world at large. But they are also the majority in neighboring Iran, whose maniacal president has contributed to the religious crisis by blaming Israel and the U.S. for blowing up the holy Askariya Shiite shrine in the Sunni-dominated city of Samarra. This atrocity has triggered the latest round of clashes which seems likely to escalate into a full-scale civil war.
Bloody strife continues elsewhere in the world between religious combatants claiming differing paths to God. In the Philippines, the majority Christians are battling separatist-seeking Muslims in the country's southern region. In Indonesia, the majority Muslims fight native Christians regarded as infidels.
Minority Muslims are struggling against the Buddhist nation of Thailand for their autonomy near the Malaysian border. In Sri Lanka the majority Sinhilese Buddhists are fighting Tamil Hindu separatists. In Kashmir, Indian Hindus have been in a decades-long war against Muslim separatists supported by Pakistan. And in Islamic Pakistan, Christian churches are being burned down.
Nigeria provides a case study of how misfortune can follow the introduction of organized religion--particularly ones with competing beliefs-- into an ancient land with exotic cultures. Until about 1,000 years ago, what is now Nigeria was a region of countless primitive tribes ignorant of the concepts of nationhood and monotheistic religious belief. The inhabitants' spiritual needs were fulfilled by what modern sophisticates call animistic beliefs. Undoubtedly bloody territorial warfare among the native tribes was already commonplace. It is unlikely, however, that they fought over the issue of whose animistic beliefs were superior.
Then came the Arab slave traders. In addition to human booty, they sought the souls of the indigenous tribesmen, introducing them to the compassion and mercy of Allah. Hundreds of years later European Christians arrived, bringing with them a rival form of divine worship. Ever since, the inhabitants whose ancestors worshipped idols and jungle spirits have been praying to a single God and fighting over whose path to the Almighty is greater.
Meanwhile, our God in heaven must be weeping over what is being done in His (or Her) name.