The disturbing events unfolding in Syria and Iraq inflict an ever greater anguish upon the human conscience. A new evil is unleashed with the ferocity of megalomania. How are we to respond to a horror that claims God for its own?
Rather than yield to our fears, it might be useful to remind ourselves of a few principles that no foolishness can alter. It is reason, not mayhem, that guides us to the integrity of an ever-advancing civilization.
I ask readers who are not religious to listen in as I address those others who share more of my personal views. You may find this helpful. Furthermore, consideration of these events offers a useful lead-in to the next chapter of the book project to be posted here in the coming weeks.
The 700 people following this blog, (including the related Facebook page), represent a wide range of beliefs. Let’s try, together if we can, to address a terrible assault on justice and human integrity with critical objectivity.
First, there can only be one God and one Reality. The universe could not otherwise maintain form or function. God is beyond our capacity to comprehend, and human beings have only a limited ability to see and understand the reality in which we live. Yet, we can study spiritual reality through religion and physical reality through science, and we can see that it all functions according to consistent rules and principles.
We can all recognize, for example, that the violation of justice has negative consequences that can play out for a long time.
Second, I suggest that the more extreme the violation of justice, the more severe the consequences.
Third, I believe that people the world over tend to be reasonable as individuals, when separated from the crowd. We believe in treating one another as we would wish to be treated by others. We value mutual respect and wish to be hospitable toward strangers, whatever their beliefs. We respect our elders and treasure our children. We all want the opportunity to seek relative comfort and prosperity. Such values are among those that characterize our humanity.
Fourth, when human beings overreact to perceived injustice or become emotionally attached to misperceptions or misunderstanding, we are capable of terrifying extremes. Such error is often perpetuated by a small number of people who are skilled at seduction and are themselves suffering from self-deception or radical delusions.
If there is any truth in these observations, how are we to understand the acceleration of murder and mayhem now confronting the world?
I know very little about Islam, but I have been asking questions. I find it quite striking that mainstream Muslims insist that the jihadists are deluded and are bringing shame on their Faith. I have been told that Muslims are forbidden, unequivocally, to attack or injure non-combatants. Hello? Muslims were apparently even directed by the prophet Muhammed to defend the safety of Christians and Jews as “people of the book.”
And, here is something even more revealing: It is said that the worst sin a Muslim can commit is to act as “a partner of God.” As I understand this, human beings must never usurp God’s prerogative. We are called to serve God, but never to suppose that God cannot handle God’s business.
So, what are they thinking when they commit mass murder in the name of God? From the point of view of Islam, it would seem that these folks are in for a rude surprise when they get where they are going.
I am afraid Christian history has been no less violent. Following the separation of Protestantism from Catholicism we saw an orgy of appalling violence in Europe that lasted for 100 years. Ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ, Christian brutalized Christian. All sides were guilty of horrifying atrocities.
We find ourselves challenged to understand how human beings can become so tragically and absurdly deluded. I suggest we avoid faulting religious faith and turn our attention instead to the problem of being so human and so easily misled.
In the coming weeks I will propose a practical manner of thinking, (or a way of understanding reality), which may assist us to keep our balance while navigating a world gone insane — whatever our religious or philosophical views.