Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sunday Extra: Religion, Violence, Politics & Certainty

The Dallas Morning News has a very interesting essay in its Points section this morning.

"God is winning," written by Timothy Samuel Shah and Monica Duffy Toft, is reprinted from the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

Shah and Toft point out that the growth of religion and its influence around the world, and especially in the political sphere, has been at best a very mixed blessing. War, political oppression, terrorism and the shaping of international policy have resulted from the growth of religion's influence in an expanding democratic context.

According to this analysis, people, worldwide, are more religious than at any time in modern history. It also seems that those religions most certain of the correctness of their beliefs are the fastest growing and the most active politically and socially.

Examples of this sort of fierce certainty, leading to a level of violence and sectarian hatred that threatens to undo civilization, can be found in all of the major world religions, including Christianity.

Reminds me of what philosopher and historian Peter Watson ( The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century, 2001 ) told the The New York Times Magazine last year in its annual, special issue on the greatest ideas of 2005.

When asked what he felt was the most destructive, negative idea in the the history of mankind, Wagner immediately replied, "Monotheism."

By that he meant that when I feel like my God and my understanding of God are superior to your God and to your understanding of God and true faith, we encounter the opportunity for what could become an almost irresolvable conflict.

Conflicts of this sort are being played out around the world today. Just turn on CNN and watch for half-an-hour.

We see various forms of this same conflict in the city as well.

Wonder where humility comes into play in the world's major belief systems as popularly understood today? What is the place of love, kindness and peace?

Read the full essay at:


George Shollenberger said...

You are focusing on very important concepts and the dynamics of their relations. You will find new ideas in my new book on 'The First Scientific Proof of God.' I am also teaching and expanding this book at

Anonymous said...

What is the imminent end, Larry? Is there a way to turn back the tide?

Or should we invent the self-sustaining spaceship that can carry us off this doomed planet?

Larry James said...

I suppose we must begin with ourselves, Anonymous. I also think that whenever I or my "tribe" begin to consider our own ideas, beliefs, and convictions more important than the lives, feelings and beliefs of others, we are on thin ice and if we find religious or theological justification for violent attitudes or actions, we need to reconsider the worth and truth of our theology and of our worldview.