The Destructive Power of Religion


The Destructive Power of Religion: Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Praeger, 2003) is Edited by J. Harold Ellens, Research Scholar at the University of Michigan, with an Ad Testimonium by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, 1984 who calls the four volumes “A groundbreaking work with tremendous insight.  This will become a classic.”


Dozens of studies by 30 senior experts from five nations examine the influence of sacred texts shaping human nature, society, and political and military strategies in the Western world over the last 3,000 years.  The contributors explain how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all incorporate the ancient Israelite notion that history and the human soul are caught in a cosmic conflict between good and evil, or God and devil, which cannot be resolved without violence.  This notion is internalized in the Western psyche and collective unconscious, shaping our social ethics, theological assumptions, and national strategies, particularly for fundamentalists in each religion who take a literalist approach to responsibility and ethics.


They warn that until destructive religious metaphors are removed from the Western psyche, an end to religious violence in the West will not be possible.


Remember now that we are not just talking about war.  Violence comes in many forms.  In America the largest act of terrorism can arguably be said to be the war on drugs.  Far more lives are destroyed in this war than were lost in the Twin World Trade Towers in New York City on September 11th.  An interesting book on this topic is by Rudolph J. Gerber entitled Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics.  (Praeger, 2004).  Before we go any further, keep in mind that the author is a retired appellate judge who served on the Arizona Court of Appeals until 2001.  He now is on the faculty of the School of Justice Studies at Arizona State University.  This book is a reasoned approach, not the ravings of some drug-crazed lunatic.


He contends that the federal efforts to stamp out every form of marijuana use involve ignoring the independent reports of numerous federal commissions; supporting provably false claims about marijuana’s effects; acquiescing to conservative law enforcement and religious groups’ condemnatory agendas; generating a climate of fear in the electorate in order to cultivate messianic images for politicians; and ultimately governing in a way that does a disservice to all involved.


The above two books reflect some of the tremendous damage that the Nicene Creed has been responsible for, at least in part, for two millennium with said violence continuing into the present moment.


Isn’t it way past the time for us to begin to rethink our approach to Christ’s teachings?  Since they are being employed to great harm, since he was preaching love, should we not begin to take a fresh and open look at how we can more openly explore His teachings?