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Violence Religious and Secular

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 27, 2011

The Pope’s address at the interfaith pilgrimage to Assisi today is must reading. In it he identified two main sources of new forms of violence in the world today. Both are particularly apt topics for an interfaith pilgrimage.

The first is the tendency to use religion as a justification for terrorism. The second is the tendency to deliberately separate the human person from God and religion altogether. Paradoxically, these two feed off each other. That’s one reason why it is so important to read what the Pope has to say.

As Benedict points out, religious leaders (and all religious persons) ought to be very disturbed when they see religion used as a justification for violence. This is frequently the case among Islamic jihadists, and there was even a rare case recently in which a group of Mexican Catholics threatened their Protestant neighbors with crucifixion if they did not leave town. Most readers will also recall similar problems in Northern Ireland.

But the Pope also points out that such instances are used by secularists to argue that religion causes violence, even though historically there has been far more violence and war for non-religious reasons than for misguided religious reasons, and even though in general most religions most of the time attempt to form their adherents in the ways of peace. Still, the bad example of religious violence—and the faulty arguments of secularists—do contribute to the secularist agenda of divorcing man from God and religion.

As Benedict notes, this secularist effort takes the form of various ideologies, which have given rise to brutal totalitarian systems—systems that have dwarfed violence from any other cause. And of course the loss of respect for the human person which inevitably follows upon secularism leads to many forms of violence that we now take for granted, such as abortion.

In turn, these attempts to impose secular values and secular regimes upon various peoples around the world give rise to extreme reactions, some of which, in the vacuum left by the loss of true religion, take the form of religious fundamentalism. It would be hard to argue, for example, that Islamic terrorism is not fueled in part by a reaction against the West’s insistence on exporting its own rampant secular deformities.

All of this is worth serious reflection. Again, I recommend reading the Pope’s address.

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