As events in France unfold around the mass shooting at the Charlie Hebdo attack, a familiar pattern is emerging. Anti-Muslim sentiment is rising along with the plea from more empathetic, humane people that we avoid painting an entire religion and culture with a broad brush.
It is a pattern that we saw in Australia a few weeks ago, in Canada last November, in the US after the Boston Marathon bombing and just about any time there is an act of terrorism in the world, whether Muslims prove to be involved or not.
As a non-religious person it is a conversation I’m tired of because, from my perspective, the problem isn’t Islam, it is religion.
I do not have a problem with faith. People can believe anything they want to and it doesn’t really matter whether they have permission to believe or not. Actual faith is something that you feel to be true, regardless of what others believe. It is not something that you need to have reinforced by others or validated by others. It is not something that you need to sell door to door, or impose on others through law. It is certainly not something that requires you to kill people who don’t share your belief. The people who do these things do so because they do not have any actual faith.
Religion is not faith, religion is about power and politics. Religion is about telling people what to think, how to act and asking for their physical, political and financial support.
Religion is dangerous and there is no religion that does not have its list of past and present sins. This list is so long that it doesn't require nor is there space for a detailed list but whether we're talking about genocide against aboriginal people or genocide against WWIIs Jewish population; Whether we're talking about the crusades or colonialism; Whether we're talking about Northern Ireland or Israel/Palestine no religion has a very good claim on morality.
Despite the lack of leading by example, religions around the world want to dictate their version morality to the rest of us. Whether it is the oppression of gays, the oppression of women, or the oppression of ethnic minorities or other religions they want to be able to make the laws and dictate how others live their lives. In many cases they even want their faith taught in public schools.
Religious people want us to believe that without religion, we wouldn't have compassion or morality at all. However, as neuroscience has recently confirmed (see video below), we have been hard wired for empathy and compassion by evolution. It is part of our biological make up and has nothing to do with any god.
Without that claim, we are left with a history of oppression, bigotry and violence going back thousands of years. They have disguised this, to an extent, by playing a game of good cop/bad cop with each other and with themselves. They claim that this religion is better than that one, or this faction of the religion is better than the other ones, or the past of our religion is shameful but the future will be better. Taken as a whole though, using broad strokes, the present state of religion is no better than the past.
Again, it is not that I have a problem with faith. Any person can and has every right to believe what they believe but I'm not going to play the games of religion. I've no interest in letting institutions with a history of hate, oppression and violence dictate morality or point fingers.
The next time a Christian or person of any other faith tries to pin an act of violence on Muslims, as a whole, turn it around and pin it on religion as a whole. The next time a Christian asks a Muslim to defend or apologize for the act of another Muslim, ask that Christian to defend or apologize for that same action as a religious person.
It is not a question of one religion being better, more moral or less violent than another, there is no "winner" there. It is only a question of which religion is being closely scrutinized today.
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