No doubt you’ve noticed that I haven’t posted to this blog in a long time. I’ve been ill. Some unnamed virus has muddled my brain and kept me asleep most of the day for almost two months. I have cancelled all travel for the summer, and have had to renegotiate my book contracts to accommodate my limited capacity to write.
There is no need to email me or even to post you support on this blog. I rarely have the energy to check either.
I am writing this today, however, because of something Pope Francis said that I could not let pass.
In response to the brutal beheading of a Catholic priest celebrating Eucharist, the Pope said, “Let’s not be afraid to state this reality. The world is at war because it has lost the peace.”
I agree: the world is at war. The Pope then went on to excuse religions from being responsible for this war saying, “All religions want peace; it is other people who want war.” With this I disagree.
First of all, one only has to read the history of religion to know that religions only want peace when peace is advantageous to them. When war is advantageous, they want war. For every “love thy neighbor,” there are dozens of “kill every man, woman, child, and cow” of your enemy. When religions have the capacity to kill in this life, they will do so. When they lose that capacity they will project their killing into the afterlife. To insist that “all religions want peace” is to turn a blind eye to the true nature of religion.
Second, the “other people” who want war use religion to legitimize it. The Pope says, “There is a war for money. There is a war for natural resources. There is a war for domination of peoples,” and all this true, but it is religion (the belief in a transcendent Other, be it a God or the State, that determines what is right and wrong, good and evil) that is uniquely capable of motivating people to murder one another.
If we are to move beyond war we must move beyond competing theologies and parochial religion toward the Perennial Wisdom that is the mystic heart of every religion. Religion per se isn’t the problem. The religions we have are the problem.