Saturday, September 15, 2012

Religion as Grounds for Violence

The recent killings and protests directed against the U.S. because of an extremely silly and insulting little film invoke their own kind of anger, and lead one to consider just what it is about a religion that causes such reactions.

One can understand anger and condemnation.  That is a common enough reaction of the religious when their religion is attacked, regardless of the nature of the religion.  In this instance, though, Americans were killed, and embassies of the United States were attacked or made the subject of protests.  Those killed had nothing to do with the film, nor did the government of the U.S.  Sensible people would understand that.  The killings, the attacks and the protests, therefore, make no sense.

The reaction thus is unreasonable, which is to say there is no reason supporting it.  It is far more reprehensible than that, however.  One's religion simply should not be the grounds on which innocent people--or any people--are murdered.  If it is, there is unquestionably something wrong with one's religion. 

It is also without question that religions of all kind have been the motivation for violence and murder in our sad history.  This has been less the case as time passes, however.  For religion to serve such a role now is disturbing.  It indicates that some of us, at least, are far more primitive and irrational than they should be in these times.

But it would seem that even if a religion is believed to require in some strange sense that insults to it be met with violence, that violence would only rightly be directed against those making the insults, not against any citizen of the nation in which the insulting happen to reside and not the government of that nation.  That lends an especially insane character to the violence in this case.

It is possible, I suppose, that those who did the killing and caused the destruction in this case thought the film was made or sanctioned by the U.S. government.  If that's the case, they would be fools, however.  Those who believe governments should repress speech must accept the fact that there are some governments which do not.  But here, was the government of the U.S. being punished because it allows free speech or because one of its citizens or residents "spoke" in a particular manner?  Or did such distinctions even matter to those killing and destroying because of an idiotic film?

We must recognize this reaction for what it is, and not maintain that it should not be condemned or punished because a particular culture or religion sanctions it.  Simply put, irrational violence must not be tolerated, regardless of the "reasons" for it.

There is a political issue as well in this case, though, in light of the fact that embassies were attacked and an ambassador killed, and it is apparently true that little was done to protect the embassies in question, and condemnation by the host countries were slow in coming.  It may be that the governments or elements in them sympathized with the violence.

Because of the nature and significance of embassies in international law and relations, some kind of punitive action would be appropriate.  I don't think the U.S. can simply let this pass.  If it does, it is probable it will take place again.

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