I just read this in-depth piece in the WSJ about how religion and radicalism tore the Boston bombing suspects’ home apart, possibly influencing their actions.
The changes drove a wedge through the Tsarnaev home…. Tamerlan persuaded his mother to cover herself up, which she says at one point distressed her husband, Anzor. “He said, ‘You are being crazy, covering yourselves,’” she recalled her husband saying. She said that she told him, “This is what Islamic men should want. This is what I am supposed to do.”
It’s no secret that religion divides people. For centuries, we’ve been segregated into groups based on our “faith” in books that were written by people who didn’t know that the earth was round. Back then, it was easy to chalk up “miracles” to god — for things that are easily explained now were trivial then. (For example, the Biblical Plagues of Egypt. Blame algae, not god.)
What’s more, we constantly fight about religion, and millions of lives have been lost in the name of some mysterious skydaddy or another. Each religious group swears they’ve got it right, and that everyone else must be wrong. Reminds me of a classic George Carlin bit:
If you think that religious violence is isolated to the time of the Crusades, you’re mistaken. Here are 3 places that religion is causing strife around the world today:
1. Kashmir – India v. Pakistan
Often cited as the most dangerous place in the world, Vice recently documented Kashmir in its new HBO series. Both Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan are armed with nuclear weapons, and as the two countries jockey over water supply, conflict could erupt at any moment.
2. Gaza Strip – Palestine v. Israel
It’s Muslims v. Jews in a battle for the Holy Land. This conflict dates back decades, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Both sides believe they’re entitled to this land because of religion.
3. Middle East – Shia v. Sunni Muslims
This intra-Muslim conflict has been going on since the year 632 (!). Think about that for a second. In 632, the following things did not yet exist:
It’s 2013. We walk around with tiny computers in our pockets, capable of bringing us all the information in the known universe in a matter of seconds. You can Google pictures of Venus and Mars. You can literally find an exact street address and building location via street view. But this conflict rages on because both sides have different views about who should have succeeded the profit Muhammed more than 1,300 years ago. Making matters worse, this conflict has only been heightened by the U.S. – Iraq war beginning in 2003.
But let’s not forget about ‘Murica. At home, there’s confusion over religion’s role in our own society. Despite the fact that our country was founded on religious tolerance and separation of church and state (read about the pilgrims), certain sects of Christianity demand that their values and practices should be incorporated into public affairs. They protest funerals, bomb abortion clinics and are hell-bent on preventing equal rights.
Though not all christian churches in the U.S. are as violent as Westboro Baptist, there are plenty of mega churches out there that are just sucking up money from lower-middle class devotees. From CNN:
Scott Thumma, professor of sociology and religion at Hartford Seminary told CNN that “the mega church on average has about $6.5 million in income a year.”
“If you put together all the mega churches in the United States, that’s easily several billion dollars.”
Our very own churches enjoy a tax-free existence while offering a place for consumers to pray for salvation. But consider this:
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Thankfully, some of these mega churches are getting hit with a tax bill. Like this one, which tried to claim exemption despite raking in the dough from a cafe, gym and bookstore. But these cases are few and far between – and there are still too many religious institutions out there that are sucking people dry. There will always be marks out there, willing to buy their way into heaven.
The bottom line is this: religion doesn’t solve problems. Religion creates problems. For every alcoholic who says he found Jesus, thousands die on the front lines of religious conflicts around the world. Believing in ANYTHING that gets your mind off your problem can help you recover. Could be a pet, could be music. Jesus is not helping you. YOUR BELIEF in Jesus is helping you, the same way your belief in ZEUS could help you, if you were so inclined. You overcome obstacles ON YOUR OWN — and if you feel like faith helps you in that regard, so be it. But that doesn’t mean other people have to believe it as well. And it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean that the U.S. should adopt christianized principles — that would just cause more conflict.
Religion (or lack thereof) is a personal concern, not a national one. If we all just kept that in mind, the world would be a better place.