Religious difference – need it divide humanity?

As we all gaze in horror at the latest atrocities in Gaza, is it time to think seriously about the role of religion before it finally destroys us? Matthew Syed (Oct 2023) suggests that until we find a vaccine for religious fundamentalism there can never be peace. He is surely right. This writer quotes a number of killings by Muslims – two teachers in France, and the fusilier, Lee Rigby, in which the killers uttered ‘Allah Akbar’ – God is great. Yet, God, if he exists, surely does not want us to kill in his name. If God is good, then where does killing ever come into religion? 

Yet, war and atrocities in the name of religion are not new. The so-called Crusades (11th to 13th century) negatively impacted upon Christian-Muslim relations, having led to mutual hatred and hostility. The purpose had been to stop the expansion of Muslim states, reclaim the Holy Land for Christians as the place of Jesus’s birth and the site of his ministry, and reclaim territories that had formerly been Christian. Interestingly, Pope John Paul apologised in 2000 for the historical failures of Christianity. Religious intolerance increased during and after the crusades. 

Catholics, inspired by so-called ‘Bloody Mary’, daughter of Henry the Eighth in medieval England, burned Protestants at the stake purely because their beliefs were different. So religious fanaticism is not new. Nor is it restricted to any one religion. 

Back to recent times. Syed is right to suggest that the western world is in denial with these truths, supported by the evidence of centuries. He reminds us that when Al-Qaeda brought carnage upon the World Trade Centre (9/11), academic sociologists denied that the hijackers were motivated by religion. How absurd that excuses of alienation, lack of education or sexual starvation could ever have been suggested as causes. 

And now, the latest atrocity in the name of God, who if He is really looking down on us, would be ashamed of the evil unleashed. Hamas have also behaved as terrorists, in the name of their God. If their sole purpose is to extinguish all Jews from the face of the earth, how is that compatible with any God? Syed quotes from a report that schools in Gaza, ‘call for the murder of Jews and create teaching materials that glorify terrorism, encourage martyrdom and incite antisemitism.’ Such indoctrination of young minds cannot be allowed to continue. No indoctrination can be allowed to continue. Is it time for all religious leaders to come together and attempt to iron out the lasting legacy of centuries – to find a future? Is it time for all religious leaders to look inside themselves – and reach out – together? There is common good at the heart of every religion. For the sake of humanity we must find it. Peace depends upon it. 

It is time for religion to be talked about! 

Sylvia Edwards has written numerous books, mainly on education (Routledge), focused on improving outcomes for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: her third edition of ‘The SENCO Survival Guide’ was published in 2022. She has also self-published ‘Time of the Virus’ (2021), a reflective, thought-provoking book about humanity. Her first novel ‘A Lie Never Dies’ was self-published in 2023. 

« Back to Blog