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The History of Religion and Religious Conflict - Essay Example

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Religion is one of the most fundamental aspects of human life – it is only in recent centuries that people have been able to envision a world in which religion does not play a central role…
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The History of Religion and Religious Conflict
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Download file to see previous pages In this light, religion can have many positive influences, it can uplift the soul, spur on artistic production, and cause people to lead more driven, purposeful lives. On the other hand, however, religion has also shown that it can be a destructive force on many different occasions. In his work, “The Art of Happiness,” the Dali Lama makes many claims about religion, but seems to fundamentally believe that religion has always been a positive influence on the world, saying, for instance, that “all world religions have, of course, provided tremendous benefit for millions of human beings throughout many centuries past” (Dali Lama, 296). When considering this claim, it is easy to oscillate drastically to one side or other of this argument. Someone seeking to defend religion would point at the acts of Mother Theresa, to the charity of religious organizations, and to the benefits that organized religion can give to people personally, such as peace and comfort. Detractors from religion, however, can point to the attacks of Sept. 11, or the Crusades, and decry religion as a destructive force that causes hatred and violence throughout world history. Neither of these answers are fully correct, however. Rather, religion often does not make a significant amount of difference in and of itself. Religious actions, either positive or negative, are often results of complex societal interactions rather than religious fervor: so the Dali Lama is incorrect, as I believe that religion has not been a consistently positive nor negative influence on the progress of world history. One of the first things that must be understood in this discussion is the relationship between religion and spirituality. Though these are very closely linked ideas, “the Dali Lama distinguishes between spirituality and religion” (294). This is because spirituality and religion happen on very differ planes – spirituality is a personal, though often sometimes communal thing, that has to do fundamentally with belief in the underlying structures of the world, and one’s place within them. Religion, though resting on spirituality, is a very different thing. It is a structured organization that codifies beliefs and practices, almost like creating rules and laws for spirituality. This difference is important because many of the impulses often attributed to religion may in fact be spiritual. Altruism, for instance, is often one of the things most lauded about religious people and institutions. But there are obviously many people who are altruistic without being religious – they do good out of a fundamental belief that it is good to do so, which is much more akin to spirituality than religion, while there are also certainly religious people and institutions that are far from being altruistic. So when analyzing the impact that religion has had on the world, one must isolate the religious side – the order and structure of beliefs and actions, from the spiritual side. Upon parsing the actions of a religion or religious institution from the actions based on spirituality, one might be immediately drawn to condemning religion whole-heartedly. Religions and their institutions have been guilty of many grave sins that immediately spring to mind. Current, organized Islamic leaders have called for terrorist attacks and Martyrdom, and the Westboro Baptist Church’s “God Hates Fags” campaign has disgusted people worldwide, many churches in the United States were associated with hate crimes against blacks during and before the civil rights ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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