David Neff examines how religious beliefs that preach “a world in moral decline” and an “us versus them” mentality where only they will be saved is spawning zealotry and violence among otherwise peaceful ranks.
In the aftermath of the shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, and the mass murders in Paris, theories will be offered up as to why these atrocities occurred. People will argue for more gun control, others will say we need to lessen gun restrictions, and others will ask why more focus has been given to the religions of the Paris killers, than that of the alleged Colorado shooter.
The United States seems to be endlessly deadlocked in the debate over gun violence, with little sign of any real progress. Instead, we should be asking why these attacks keep happening. While the perpetrators of violence tend to claim insanity, a closer look is needed to flesh out their real motivations.
Often, the impetus for violence is an underlying belief that the world is in a moral decay that can only be resolved by Armageddon. This paranoia is further influenced by the conservative notion that any non-Muslim (or non-Christian) person is a potential threat. Believers find themselves pushed farther and farther to extreme actions, out of a sense of obligation to their chosen sect. Billions of devotees attend services each weekend that focus on an “US versus THEM” mentality. The ministers, rabbis, mullahs, imams, and priests have every reason to convince their congregations to fear the rest of society. After all, their incomes depend on the devotion of the churchgoers.
Inevitably, people will respond by arguing that most religious people never act out any sort of violence. What they fail to acknowledge is how often religious zealotry causes otherwise good people to do bad things. Although most religious individuals live nonviolent lives, there are too many irreconcilable examples to argue that these dogmas are truly peaceful.
When media outlets reported on the recent terror attacks in Paris, the perpetrators were quickly linked to ISIL. There was very little hesitation to portray Muslim extremists as the only enemies of the Western world. Politicians were quick to declare war on terrorism, disregarding Christian and Jewish acts of violence perpetrated on a regular basis.
After the killings at Planned Parenthood, Republican presidential candidates were willing to condemn the shooting as a tragedy, but argued that, by selling fetal tissue, Planned Parenthood had prompted a “maniac” to commit atrocities. There was no mention of religious fanaticism, and no mention of his system of belief that may have prompted the atrocity. When the final details emerge from the inevitably drawn-out hearings, we may come to the conclusion that this was simply the work of a deranged man, holding anti-establishment views. However, due to the specificity of his target, it should be inferred that his victims were chosen, precisely because he was acting in accordance to his religious belief.
Unfortunately, gun control alone is not enough to dissuade religious fanatics from committing murder. If there is to be any sort of advancement in society, these aspiring “martyrs” must not be given a platform to propagate their agendas. Society must start treating all extremist views (both Muslim, and non-Muslim) with incredulity and suspicion. By promoting a secular, moral agenda, humanity might be able to decrease the frequency of these attacks. But as long as there are monotheistic religions that promote a fatalistic worldview, we will continue to deal with the repercussions of their despicable actions.
If politicians, church leaders, and public figures are given the latitude to continue advancing their own religious agendas, there should be no surprise when there is continued violence. The outwardly peaceful rhetoric in churches and communities continues to belie fear-mongering undertones. The monotheistic religions all predict an end-of-days, where the true believers will be rewarded. Those individuals who are truly convicted to their beliefs are the greatest threat to our peace and safety. When they are unable to convert people to their cause, they are willing to deal wanton suffering and destruction in their pursuit of Armageddon.