I can already hear hoards of objectors howling at the title of my post: “Yes it does! Religion kills people! Yes, people kill people, but religion makes it worse! Religion magnifies man’s homicidal impulses! It gives him an excuse to commit atrocities in the name of a deity that blesses his every move! Religion is used as a political instrument to round up credulous people and make them do murderous acts! Religion does too kill people!”
And yet many of those objectors might belie philosophical inconsistency on parallel topics. For example, any NRA members who might think religion kills people might also say guns are merely a tool that does not kill people. Or clear-thinking critics of the “War on Terror” might point out that you can’t wage war on a noun. Religion is a tool, a method, for reaching a deity (in my case Christ), and religion is a noun, therefore there is often a distinct inconsistency in the thinking of people making the claim that religion kills people.
But that’s okay. Nobody is perfectly consistent. I do not believe it amounts to hypocrisy. My main point in fingering the inconsistency is to appeal to the generous reader’s rational faculties. Let’s elevate and address the objections regardless.
Yes, it is true that religion has long been a convenient way to round people up and make them do horrific things. Since the advent of agriculture, large-scale religion has been used as a way to legitimize despotic rule, murder political prisoners, stifle free thought, and…shall I continue the litany? Let’s all agree that religion often is used to do terrible things.
And let’s also be honest about the inseparability of religion from the institutions that partner with it. It would be a gross simplification for one to say, “I believe in Christ but not the nasty, bad, bad church.” Without the church, there would be no memory of Christ for us to reference. We can claim a direct experience of Christ, but the word “Christ” is not something that comes to us supernaturally. The church and all its cultural satellites brought us that name, along with the bible itself and all related paraphernalia. The bible itself quotes Christ as saying the church is his living body.
Therefore the Christian religion, the church, and Christ himself cannot be completely extricated from one another. We must face this fact honestly. When we — when I — claim an experience in the Christ, I am compelled by intellectual rigor to admit the influence of the church, of religion, of dogma, and of all the mythologies and traditions that create the Christ in my mind. This is a cultural phenomenon just as much as it is a religious one.
Even a “good” religion can be infiltrated by “bad” people. In fact, Christianity is especially prone to such infiltration, because the religion is theologically and traditionally based on grace and forgiveness. Murderers, pedophiles, mobsters, liars — all are welcome in the body of Christ. Openness and all-accepting love makes Christianity a beautiful thing, but it also makes the church vulnerable to dishonest people with improper motives within the church. That is why it is so easily corrupted.
It follows that bad people will put their hands on the levers and control buttons of my religion and use it to drive good people towards bad acts, for the selfish gain of a few. As such, religion is used by people to kill people, but the Christian religion itself — a religion of grace and forgiveness, peace and love, meekness and humility, kindness and charity — does not kill people. Christianity is full of innocence, and innocence is a dangerous thing, as it can be hijacked.
I suppose we should all start second-guessing each other within the church and pointing fingers and go witch hunting, as it were. But then Christianity wouldn’t be Christianity anymore, would it? We must exercise our unyielding trust in God to ultimately guide us towards kindness.
The only question that remains is this: If Christianity is so vulnerable to hijackings, shouldn’t it be abolished and replaced with something more resistant to moral corruption? I say no. For part of what makes the religion so powerful a healing force is that very fragility — that vulnerability, that total submission to faith in God. Without it, it would not do miracles. It would not save lives. It would lose its charity. It would lose its efficacy as a spiritual vehicle, and indeed it would no longer be of any value in the world. And nothing can replace it.
Religion does not indeed kill people. People kill people. Religion is here to mitigate that, even though it falters every day in various places. I believe it is a force for good, on the aggregate. It’s all about the love. Those wolves who dress in sheep’s clothing are, in the final analysis, on the losing end of the spiritual order of things.
Victory goes to the good and the kind. Let the greedy and the murderous consume themselves wherever they might operate.
Note: I apologize for any logical fallacies or inaccuracies in my post. This is a stream-of-consciousness effort; all organization or clear thinking you may find herein are purely accidental, I assure you.