All We Are Saying Is Give Religion A Chance

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As you may know, I am a secular Jew. In matters of ultimate belief I am an agnostic – which I define as an atheist who does not like to argue with people. However, much to the chagrin of my godless friends, I also have a lot for respect for religion and spirituality. So when the Pope called for religion to be a force for peace in the Middle East, I penned the following article for Haaretz.

Pope Benedict XVI thinks the Middle East could use a little more religion. Not the religion that divides – the kind he practiced when he suggested that Islam was a religion of the sword, or when he re-sanctioned an ancient Good Friday prayer which calls on God to illuminate the hearts of the Jews that they might recognize their savior Jesus Christ – but the kind that binds members of the human family to one another.

During his recent meeting with Muslim leaders in Jordan, the Pope commented that in an age when religion is misused and maligned as a force of discord, it is imperative that religious practitioners live in accord with the highest virtues of their faith.

The Pope also stated that one of the main purposes of his pilgrimage is to help advance the cause of peace: “We [the Catholic Church] are not a political power, but a spiritual force, and this spiritual force is a reality that can contribute to advances in the peace process.” The Holy See explained that he plans on promoting peace by encouraging mass prayers, awakening the world’s conscience, and promoting a reasonable (i.e. two-state) solution to the conflict.

Perhaps the idea that a “spiritual force” can contribute to peace sounds a little puzzling. A typical secular Israeli reply could be, “Thanks but no thanks. We appreciate the good intention (and boost in tourism), but we have had enough spiritual forces to last a lifetime.”

Indeed, a repeated charge in the discourse over the Arab-Israeli conflict is that religion plays a central role in exacerbating and perpetuating the conflict. The conclusion being that removing religion from the scene will go a long way in solving the century-old conflict.

A somewhat comical example of this position comes Marwan Kanafani, special adviser to the late Yasser Arafat, who in 1994 replied to a question about the place of religion in the Oslo peace process by stating:

“The way to take care of religion in the dispute is to put the sheikhs in mosques, the rabbis in synagogues and priests in churches, and then lock the doors behind them and throw the keys away in the sea – they can only interfere with the process.”

This is a seductive but ultimately wrong-headed position. Religion can (and must) play a positive role in the peace process. All the more so in the Holy Land, where religion actually matters. A lot.

To read more, click here. As always, if the spirit moves you, please leave a comment.

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2 responses to “All We Are Saying Is Give Religion A Chance

  1. Hello Roi,

    Well, I must say that I agreed with the Pope when he said that Islam is a religion of the sword; because Islam does a poor job proving otherwise; and it actually managed to make the world being afraid of Muslims *nodding*. I have several Muslim friends and they know what I’m talking about (the minute people know they are Muslims, their face changes).

    “when he re-sanctioned an ancient Good Friday prayer which calls on God to illuminate the hearts of the Jews that they might recognize their savior Jesus Christ” – LOL you got to give it to Christians though…they keep on trying LOL *nodding*. One would think that after 2009 years of not yielding, they would get the picture…but they don’t *sigh*.

    The Pope, in the West Bank (yesterday), actually said Palestine needed a new spiritual structure…wow (he practically invited them to switch to Christianity, but he was subtle, I got to hand it to him).

    “and promoting a reasonable (i.e. two-state) solution to the conflict.” – aaah, but what he meant by “reasonable solution” is “Palestine should have its own nation, yes…but forget Jerusalem” because the Catholic Church rather have Jerusalem as a Jewish city than a Muslim one. Do I agree with this line of thought? I do, because (not only I view that city as Jewish, but also) the Roman Catholic Church and any Christian church is better off with the Jewish people than with the Muslims (who, in their radical majority [which is the more sounding part of Islam] consider us all unfaithful dogs).

    “The conclusion being that removing religion from the scene will go a long way in solving the century-old conflict.” – this is an utopia. Israel’s foundations is religious. Without religion it had no reason to exist (the Torah was used as an argument to prove that Yisrael belonged to its people. Religion set the Zionist dream, in Europe, of establishing Eretz Yisrael – during the late XIX century, or even before, who knows). Religion is the core of the Israeli people, because they are God’s chosen people (this can’t be denied, no matter how angry one may be at religion).
    Another thing: when we speak of religion and the Jewish people, we cannot look at it with the same eyes as we look at Christianity or Islam, for Judaism is much more than a religion (it is deep a relationship, and a pact, with God); it is about a special status that other religions do not enjoy.

    “Religion can (and must) play a positive role in the peace process. All the more so in the Holy Land, where religion actually matters. A lot.” – Hear! Hear!

    Excellent article, Roi (as per usual)!

    Cheers

  2. Pingback: Aziz Abu Sarah

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