Religion & Beliefs

Could the Middle East Use a Little Less Religion?

Here is a scenario and question for you: You wake up tomorrow morning and to your utter astonishment your paper’s front page reads: "Religion Ceases to Exist in the Middle East." Will this increase or decrease the chance for peace … Read More

By / December 3, 2008

Here is a scenario and question for you: You wake up tomorrow morning and to your utter astonishment your paper’s front page reads: "Religion Ceases to Exist in the Middle East." Will this increase or decrease the chance for peace between Arabs and Jews?

A common charge in the discourse over the Arab-Israeli conflict is that religion plays a central role in exacerbating and perpetuating the conflict. This position has been taken up by a number of atheistic best-selling books. The conclusion being that removing religion from the scene will go a long way in solving the century old conflict.

Others disagree, arguing that since at base the conflict is a product of economic, political, and social forces, the question of religion is irrelevant. Religion, this group says, is an epiphenomenon – born and determined by conditions on the ground. End the state of occupation and alienation, bring an end to the violence, give people bread and dignity – and religion will no longer matter.

Still a third group holds that far from being the source of the problem, and far from being a mere epiphenomenon, religion contains within it the solution to the conflict. Properly understood, this group contends, religion calls us to recognize the sacredness of all humanity. Moreover, the moral claims of religion jolt us out of our individual and group ego-centricism and challenges us to act with compassion towards our fellow human beings.

The question of religion and the Arab-Israeli conflict gets the juices flowing. When I posted my hypothetical scenario and question on Facebook – to groups such as "We Support Israel," "I Support Hassan Nassralah," and "Free Palestine"- I got a number of interesting and amusing responses.

Have a read (and voice your opinion):

"Shalom Roi, The scenario you describe would be the perfect setup for a false "peace" that would merely become "the calm before the storm", and then with every one doing "what’s right in their OWN eyes" outside of moral guidelines, there truly would be hell on earth such as has not been seen since the days of faithful Noach just before the Flood….."

"If there is no more religion in the Middle East then there definitely wouldn’t be any problems between Arabs and Jews .. and that only because Jews will cease to exist .. since Jews refer to people who follow Judaism.. which is a religion and thus doesn’t exist.."

"I do think religion plays a major role,I think the Jerusalem and the settlers issues would be easier to accept for both sides, there would be no groups like Hamas and Islamic jihad, hence much less terrorist attacks…."

"This is my view. The whole conflict is based around the concept of religion. Time and time again you see Jewish settlers and Muslim Palestinians over the news. Religion, if one believes init, is supposed to be peaceful, the whole Palestine/Israel conflict seems to contradict that notion….."

"I think if anything it would cause more violence. These people believe in the religion so much, I think if they found out that it wasn’t real they would probably lash out against their counterparts whom they already hate…."

"In my opinion, I think religion doesn’t play a great role in the conflict. Jews and Muslims lived together under each others rules in Medina with the prophet (pbuh)….."

"The issue here is tolerance, not religion. No matter what you call your creator, if you call it God, Jesus Christ, Allah, Science, Mother Nature, or a host of other names.. the simple fact is that we are all brothers and sisters of the SAME creation. Jews and Arabs weren’t created by different forces. We all have the common brotherhood of humanity and should peacefully work toward achieving more tolerant societies. Neither religion preaches intolerance and hatred yet it [hatred] exists. So I think without those guiding forces a similar conflict would still exist.

"I’m a Christian, but I believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people. Although he took it away at times throughout history, he always returned the Jews to their land, because it is rightfully theirs…."

"The conflict has very little to do with religion anymore- yes Judaism always yearned for a return to Zion"and Jerusalem is a Holy City for the Muslims too. But I think the conflict has moved beyond religion. Its about land, power, racial supremacy and pride."

So Jewcers, what do you think: Could the Middle East use a little less religion?