Religion responsible for the darkening horizon of hope?

Opening the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ‘scolded the powerful and power-hungry’ and said that ‘it has been a terrible year for the principles of the UN Charter’ what with beheadings and barrel-bombs, and the crises of terrorism and extremism which amounted to ‘new depths of barbarity’ in Western Africa, Iraq and Syria, the deliberate starvation of civilians, human rights and the rule of law being under attack, of people crying out for protection against greed and inequality, and the spread of disease probably with Ebola in mind.

He also said that ‘this year the horizon of hope has darkened. Our hearts and minds are made heavy by unspeakable acts and the deaths of innocents.’ (italics added) And he added that the UN must answer the call on all these issues.

Who will take the responsibility to stop ‘these unspeakable acts and the deaths of innocents?’ US President Barrack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron who spoke afterwards vowed to take on ISIS which had beheaded their citizens taken as hostage. The US-led airstrikes have already begun, with the support of allies in the region.

However, as we have seen throughout mankind’s history, military might alone is not sufficient to bring about peace after war. Those who are failing society the most, at least in that part of the world, are the religious leaders, according to well-known author of the ‘Conversations with God’ series of books, Neale Donald Walsch.

In an article entitled ‘A Challenge to the World’s Religious Leaders’ published on September 22, 2014 he has stated his position, asking them to assume their responsibility. It is worth reading what he has to say, and we can imagine the consequences if they continue to be indifferent. Here is the text in full:

‘War and violence based on religious beliefs will not end until religions themselves agree and announce that God would never condone such behavior. Presently, most of the world’s religions can’t do that, because most of the world’s religions teach of a God who is angry, violent, and retributive.

It is becoming clear that only if and when religions themselves teach of God in a new way can humans learn a new way to live. Only when religions stop honoring a God who is said in the Bible to have killed or commanded the killing of two million people will people stop killing each other using religion as their justification.

Where is the religious leadership of today? Why do not the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the world’s Chief Ulamas, the world’s Chief Rabbis, the presiding bishops and/or the presidents or heads of the various Lutheran Churches, the Presbyterian Church, the Mormon Church, the Methodist Church and the various Baptist denominations issue a Worldwide Joint Declaration of Fundamental Religious Doctrine that states, clearly: “God is not punitive or violent, and does not in any instance or for any purpose under heaven bless, condone, approve, or command the use of violence to protect God’s Honor, to extend God’s Word, or to expand God’s Kingdom on Earth.”

To be fair, some (but not nearly all) of those spiritual leaders have denounced violence per se. And to give credit where it is due, Pope Francis just went further, issuing a public statement on Sept. 21 in which he said: “Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armor’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression! May no one use religion as a pretext for actions against human dignity and against the fundamental rights of every man and woman, above all, the right to life and the right of everyone to religious freedom!”

Yet no one has dared to issue a statement — much less a joint declaration — which clearly states that GOD is not violent and retributive. Such a joint statement by all the world’s spiritual leaders would knock the foundation out from under the religious and spiritual justification that has so often been used for committing violent acts and for the outright killing of others.

Today I challenge and urge, invite and, yes, dare the world’s religious leaders to issue such a statement. I do so knowing full well, in advance, that they will do no such thing.

They can’t.

To issue such a statement would undermine the theological authority that is foundational in these religions: the idea that God’s Word and God’s Will must be obeyed, or God will punish humans with everlasting damnation. It is this theological position which has allowed religions to look the other way when it is pointed out that the Bible narrative includes the killing of over two million people at the Hand or the Command of God. Such action was necessary, they assert, to punish those who openly violated the Will of God, and to purify the remaining living faithful, ensuring that no diversion from doctrine arises or is tolerated.

Thus, the killing of the Unfaithful has been justified by religious traditionalists and fundamentalists to this very day. We do as God does, they say, and as God commands us to do in protection of the One Truth Faith and in defense of the Honor of God. We are seeing this occurring on Earth this very day. And the world’s religious leaders have yet to join together to raise their voice in a collaborative statement rejecting not only these violent actions based on religion, but the notion that God both commits and condones violence Himself in the name of His Honor and Purity.

Where is the world’s religious leadership?

In hiding.’

No comment is necessary…

* Published in print edition on 26 September 2014

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