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War and the Misuse of God

by Ulrich Sander Tuesday, Mar. 20, 2007 at 2:09 AM
mbatko@lycos.com

No freedom of religion if religion calls to war, glorifies war, presents war as inevitable or promotes the hatred of humankind.

WAR AND THE MISUSE OF GOD

By Ulrich Sander

[This article published in: Ossietsky 25/2007 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web.]




The Council for Human Rights of the United Nations is discussing a petition of Islamic states against Islamophobia. At the same time representatives of the large world religions urge a declaration against terrorism. The pope also spoke about violence and religion on his Turkey visit. All these declarations have one shortcoming: they do not problematicize the fact of religious “martyrdom” of suicide assassins. This theme cannot be left out of the debate about freedom of religion and protecting religion from slander.

German neo-Nazis use religious ideas to sanctify crimes. In 2000, a Dortmund neo-Nazi shot three police and himself. “He was one of us,” neo-Nazis wrote later in anonymous leaflets and stressed the cult of Germans: “Show no mercy or repentance. Victory or death.” Entrance into Paradise was promised murderers and suicides – as with many suicide assassins in the Middle East.

In “holy” or “just” wars supposedly allowed by God, the warrior who kills and is killed is stylized as a martyr drawn into Paradise. Thus the inhibition threshold to murder and even genocide is lowered.

These currents exist in many religions. The fundamentalist mission consciousness of US president Bush is one of these currents. The thesis of Israeli politicians of just war for the divine “eternal and incontestable right” to land goes far beyond Israel. Leading representatives of Christianity in Germany spread this doctrine of war, for example when a bishop gathered German soldiers once a year in the Koln cathedral and assured them: “Responsibility over the life and death of others can be transferred to soldiers praising one God.” In praying hands, the rifle is secure from misuse. That prayer-book in which the German catholic church confirmed soldiers a few days before the outbreak of the World War in 1939 was never revoked: “My place is at the front even if it is hard. If I fall, I fall! We all must die once. No death is more honorable than death on the battlefield in true discharge of duties.”

The terror of Islamists is universally condemned. However no one from all religious communities questions the criminal incitement to martyrdom of suicide assassins in international law or critically illumines their own history in this regard. Didn’t these ideas exist in all the great religions? Up to today they do not say there is no reward in the life to come for “holy” warriors and suicide assassins. Shouldn’t we demand from religious leaders a convention that bans religious martyrdom as a means of warfare?

A declaration of the UN that says: `Religiously garnished war crusades are no longer covered by freedom of worship’ is overdue. In 1951 Bert Brecht wrote to German writers and artists: “Complete freedom of literature, theater, sculpture, music and film – with one restriction. The restriction is: no freedom for writings and works of art that glorify war or represent war as inevitable or for works promoting hatred of humanity.” Let me add: Complete freedom of religion – with one limitation. No freedom of religion if religion calls to war, glorifies war, presents war as inevitable or promotes the hatred of humankind.

Wouldn’t Christmas- and New Years’ messages be good occasions for such declarations? One crucial contribution to prevent religiously spurred and ridiculous mad states would be respecting the sovereignty of other states, withdrawing all troops to their homelands and ending oppression, humiliation and exploitation of other nations.

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