How Has Religion Affected Brotherhood?
ALTHOUGH there is a general loss of confidence in religion today, yet many people believe that religion instills love and brotherhood. Of course, on the individual level there have always been noble lives lived by all types of religious people. But what do the facts reveal about this world’s religions in general? What, for example, is religion’s record in relation to war—the very opposite of love and brotherhood?
It is a very shocking one. The record of suffering, cruelty and bloodshed caused or blessed by false religion is frightful. Speaking of “holy wars,” the book Age of Faith says: “None have been bloodier than the Christian Crusades of the Middle Ages. . . . The Crusaders . . . raped and plundered fellow Christians and committed incredible atrocities on their Moslem foes.”
In 1208 C.E., Pope Innocent III organized a special crusade against a religious sect called the Waldenses, followers of Peter Waldo, a French merchant. Waldo had denounced the luxury of the clergy. According to historian H. G. Wells, the pope’s crusade sanctified “the enlistment of every wandering scoundrel . . . to carry fire and sword and rape and every conceivable outrage among the most peaceful subjects of the King of France. The accounts of the cruelties and abominations of this crusade are far more terrible to read than any account of Christian martyrdoms by the pagans.”
One of the results of the crusade was the formation of the “Holy Inquisition” under the Dominican Friars (Brothers). The comment of H. G. Wells on this is: “Now in a hundred market-places in Europe the dignitaries of the church watched the blackened bodies of its antagonists . . . burn and sink painfully, and their own great mission to mankind burn and sink with them into dust and ashes.”
Such inhuman conduct and other abuses led to the Reformation in the early 16th century. But before long, the Protestants became deeply involved in politics just as the Roman Church had been for centuries. Then, in 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out between Protestants and Catholics in Germany. Soon it involved most of Christendom. It was “a war waged with a ferocity to which history offers few parallels. . . . moral restraints broke down and ceded to wild bursts of profligacy.”—A History of Europe, by H. Fisher.
These are but a few brief accounts of the many wars caused or supported by religion in the past. But what about today?
Religion’s Modern Record
Bitter animosity between Catholics and Protestants has plagued Ireland for centuries. The violence in Northern Ireland in recent years has caused great misery and loss of life on both sides. The churches have a direct responsibility for much of the suffering because of their involvement with nationalism and politics.
To this day, also, the Middle East remains a center of religion-based strife. For many years, “Christian” and anti-“Christian” forces have been slaughtering one another in Lebanon, and there appears to be no letup in the bloodshed. It was the same story in India, when the British pulled out in 1947 and the various non-Christian factions in that country set upon one another in ghastly massacres.
The facts about these and other conflicts in which religion plays a major role are common knowledge. Not only are the great world religions involved, however. So are the minor cults. One in particular sent a shock wave of horror around the world in 1978. This was when some 900 disciples of a certain “Reverend” Jones committed mass suicide in Guyana at their leader’s instigation.
But that was a minor tragedy compared to what took place in World Wars I and II. During those conflicts, millions of Christendom’s members, along with Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and others, inflicted appalling loss of life and misery on one another. Yet the clergy on both sides of the conflict prayed for God’s blessing.
The failure of this world’s religions to act as a force for promoting true brotherhood stems from this basic error: getting people to follow human leaders and their ideas instead of doing what God says in his Word, the Bible.—John 12:43.
Hence, such worldly religions cannot be true religion. As an inspired Bible writer clearly said: “Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.” (Jas. 1:27, The Jerusalem Bible) Those words breathe the spirit of love and brotherhood. But on the other hand, think of the millions who have been made widows and orphans due to the violence and persecution caused by impure, false religion! And it is because such religion is ‘contaminated by the world.’
How clear it is, then, that we can never hope to see a true, universal brotherhood established by false religion, of which the churches of Christendom are the dominant part. They have had centuries of power and opportunity to do so. Instead, the result is a world agonizing in crime, terrorism and wars, a world deeply divided by politics, nationalism, racism and thousands of religious sects.
Is there no hope, then? Is the situation so bad that the brotherhood of man will remain just a dream? Many people would probably agree with these plaintive words of a popular song entitled “Why?”: “Someone’s lost the plan For the brotherhood of man And no one’s trying to find it anymore.”
But take courage! The “plan for the brotherhood of man” has certainly not been lost. In fact, the nucleus of the brotherhood of mankind is already being formed!
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“Holy wars” have brought great reproach on God