Can The Solution To Religious Extremism Be Found In Religion Itself?

In fighting against religious extremist movements around the world, some have maintained that the counterattack must be launched from secular society, but there is an alternate theory that the solution, in fact, can be found in religion itself.

Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, argues that point in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that religious extremism the “greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world” and is even more dangerous because the rapid communication of our time lends itself to easy transmission of religious hatred.

As a result of a failure of secularism, more people are seeking religion to provide their lives with meaning, so any counter to that extremism must come from people of faith, all faiths, posits Sacks, who is the author of a new book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” which will be published by on October 13.

“Today Jews, Christians and Muslims must stand together, in defense of humanity, the sanctity of life, religious freedom and the honor of God himself. The real clash of the 21st century will not be between civilizations or religions but within them. It will be between those who accept and those who reject the separation of religion and power,” he writes.

The solution, therefore, is to invest “the same long-term planning into strengthening religious freedom as was put into the spread of religious extremism.”

Interestingly, Sacks writes that while it may be a common myth that religion has been at the root of a majority of global conflicts, the evidence does not bear that out. Rather, he points to the assertion by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, who surveyed 1,800 conflicts for their “Encyclopedia of Wars,” that less than 10% involved religion.

Furthermore,  an audit commissioned by the BBC discovered that religion played minor role in approximately 40 percent of major wars over the past three millennia.

Sacks spoke at length about this subject in May while attending a forum of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Statistics aside, there is little disagreement today among analysts and academics that religious extremism in the form of the Islamic State poses the greatest immediate threat.

To gain a better understanding of life under ISIS, Washington Post reporter Kevin Sullivan has put together an insightful series on how life is lived (or not lived) in ISIS-controlled territories.

 

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