An old lesson for religions today

300px-SiegeOfAcre1291 Christian crusaders unsuccessfully defend Acre in the 12th century.

Many of the world’s problems, both today and throughout history, can be traced directly back to religion. Not that the different beliefs involved actually advocate violence and bloodshed, they all seem to include peace among their teachings and holy books.

It is important not to get the idea that any particular religion, or its followers, is to blame, because it isn’t.

Today’s IS and its jihad or holy war is made up of Sunni Muslims but we must remember that a few hundred years ago it was the Christians who waged their own holy wars, or Crusades, in the Middle East. Their avowed intention was to wrest the so-called holy lands from the Muslims and they were sanctioned by the pope and numerous European monarchs.

Even within the Christian faith, there is a history of hate and persecution. Ever since King Henry VIII severed ties with the pope and had himself proclaimed head of the church in England, effectively setting up what was to become the protestant Church of England, there have been problems. Catholic monarchs have persecuted Protestants; Protestant monarchs persecuted Catholics. And both were anti-Jewish.

In more recent history, Northern Ireland saw many years of troubles between the Catholic republicans and the Protestants who wished to remain in the UK.

In the Muslim world, there is also a serious, and often violent, split between the Sunnis and Shias, or Shi’ites, which has its origins in the immediate aftermath of the death of the prophet Mohammad.

These are just examples of the many religious differences, troubles, violence and wars throughout the world over the centuries – all in the name of their own god.

It should not be beyond the capability of people of all faiths to recognise religious differences and to peacefully co-exist with one another.

All it would take is for each faith’s, each denomination’s, leaders and followers to stop insisting that their way is the only way and that everyone else is ‘in error’ or ‘damned’

Am I religious? Where do I stand in this? I am religious but I am not Christian, Muslim, Jewish or a member any other religion considered as mainstream anywhere in the world today.

My religion predates Christianity and Islam, it does not seek to preach or convert others to its ways, although its adherents have themselves been persecuted in years gone by. It recognises the right of everyone to choose their own religion, or to choose none at all, and to live in peace with them all. It can be summed up in one word: Tolerance.

An old lesson there for the 21st century.

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