August 20, 2002
Self Defense and Religion

In my mind, there are three reasons for “murder” in the natural world: Defense, Conquer, and Sustenance. Take a wild dog, for example. He will kill if threatened. He will also kill to gain the right to a female. And of course, he will kill to feed himself.

As Darwin himself might have put it, we are not too far removed from these happenings in nature. Murder in our society stems from one of these three base desires in a majority of cases (I do think that severe psychological ailments make up a fourth cause, separate from the three mentioned). And the Sustenance angle can be down-played because the killing does not occur in order that the killer be able to eat his prey, rather it occurs to obtain food of some other sort. A case can then be made that the murder was committed in order to survive, or in Defense of one’s life.

This is the background that I want to use to explore religious turmoil in the world and why, in my mind, organized religion is one of the biggest causes of cold-blooded murder in society. Now, before going any further, I want to submit that this is not an anti-Religion writing. On the contrary, this is a writing of how human nature interferes with the intentions of religion to produce a dangerous reaction – the likes of which humanity has witnessed since the beginning of recorded history. Furthermore, this piece is only designed to address the concept of Self Defense in religious belief, leaving the Conquering half aside in reverence for brevity.

The Defense Theory
Though I haven’t read these thoughts elsewhere, I posit that they may be old hat to historians and theologians alike. Nevertheless, many of the killings in the name of religion are more appropriately categorized into the Self Defense bin. In most major religions, followers have a notion of existence after death, whether it is reincarnation, life in heaven, or final enlightenment. The individual’s view of these events is a safeguard or reassurance against death – the very outcome against which his/her human body is programmed to fight. Our primary biological goal as human beings is self-preservation, and as we all understand our own mortality, the idea of life beyond this life eases our tensions both mentally and biologically.

Now imagine that your neighbor tells you that your beliefs are wrong. He thinks that it is OK to disagree, people do so all of the time. The only problem is that he has, in an indirect way, threatened your life. The believer’s entire foundation for survival into the future has been attacked. This kind of attack in nature nearly always produces a violent reaction. In humans the reaction is often a very sharp and stubborn anger towards the offending party. In the extreme cases, the reaction is murder.

I admit it is a leap to connect self defense with differentiation of opinion, but most religious arguments and that I have observed bear the distinctively evil anger saved only for the most desperate of circumstances. If you try to disprove my religion, I retort with an error in yours. The problem is that in regions such as the Middle East, it has become routine to permanently silence the opposition through murder. As if somehow, by taking away the dissenting voice, the individual regains confidence in his/her beliefs, and thus a renewed sense of security in his/her future survival.

Unfortunately, I do not have the time necessary to develop this thought further in this particular article. However, I have drawn one conclusion from my thought process, a conclusion that is a bit on the fatalistic side: I don’t think that turmoil and the Middle East and between other warring religious factions can be solved. Though there are many other political issues wrapped up in these regional struggles, the initial hatred was born and fostered by religious tension. Humans on both sides of the battle cannot quit themselves of the basic need to preserve themselves and to see themselves existing into the future. To do so would contradict their very own biological programming. Of course there are political measures that can and should be applied to the individual situations to help ease tensions. Unfortunately, the political solutions are only fingers plugging holes in the dam.

Posted by alex at August 20, 2002 11:44 PM

There's a circular argument in what you've said - that religious differences cause a defensive reaction that leads to violence. People "make up" religions to make sense of the violence they see around them. We have gods that explain the anger of nature and the existence of war. God causes floods. God is intolerant of ignorant savages. Is it out of violence that religion springs?

Posted by: teddy on August 20, 2002 3:21 PM

I think religion springs from making sense of the world and our place in it. Why are we here? And more importantly, where are we heading? It's all about life, and avoiding death... more or less. The reaction to violence in nature is only our attempt to place ourselves in that nature.

Posted by: AO on August 21, 2002 1:00 PM

hahahhahahah wyts up dog!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: i dont know on December 4, 2002 6:12 PM

types of religion

Posted by: varda on April 26, 2003 7:06 AM
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