The above cartoon came to my attention via Facebook. I actually had a very interesting discussion about religion and violence in my “Speaking About Religion” class yesterday. We discussed the Chapel Hill incident as well as the one in Copenhagen. We did some Googling to see what the internet had to say about which ideology was responsible for the most deaths, among Christianity, Islam, and atheism. And we talked about why such attempts at counting and comparing are probably unhelpful, and about the difficulties of disentangling religion from other factors. We talked about the Maccabees and about Jesus, and whether the acts of Antiochus IV or of Pontius Pilate were motivated by religion, or politics, or whether that distinction even applies.
But the cartoon above suggests that one kind of religion really is to blame. It is the worship of violence. It is the worship of the weapon. It is the worship of liberty to carry arms, exalted above the liberty to live without fear of people who carry arms.
We had a discussion in my First Year Seminar class yesterday which I did not, until now, see as related to the discussion in my other class. The reading was from Plato’s Republic, with particular focus on why the character of Socrates does not think that democracy is the best kind of society.When we exalt individual liberty far above mutual well-being, it is to the detriment of us all. And while we may say that there is “nothing we can do” to resolve issues like these, the truth is that there are things that we can do, but only if we are willing to adjust some of our core values and social practices. If we are not, then let us be honest, and say that there is nothing that we are willing to do.
But for those who are willing, and desire change, let us expose for what they are the objects of worship which are popular in our time. And let us never let those who exalt their liberty over social well-being have a monopoly on words like freedom, safety, or any of the other slogans that they claim as their own.