Volume 2016, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2218-7480
  • EISSN:


Both in the past and the present religious has given rise to inspirations of war as well as to promotion of peace. While religious values entail a desire to promote peace both on this earth and in the thereafter, religions -- including those which are conventionally deemed most “peaceful”— often make use of warfare symbolism and do engage into conflicts sanctioned or justified by some of their representatives. Is there a necessary connection between religion and violence? Before attempting to answer this question, it must be stressed that religions, or religious people, have no exclusive privilege over war and violence. The arguably most murderous and atrocious wars ever took place in the 20th century --namely World War I and World War II, and their main motivations were not religious, but rather political and ideological. However, there is no question that religious principles and feelings have played an important role not only in wars, but also sometimes in inordinate violence of all kinds. It bears specifying, however, that violence can come in many forms, whether external or internal, and that even outwardly similar violent actions may be motivated by very different intentions and factors. Moreover, even if taken only metaphorically and spiritually, the positive meaning of violence cannot be all too facilely discarded. This is brought home, among many examples taken from religious texts --and whatever interpretation one may give to it, by the oft-quoted sentence from Matthew (11:12 ) : "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." In examining the question of religious violence in general, it is important to start from the elementary fact that religions are teaching and often preaching what they consider to be the Truth in an absolute sense, as well as the true way(s) of gaining access to It. In other words, religions are focused on the Ultimate Reality. It means, secondly, that any religious approach of the Ultimate is claimed to be founded on the Ultimate itself, most often through some revelation or original spiritual recognition. As such, religious truth transcends, without necessarily negating it, the realm of rationality and socially negotiated rules and ways. Based on this fact, the point is often made by secular opponents of religions that religious truth claims are the primary causes of intolerance and, therefore, violence and war. In other words, according to these critics, the absoluteness of the religious message cannot but fuel conflict, since it admits of no relativization, therefore no compromise. On the other hand, though, it is widely acknowledged that religions strive to establish a relationship with what they conceive as the Principle of the universe. They see this relationship as the chief principle of human integration into the order of the universe, and thereby the way of reaching a sense of harmony and peace with the whole of existence. On the human level, this sense of connection, proceeding from the Principle and therefore virtually giving way to all connections, is deemed to promote and preserve peace among human beings. Thus, the religious mind seems to be characterized by two tendencies that are potentially at odds. On the one hand, the truth of the Absolute, or the absolute Truth, stands as the very condition for a state of authentic inner and outer peace, but this condition or principle is also potentially a source of conflicts, in some circumstances, with those aspects of reality and fellow human beings who are considered not to be aligned with religious truth claims. An objective consideration of the complex relationship between religion and peace cannot ignore the serious questions raised by those two tendencies. The question of peace, the preservation of peace, and the use of violence is necessarily connected, in religious traditions, to the fact that religion involves both ethico-spiritual demands and socio-political realities. In this connection, socio-political peace can provide a context for inner peace, while outer conflicts hardly predispose to the latter. Conversely, in an arguably more determining way, inner peace fosters the virtues that promote social harmony. Religious perspectives, therefore, recognize in principle the correspondence between the legitimacy and justice of the socio-political order and the spiritual and ethical values embodied in the life of individuals. However they traditionally tend to place a greater emphasis on the latter, because only the person can exercise discerning intelligence, faith, free will and compassion. Thus even strongly socially oriented religious ethics such as Confucianism place self-cultivation as the ultimate source of social harmony. One of the challenges of modernity come from the fact that our societies tend to lie either on the socially constraining side of politically imposed "religious order", which often result in hypocrisy or oppressive coercion, or on the side of secular neutrality, which result in religious "invisibility" and indifference, if not implicit or explicit hostility toward the religious dimension.


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  • Article Type: Editorial
Keyword(s): Peace, Religion, Metaphysics, Politics, Violence
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