A Religion Salad: As Easy As Mixing Oil And Water? genre: Hip-Gnosis

Like oil and water

A conference to be held in New York on Thursday will release a report detailing the common ingredients of religious fanaticism. The goal of the conference is not to negatively portray religious groups but to begin a process of determining what needs to be done to diffuse the mechanisms that lead to extremist ideologies. My own opinion is that they are undertaking a most ambitious endeavor...but someone has to do the dirty work, eh?

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Violent Muslim, Christian and Jewish extremists invoke the same rhetoric of "good" and "evil" and the best way to fight them is to tackle the problems that drive people to extremism, according to a report obtained by Reuters.

It said extremists from each of the three faiths often have tangible grievances -- social, economic or political -- but they invoke religion to recruit followers and to justify breaking the law, including killing civilians and members of their own faith.

The report was commissioned by security think tank EastWest Institute ahead of a conference on Thursday in New York titled "Towards a Common Response: New Thinking Against Violent Extremism and Radicalization." The report will be updated and published after the conference.

The authors compared ideologies, recruitment tactics and responses to violent religious extremists in three places -- Muslims in Britain, Jews in Israel and Christians in the United States.

"What is striking ... is the similarity of the worldview and the rationale for violence," the report said.

The report said it was important to examine the root causes of violence by those of different faiths, without prejudice.

"It is, in each situation, a case of 'us' versus 'them,"' it said. "That God did not intend for civilization to take its current shape; and that the state had failed the righteous and genuine members of that nation, and therefore God's law supersedes man's law."

I find it fascinating that most of these groups cite a specific document as the absolute proof of their own particular "truths"...and they then proceed from their to justify their actions and to demonize those who are viewed as opponents or obstacles to procuring the world they envision.

"Extremists should never be dismissed simply as evil," said the report. "Trying to engage in a competition with religious extremists over who can offer a simpler answer to complex problems will be a losing proposition every time."

She [Jessica Stern - Harvard] said it was dangerous for U.S. President George W. Bush to use terms such as "crusade" or "ridding the world of evil."

"It really is falling into the same trap that these terrorists fall into, black and white thinking," Stern told Reuters on Wednesday. "It's very exciting to extremists to hear an American president talking that way."

Stern said to compare violent extremists from the three faiths was not to suggest that the threat was the same.

Conference organizers say their aim is to develop a nonpartisan strategy to combat religious extremism.

Always referencing my psychology background, I view the black and white thinking as an adjunct to the theory of "Terror Management"...a concept that suggests people struggle to manage the fear of their pending mortality. The best solution to the terror of death is to believe in a specific process that is attached to dying. The more absolute the beliefs: the more anxiety that can be relieved.

In simpler terms, we're all looking to apply reasons to our otherwise random world. When someone is stricken with cancer at an early age, we want an explanation that is palatable...maybe god had another plan for that person or maybe their death was intended to bring the survivor to a new life path (maybe its raising funds to defeat cancer).

Religion is perhaps the single most effective mechanism to give meaning to events we can't understand, explain, or accept. If necessity is the mother of invention, then faith is the essential glue that allows so many of us mortals to bond so tightly with our chosen religious doctrine.

I find great irony in the fact that all religions believe in a higher power...a god of some sort...yet blending these seemingly harmonious beliefs under one roof (one set of beliefs) is akin to mixing oil and water. One might conclude that salad is rarely, if ever, going to be served.

Image courtesy of worth1000.com

Daniel DiRito | June 13, 2007 | 5:16 PM
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