Coexistence not blind faith

People always talk about religion causing wars. There were some terrible wars in the 16th and 17th Century between forces representing Protestant and Catholic. Leaders standing up and defending their belief structure from forces that were either heretical or tyrannical. The thirty years war, 1618-1648 which took place in the fractured multi-state region that is now Germany was the prime example. Catholic invasion from the South and East was met with Protestant response from the North and West. Eventually almost all European countries became involved. It was not dissimilar to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq in 2016.

The causes they fought for became obscured by the barbarity of war as soldiers who had represented idealism, became cynical and anarchy ensued. The sheer hypocrisy, waste, death, disease, destruction and displacement it caused can only be outmatched by the futility caused by a complete lack of resolution of the issues. These conflicts led many, to sail west and start new more peaceful colonies in places like Pennsylvania.

In England from around 1715, people turned against religious wars and favoured colonisation and acquisition. The philosophy of the day was the Enlightenment. Many European writers would explore the ideas of science and reason, and freedom from religious superstition. In fact, the Americans, on writing their constitution later in the century, would base it on enlightenment principles, as a common code that represented all their various Christian denominations.

But the years between 1715 and 1815 saw the busiest time ever for the British war machine. There was almost continual war with France, only pausing when out of cash. The Royal Navy’s dominance allowed Britain to use any pretext to steal colonies the French had stolen from the local population. The last of these conflicts started with the French Revolution and morphed into the Napoleonic Wars. Essentially it was a battle between the old regime of the Crown and State and the new order formed out the revolution, inspired by enlightenment teaching. These wars were the biggest, longest and most destructive Europe and perhaps the world had ever seen. But they weren’t between different religions. They were caused by political and financial self-interest, leading to a communication failure in politics. Yet they are not as hypocritical as the religious wars as they were genuinely about money and politics.

In my opinion in England in 2016 there are many fundamentalist belief structures, some of which are religious and some not. Evangelical Christianity marginalises too many people groups at the moment. Its doctrines are too closely defined and therefore are effectively fundamentalist. It has worked well for many years, but the origination of Protestantism was having the bible in your own language and working it out for yourself. Evangelicalism ends up working it out for you with a leadership that can sometimes become authoritarian and susceptible to having to sacrifice its principles to defend its narrow belief structure.

Neo-liberal capitalism chooses money over people and represents a smaller and smaller arrogant cabal. Feminism cannot be questioned, does not appear to be based on anything tangible, is fine if it achieves equality, but is it really after power?  The same goes for its bedfellow political correctness. The rest of the population are hindered by a lack of proper education that prevents them thinking for themselves, a disastrous and self-interested media, a lack of political engagement due to the total breach of trust between Parliament and the people, leading to a failure of democracy.

When I was younger, a Christian told me “If in doubt don’t”. But doubt is the balancing force of faith, and without dealing with doubts it is unlikely that one’s faith can grow. In fact, if anyone, religious or not, clings to their belief structure it can become rigid, doctrinaire, uncaring and eventually redundant. To coexist in society, I believe that people should realise that they may be wrong in what they believe, at least in part. We are all human after all and by very definition cannot be perfect. If we accept that we may be wrong, we can start to accept other people as being right at least in part. If we can see life from other people’s perspective, then we can realise that truth is relative to the individual.

History is not truth, it is opinion. People write history for different reasons. It may be to promote a belief or a cause, get close to the truth, or make money. It could be all three.

I believe the principles for coexistence are balance, agape and truth. There is always room for a variety of beliefs, personality types, cultures and lifestyles. To promote these principles allows individuality. An analogy for society could be like a body, with different parts having different functions. Variations in people allows for different roles in a varied society. I believe that it is not necessarily what you believe that matters in society, but how you apply it. You could be part of an accepted belief structure or be an individual. The choice should be yours.

It is useful to hold two philosophies in balance, so you can choose an individual middle path between them.

To achieve these goals, people need to be educated properly to make their own decisions. They need freedom to make informed choices. It seems that to achieve these goals we need to struggle. Not with violence, but through communication, unity and cooperation.

These were the principles that led the Allied armies of France, the UK, the USA and Canada and others to liberate part of Europe in 1944. Closely working together, with great strategy and overcoming language and cultural barriers they managed to defeat the enemy. This led to the formation of the EEC which has held war at bay since then.

The EU is changing now. But what happens next, in my view should be with communication, unity and cooperation again. We all live together on a small planet and coexistence is vital if this Earth is to survive against any threat. Pacifism and appeasement never worked against fascism. Whatever it is we fight against, we need to do it with our principles intact and resort to violence as the very last resort.

For different cultures, both within countries and between countries, we need to train diplomats and linguists to coexist together and separately. Winter is coming, and we need to work together.

Conway-Laird (2016)

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