The last week has shown this to be true. In an attack on the American Embassy in Libya last week four people, including the American Ambassador to Libya, were killed. The killings were supposedly in response to an anti-Muslim video that had been distributed in America.
The American Government was at pains to point out that it was not the anti-Muslim video that had sparked the killings. They rightly highlighted the fact that killings were the responsibility of terrorists and that it was a highly organised attack that would have taken some time to plan. Whatever the reason the killings were senseless and the result of total lack of respect for human life.
Around the world fundamentalist of the Muslim Community were outraged at the anti-Muslim video that was being distributed. Protests, many which became violent, were held all over the world. In Sydney we were confronted with the horrific photograph of a four year old standing next to his baby brother holding a placard that exclaimed, “Behead all those that insult the prophet.”
Anti-religious people must be having a field day. You can imagine them sitting around the breakfast table discussing religious zealots gone mad. They will be pointing out that religion is the root of all the violence in the world and all because of some mythical God that means different things to different people. Religion, they will claim, is bunk. The one thing they all forget is that the violence is the work of a minority, not the majority. The majority of religious people are peace loving and give an enormous amount to their communities.
The beast that Confucius spoke of has truly arisen in the absence of respect. Why has this happened? Seemingly because man is still struggling with the age old question of, “Where did we come from?” Was it a God that created the Universe and life within it? Perhaps it was a group of Gods. Or perhaps it was just a natural catalyst, a Big Bang in which a series of totally random and natural occurrences led to the universe and life as we know it.
People of great intellect claim that they have the answers. But do they? We can talk theories but in reality do we really know? Scientist will claim that there is no proof of God whilst religious people will claim that there is no proof that there is not a God. Christians will claim Jesus was the son and ultimate messenger of God whilst Muslims will lay similar claims to their Prophet Muhammad. Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists have different beliefs altogether.
One thing that I do know is that they cannot all be right and they cannot all be wrong. It was the German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche who said, “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist[i]” Perhaps we should all take what he has to say on board. In considering the question of our existence human beings simply do not have all the answers. The real answer is probably a combination of all our beliefs and theories. Perhaps we also need to simply accept that we might not have the intellect to truly comprehend how it all began.
I do not claim to any expertise in religion. I claim no particular understanding of the science of the Big Bang except that it was a catalyst that led to life as we know it. What I do know is that when beliefs collide violence and death are often the result. Let’s be frank, science contributes to this violence. Science, by challenging religious beliefs, contributes to the conflict. Indeed was it not misdirected science that created weapons of mass destruction?
Human beings are a stubborn breed. So stubborn that they will defend to the death what they believe. But usually the beast that leads humans to kill and main to defend what they believe is only aroused when they have been disrespected. Perhaps we need to heed the words of the Beatles in their song, “Let it Be”,
And when the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
[i] Interestingly Nietzsche was thought to be Anti-Semitic. Defenders of Nietzsche claim that this is not the case. They argue that on his death his sister, a confirmed Anti-Semitic, had his work heavily edited with Anti-Semitic messages. Hitler is said to have referred to the works of Nietzsche to justify genocide of Jews in WWll. Disrespect giving rise to the beast again.