The Myth of the Holy War

From the beginning, people around the world both here and abroad at home have tried to make religion a factor in the current actions in Afghanistan. The U.S. government has made it clear that this is not a military action against a religion and it?s people but instead an action against a known aggressor and those responsible for the aggression. The inclusion of religion in this debate is not surprising, only by including religion and creating an “us and them” attitude could those that seek to cause disharmony achieve their means. This tactic works because most people have strong feelings about religion and when confronted with opposing or contradictory views they staunchly defend their religion as the “right” one. It is these feelings that the Taliban use to justify their idea of a “holy” war, one that is just and in the name of a greater good.

Defining religion is no small chore and certainly not one without controversy. By looking at the purpose of religion, we get a better understanding of the world today and we see the blatant reality that there is no “right” religion and therefore no “holy” war.

What is religion? Religion is a complex belief system based on a belief in the supernatural. Religion can neither be proved nor disproved. To this day there is no compelling evidence for one religion over another, no matter how hard people try to create it. Throughout history religion has taken many forms, from its roots in shamanism to its current form of state sponsored religion. Increasing urbanization, and the societal problems that come with it, create an inherent need for religion and a belief in “something better”.

Religion is used as a means to cope with the daily stresses of life, from anxiety to the meaning of life, people search for answers to these problems in their religions. Most religions base themselves on literary works, myths. Those that try to disprove other religions usually cite their “holy” works as evidence. The sacred literatures of religions are myths passed down from one generation to another. Every time the story was told it became more glorified and more exaggerated. Have you ever played operator? We must remember that men ultimately created the words of the “holy” books, they may have been eloquent and incredible storytellers, but they were only men. The myth of the holy book sets the rules and standards that men created far in the past.

Religion serves many purposes and has many roles in both our societies and our minds. Probably the most important function of religion is social control. Religion maintains social order by setting the rules and expectations of its followers. It encourages the behaviors deemed good and discourages deviant behavior. The myths of the “holy” texts lay down these rules and their “holy” status backs them up with supernatural authority and force.

People’s belief in their religion inspires them and encourages them to follow along. Those who stray from the path set forward by their groups are labeled deviants and are persecuted both by the church and society.

With such a gross lack of evidence for one religion over another it is absurd to think that any war in defense of any religion can be considered “just”. Another function of religion is conflict resolution itself, religion subdues the desire within people to strike out and do things in their own ways. Perhaps Marx was right when he called religion the opium of the people, diverting the attention of people from the conflict and real problems of their society. Religion diverts people’s attention and at the same time it pulls them together.

Group solidification occurs every time the masses gather in their respective temples, churches, or mosques. When the people come together they unite as a group, they identify themselves as members of that group. In the case of Islamic fundamentalists, they see those outside the group and not following their rules as deviants and guilty of crimes against their supernatural and yes mythical deity.

Religion may work to unite and pull people together, but when it is misused, as is the case with the Taliban, it can also be a destructive and evil creation. The mental functions of religion serve to comfort us and lead us, but they also help to create paranoia and mistrust in those that are different than us. Religion is supposed to offer us some sort of comfort in the fact that we cannot explain everything that happens in our lives, such as the loss of a healthy friend, or your father losing his job, but it also gives those that take it too far a sense of authority given to them by their supernatural gods.

This sense of authority is precisely what the Taliban uses to attempt to justify their calls for “jihad”, or uprising. The question is uprising against what? Sometime long in the past a man or woman sat down to write a book, a book that the Taliban now uses to base their faith on, but what makes their “holy” book any different than the innumerable words written on the internet daily? Nothing. Their mental and group acceptance of the words as “holy” and irrefutable justifies and validates their mental decisions. Those that wish to rise up do not know what they are rising up against. They wish to rise up based on a book that they have interpreted to mean something that most Muslims do not agree with. There cannot be a “holy” war when we cannot prove that any religion is indeed “holy” or even slightly actual.

For those that wish to call their religion the “right” one a wake up call is necessary. Enjoy your religion and use it to comfort yourself but under no circumstances should you fall into the false idea that your religion is completely perfect. What make those who study Christianity any better either emotionally, or spiritually, than the Reindeer Tungus of Siberia who are shamans? Nothing, certainly the Reindeer Tungus may not have the luxury or the technology of our modern society but make no mistake they almost certainly live a life with far less stress than we do.

The war in Afghanistan is truly a war against an aggressor, regardless of religion, color, or nation. If the perpetrators had been purple, whatzits, from Mars believe me we would be kicking their pants off right now. To the Taliban, this is a “holy” war; but in reality it is nothing but payback for deeds done unto us. Neither Islam nor Christianity can be called “righteous” or “right”, for there is no “truth” and there is no “holy” war. Religions are far to numerous to count and none are infallible, we must understand this and accept this, for it is fact not myth.

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