Echoes of the Original Militant

MAYBE IT SHOULDN’T REALLY by surprising that there’s so much religious militancy in the world. After all, the whole sorry sin-mess that we’re in began with militant rebellion—with the idea that “I’m right—and you’re wrong.”

Recently Christiana Amanpour presented a CNN series entitled “God’s Warriors,” in which she explored the militant stance too often assumed in three great religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

And if believers in a given faith engage in everything from name-calling to bloody wars in attacking those who don’t believe as they do, nonbelievers are no less culpable. Such terms as “militant atheism” and “militant agnosticism” exist too for a reason.

Militant atheism is the variety that is too often bitter, angry, and contemptuous of anyone so intellectually handicapped as to believe that God exists. Militant agnosticism, not content to hold its own conclusion, takes the presumptuous and condescending stance that “I don’t know—and neither do you.”

  • Whatever happened to tolerance?
  • Whatever happened to disagreeing with others without impugning their intellect, honesty, or sincerity?
  • Whatever happened to “live and let live”?
  • Whatever happened to steering clear of dogmatism and narrow-minded sectarianism?

True, sin is what happened. But does our essential selfishness excuse us to abandon ourselves to smug self-righteousness and arrogant certainty that other viewpoints and beliefs are wrong—that only we and those who agree with us are right?

This—the original and seminal attitude of sin—which ultimately leads to our echoing that Luciferian desire to become our own god, is behind all wars past and present. It’s behind the destructive havoc wrought by religious, political, and personal differences—everything from “holy wars” to omnipresent political battles to spouses defending their turf.

People would rather be right than loved. They’d rather be right than have peace. They’d rather be right than ever admit even the possibility they might not be. People seem driven by an essential conviction of personal infallibility—of knowing more, of seeing things more clearly, of having knowledge far more advanced, than anyone else.

I see that attitude in the exclusivity and triumphalism sometimes apparent in the church into which I was baptized. I see it in the condemning intolerance of the Christian Right and the political neo-cons who curry their favor. I see it in the frightening determination of the Muslim world to wipe from the earth any religion but its own.

Though we’ll never on this earth be rid of this intolerance and militancy while sin reigns, you have it in your power of choice, as do I, to forswear the deification of our own “rightness” and treat those who differ from us with respect and acceptance.

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