Religion--freedom--vengeance--what you will,
A word's enough to raise mankind to kill.
- Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)
Almost every war is fought under the banner of a religion. Though the religion may not be the primary purpose of the wars, such as it was during the Christian Crusades to "free" the Holy Land from those of another religion, the God or gods of the religion of the perpetrators of the wars are always invoked to bring success to the cause. In the case of the Second World War, for example, both the Allies and the Axis powers firmly believed that God was on their respective sides.
While communism purports to be non-religious, even anti-religion, the power of the state (thus of its leaders) is treated like a religion. Russian leaders after the Revolution insisted that they be treated as gods as they transformed many independent eastern European states into components of the USSR, just as the Caesars did to make the empire of Rome. The Caesars appointed themselves gods as well.
Every religion that claims to have a monotheistic God at its head preaches peace. Even Hinduism, which has thousands of gods when studied one way, has one God above all--a God very similar to the God of the Abrahamic religions--with that God having many facets to his personality and his interests, according to many Hindus. Hinduism and its offspring, Buddhism, are surely the most peaceful religions in the world. They not only teach peace, they insist that their followers practise it in their daily lives.
If most of the people fighting in wars today do so under the banner of a God who teaches that peace is the right way to live, then all soldiers who kill are heretics. To use a modern day western term, they are terrorists. Indeed, in wars such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq, both sides refer to the fighters of the other sides as terrorists. To the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Sunnis and Shiites of Iraq, the US and its allies are terrorists.
And they are terrorists, on both sides. Albeit, they may have been persuaded to kill by their employers or their religious masters--persuaded in ways that should properly be called brainwashing or mind-bending.
Being persuaded to kill for your religion, for your God who teaches that peace is the only way to live, is an indication of stupidity.
If two people meet on the street, get into a debate that becomes heated and their anger rises to the surface, those two are expected to find ways to settle their differences. Usually that involves dialogue until the issue is settled, often through compromise. In fact, if the argument becomes physically violent, both could be charged and imprisoned.
States are not held to that standard, even those states whose individual citizens are expected to settle their differences without resorting to violence. Somehow, the leaders of those states are exempt from the standards they set for their own citizens. They are granted the right--indeed, some claim, the duty--to lie to their citizens to make them want to fight a war, to want to kill an enemy who only became an enemy because the leaders would not settle their differences through dialogue.
While we could say that someone like Adolf Hitler could not be stopped through dialogue when he tried to conquer the world by taking over country after country in Europe and Africa, we could also note that Hitler was elected by people who wanted Germany to regain the power it once had, but had lost by the Kaiser (the German form of the name Caesar) losing the First World War. The German people of Hitler's time believed that they had a God-given right to dominate their part of the world.
Russia--at least the leaders of Russia today--believes the same thing about eastern Europe. Only they do so without resorting to religion. They use the old standby "The bad guys are trying to hurt us again" to terrorize rogue provinces within Russia and in neighbouring territories in former Soviet states as excuses to invade and/or bomb them.
That excuse was used by the US and their allies to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, even though the US leaders knew that only one organization (al Qaeda) was behind the attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, nothing inspired the expansion of al Qaeda's membership around the world so much as the US and its allies invading those countries. The people of those countries don't feel liberated. They know that the US-led coalitions literally created the enemies they fight today in those countries.
It's public knowledge that the US supplied weapons to both Osama and Saddam. Then it turned against these men when they became powerful enough to influence the buying of weapons from countries other than the US and to direct the flow of oil away from the US and its allies in western Europe.
It's also public knowledge that Bush supporters--the most influential ones who paid the way of the US into Afghanistan and Iraq--are and were weapons manufacturers and the owners of oil concerns in the US and many offshore locations.
The German people were duped by Hitler in the 1930s. The Russian people are duped by Putin and his puppet president today. The American people were duped into voting George W. Bush--the self-appointed "war president"--back into power in 2004 and show many signs that they may be willing to vote his successor into power in November, 2008.
This world has many killers, most of which are supported by their respective governments and religions. It has far more people who want peace. But those who want peace are prepared to play stupid and allow the war terrorists to take power and run roughshod over their rights. They quietly sacrifice their rights and their future of peace to those who are prepared to speak loudly, threateningly and often.
Where citizens are allowed to remain ignorant, uneducated, or where they are brainwashed into believing that bad guys in other parties or in other countries are out to get them, there will be war. In the vast majority of countries of the world--countries with far less power and facing much greater economic risks than the US and Russia--the people know what peace is. They respect what peace is and what they stand for as people who support the ways of peace.
But in countries where people can be brainwashed or are stupid or uneducated, war is the rule. War is the rule, not the exception.
What we adults teach our children is what they will believe as adults. As we look around the world today, we can see what the children of yesterday have wrought with the beliefs they were taught as children. Peace in most places, war in some.
War is uncivilized. The leaders who practise it are throwbacks to a less civilized form of humanity. Those who believe them deserve to be their prey. They deserve to be eaten, but not to eat their more advanced fellow humans.
Teaching children is what we do. We either do it in formal settings such as schools or places of worship or we do it as role models, by acting the roles we expect our children to follow when they come of age and take control of the future of their country.
Children learn from us, one way or another.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who will become educated and peaceful adults, instead of the mindless followers and believers of self-defeating propaganda that we have in so many places today.
Learn more at http://billallin.com