Religion in the wrong hands is lethal, and can be an excuse to kill people. When religion becomes murderous it has invariably transmuted into politics, and is no longer religion. Religion and politics are interchangeable, but many of us prefer not see things this way, because we are either fanatically religious, or fanatically political or fanatically atheist.
Fascism, which is all about dictatorship, uses religion quite ruthlessly by adopting the faith of the majority in order to manipulate public opinion. Dictators have much in common with religious leaders – they are invariably charismatic, articulate and persuasive; the dictator uses pseudo religious language but follows their own path, just exploiting the common religion of the time, even if that religion is totally opposed to the activities of the fascist dictator’s regime.
It is this use of religion as a cloak for nasty political ends that causes people to condemn Muslims, Jews or Christians, and make sweeping generalisations, and then justify their own personal bigotry on a dozen different fronts. We all love to rest comfortably in the belief that our own religion (or non-religion) … and our own country and our own people would never do such terrible things. Sadly this is not true.
I can’t be bothered to defend religion to heavy-duty atheists, because all the stuff I just wrote about is equally applicable to Communism… a non-religious philosophy that started out with all sorts of worthy ideals and ended up by empowering the likes of Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung. Please note militant atheists, these non-religious doctrines killed between 80 and 100 million people within a very small time scale – 50 to 60 years – not a great advertisement for atheism, methinks. The religion of Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Kim Il Sung was about themselves. Their dictatorships had no place for compassion, love or understanding, even less the golden rule – that one should treat (or do unto) others as one would like to be treated oneself – the one philosophy that just about every religion shares.
But the pendulum is moving in another direction. The nasty lessons of cruel doctrines are teaching us the virtues of thinking for ourselves. We live in a very exciting and inspiring moment. We are finding our own path to spiritual fulfilment. We are meeting in groups to practice yoga, reiki and meditation. We are listening to music in our homes, without having to go to a church or public places to hear stirring and soaring harmonies; we are finding inner peace and spiritual fulfilment in our own space in our own way. And most amazingly… we are still going to church and places of worship… but not because the law says we have to, or because of social pressure, but because we want to. We are changing, we are thinking for ourselves, we are becoming aware of our own spirituality, and this connection is cosmic.