Last week I attended a typical charity dinner, celebrating the raising of $15 million to make needed additions and renovations to San Fernando Cathedral here in San Antonio. It was an ecumenical event and ministers from several faiths stood up and gave speeches. I noticed how nervous the local Muslim cleric looked and thought he was courageous to have come. After I got home, I discovered that a popular nearby Persian restaurant had its glass door smashed in by vandals.
This made me reflect on how Tuesday's terrorism is being touted as a religious act by the perpetrators. This gives rise to an automatic reaction in those of us who are under attack: we hate the religion that is terrorizing us.
These types of accusations have been going on for years in Israel between Orthodox Jews and Muslims. Fanatical Jews claim the divine right to occupy Israel and fanatical Muslims claim the divine right to kill them. But we shouldn't let this rhetoric cloud the realities of war. The Arab-Israeli conflict is caused by the same thing that has caused wars throughout history, the fight over land.
Religious rhetoric has been used as an excuse to wage war for as long as we can remember. Think the ancient Israelis were peaceful, persecuted people? Read "Kings" in the Old Testament. When you think of early Christians as being sent out into the Colosseum to be devoured by lions, don't forget the bloodthirsty soldiers who fought in the name of religion in the Crusades. Muslims have a lot of blood on their hands for their conquests, but so do Christians. Hindus and Muslims still threaten each other today. Hitler created the quasi-religion of Aryan supremacy in order to justify killing Jews and invading other countries.
But this new war seems different. Osama bin Laden and his compatriots don't want our land or our possessions. Could this truly be a religious war, even if the religion involved is a twisted, distorted version of Islam?
In reality, there can be no such thing as a religious war that justifies the wholesale killing of civilians. If you look at the tenets of all the belief systems in the world, you'll see that none of them justify such a thing, because if they did, they would not be real religions. You can call a version of hate a religion, but that doesn't make it one. Religions are interested in improving the quality of life for everyone, both before and after death, and they leave it up to God to dispense true justice.
Bin Laden, like all dictators and terrorists everywhere, feels that his beliefs are the only ones that are valid and doesn't hesitate to kill innocent people in order to try to ram them down our throats. He doesn't allow God to make the rules-- he makes them and enforces them himself. Just because he says he does this in the name of religion, doesn't make it so.
Evil as expressed in the attacks on the U.S. on Tuesday, and in events that occur all over the world every day, is the product of man, not of God. A god that would do such things is not a god any of us would want to believe in.
Evil often clothes itself in the garb of religion, because it makes a good disguise and a great justification. But we must remain true to our own spiritual beliefs and not blame the followers of any single religion for acts of terrorism perpetrated by evil people who have decided to follow a hateful philosophy.
We can't allow ourselves to be duped by bin Laden?s words, we must judge people by their actions. If we brand an entire group of people as evil, we will have succumbed to his rhetoric. We must pick out the evil few from amongst the many good, and fight back in the name of what we all believe in: freedom.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.