Antagonizing the average adherent is unlikely to end religious violence extremism
Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, is all over Twitter. A quick look at his feed reveals that he isn’t just against hateful religious ideology, but religion itself—does that strengthen or weaken his call to oppose religious extremism?
Dawkins has been asking people not to pray probably since his small-minded understanding of religion led him to atheism in his adolescence. His atheistic views are far from what concern me, especially with regards to what happened a couple of weeks ago in Paris. In fact, I often feel that many atheists, whether academic intellectuals or even friends, have a more realistic understanding of how religion operates than the average religious person. I do have a problem, however, with prominent men such as Dawkins trying to tell the world to not pray for Paris.
I want to backtrack a couple of months to U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the nation following the Oct. 1 Oregon shootings. He said that “prayers are not enough,” which was glorified by the secular activists in America who still remain convinced that Obama is actually a closet atheist. The first thing here that needs to be addressed is that Obama did not discredit prayer. Rather, he said what any normal authority figure would say following an atrocity such as a shooting. That is, to emphasize the necessity of action that should take place.
Secular activists need to understand that while some people use prayer as a substitute for action, that has never been the intention of prayer as described by all the modern religious traditions of the world. In its proper form, prayer should be the tool utilized by those who subscribe to a divine being, which fuels their action to change the world and act in a more proper way. But surprise, surprise, Dawkins will never share that perspective because he is a narcissistic old man who even claims to have no interest in understanding theology. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Secondly, the fact that Dawkins is hateful towards religion most definitely weakens his call to oppose religious extremism. In fact, it’s hateful views like that which fuel terrorist organizations such as Daesh. We can debate and interpret the meaning of violent passages in the Qur’an, Bible and other sacred texts until the end of time but that will still result in disagreements and won’t solve the issue at hand here, which is terrorism.
The reality is that most religions, such as Islam, are founded on core messages of doing good to others. This is fundamentally why religious traditions of all sorts have continued until today, because they do contain fundamental truths about humanity. Trying to wipe religion off the face of the Earth will never work. Many people have tried and miserably failed. Yet, Dawkins continues to reduce religion to a select few passages in sacred texts.
So what can we do in Western society to combat religious extremism? Well for starters, religious acceptance is key. This doesn’t mean that all religions’ claims to truth are all the same but acknowledging their faith, and their pursuit of truth, with love and respect is necessary. Not to take shots at our French allies, but there’s no denying that French culture hasn’t been the most inclusive to Arabs.
Lastly, we cannot deny that perhaps the most important weapon to combat Daesh and extremism is on the political scene. The political allies of the West are extremely problematic, such as the United States’ alliance with Saudi Arabia, which promotes Wahhabism, underlying ideology that has inspired groups such as Daesh, according to a PBS Frontline investigation.
There are many things that need to happen in order to combat religious extremism, but staying ignorant and being hateful towards other religions is the last thing that would get the job done.