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When is Religion Peaceful

April 5, 2011

To some, religion is a belief in one or more omnipotent beings or gods. To others, it involves a state-of-being that transcends oneself. Regardless, what makes any particular religion peaceful can be found by studying its tenants, core philosophies, and structural organization.

For a religion to be peaceful, it must promote sensibilities in its followers which lend toward non-violence, for violence in any form is not peace. Peace in the context of this article is the state of tranquility within an individual and a state of mutual harmony between people. The roots of violence stem from fear, greed, power hunger and the desire to control, attainment and misconceptions of ownership, fear of loss, and the lack of self-realization.

From the basic ‘fight or flight’ response built in to our psyche to a plethora of unhealthy concerns that we place upon ourselves, fear invokes a defensive posture with the potential toward violence. We may fear how others will perceive us, fear that someone may leave our lives, fear that we will lose material possessions, fear what we may conclude upon self-retrospective, or fear failing on any given endeavor. These fears lead us to seek control, and while practicing control over our own thoughts and actions are essential to self-actualization, attempting to control that which is beyond our scope of metaphysical or spiritual control will result in a sense of internal chaos, which is a pathway to violence.

Greed is simply desiring more than what is essential to one’s existence. Overindulgence and greed are the symptoms of an individual who has yet to reach self-actualization, for they seek to offset fear of loss through expansive gain. However, until one finds internal peace they will never reach sufficient buffer to offset the fear of potential loss.

When an individual is incapable of conquering the fear of what they may discover about themselves upon truthful, exhaustive, and unabated self-retrospective, a person will seek to offset the resulting internal conflict by seeking to control external entities. Often, the exercise of outward control results in reinforcing other negative behaviors, such as gaining easier access to those items which allow for overindulgence, whether it be food, material goods, or sex. Deep within the psyche of one so inflicted, they still fear losing that which they view as a possession, and the greater the delusion of control over others and fear of loss, the greater the propensity toward violence.  Spiritually, to presume that one must control another person is to deny the right of the other person to find their path to self-actualization.

Interaction with other humans is unavoidable and can actually be quite healthy. It provides subjects of study from which to learn about ourselves, and differing perspectives of thought to ponder. It also can lead to the fulfillment of biological needs, although here again we must be careful to seek peace and balance internally and externally. A monogamous relation with a sexual partner allows outlet of human desire with the least risk toward excessive indulgence. Polygamy is a symptom that one has not reached self-actualization, as such relations creates an atmosphere of distrust and unrest, where as a self-actualized person would not feel the need to overindulge in a biological process that temporarily offsets unrealized internal peace.  Another important aspect of human interaction is the ability to communicate for the purpose of gaining knowledge and wisdom. The freedom to ask questions about any subject matter is pinnacle to resolving peace. To not allow open discourse is like not being able to ask a tree why it stands. Truth stands on its own and does not need to be shielded from inquiry. Fear is likely the most prominent reason why someone would resist inquiry, either because they fear that they do not know the answer or because they fear that the subject matter being discussed does not contain amble footing in truth to stand on its own. Those who seek to control the flow of information do so at the risk of creating an atmosphere conducive to violence, for those who fear the truth also fear to lose their unhealthy sense of control.

One may argue that returning violence for the purpose of self-protection or to protect one who would not be able to defend themselves should be allowable. This would be an individual choice and has spiritual merit providing that the use of violence to counter opposing violence is done at the moment of ongoing unjust violence. Seeking to engage in violence when unjust violence has ceased, is counter to the premise of inner tranquility.

With these premises understood, a religion can be judged as to whether or not it promotes the premises of peace. I will warn the reader of this article that people tend to view their own familiar ideals with less vigor and openness than that of others, including a religion that they may hold dear. Just as self-retrospective requires fearless and truthful consideration, so must the application of this guide when judging a religious belief.

Aspects of a peaceful religion are thus those which promote the ideals of:

-The equality between men and women, as to assert that either has superiority over the other is to presume that one should control the other.

-The equality between all of the people on earth, regardless of any definable difference, again because to assert that either has superiority over the other is to presume that one should control the other. It is also incumbent upon a religion that wishes to promote itself as peaceful to recognize children as having the right to live free from various types of abuse.

-Elimination of the need for violent retaliation, for violence of any form is not peace.

-Individual connection with the spirit world in an effort to gain wisdom and peace, for no individual can create this connection on behalf of another.

-The removal of fear.

-Elimination of attainment to the level beyond required basic livelihood and that which leads to fear of loss. This is an ideal. Those who feel the need to gain and squander beyond their basic needs will have to answer for themselves what inward purpose is fulfilled.

-Elimination of the exercise of control over others.

-Open dialogue and the seeking of truth.

-Individual choice and a leadership which does not compel followers to act or perform in any specific fashion. Religious guidelines are meant to provide information for consideration. The attainment of a higher self and closeness to a spiritual goal cannot be compelled – it is an individual journey.

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