One of the first things you realise when studying approaches to sociology and other social sciences is that you can find a paper to support almost any argument in the world. And that’s exactly what our good friend and old sparring partner Red Maria has found with the research which she’s used as the basis for this post about how “religion brings peace”.
Reporting as it does the “less well documented” instances in which religious groups have worked for progressive anti-war causes and for human rights worldwide, the researchers claim that amongst other things their thesis is supported by the record of Catholics in in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
They then qualify the point by specifying precisely to whom in these countries they are referring:
One example is in Nicaragua, where local Catholic churches were more sympathetic to revolutionary parties than was the Catholic hierarchy.
And we all know what the hierarchy thinks of Latin lefties, don’t we?
The point here is quite clear. There are people in the world who do have progressive politics and who do so from a religious perspective. There have indeed been religious figures who have worked bravely for peace in the most extraordinary circumstances. This has been common knowledge throughout the modern political era. But when creed overtakes wisdom, when doctrine overtakes a will to understand, and when adherence to a particular rule overtakes the drive to compassion for our fellow human beings, then such progressivism becomes impossible. That is the great contradiction of religion in politics: it’s not the particular belief system which makes the difference to someone’s actions, so much as the individual believer and their ideas of what makes the divine real to them.
When it comes down to it, the old Sufi saying encapsulates my stance on this issue more beautifully than I ever could:
A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey.