Karl Marx famously called religion the opiate of the masses. My political philosopher friend says Marx was wrong. Religion isn't like heroin so much as meth, my friend says -- something that can whip us into a jagged frenzy, put our teeth on edge, make us agitated, even violent.
The specter of violent religion certainly hangs over us in these times, especially when it comes to certain followers of the world's two dominant religions. Christian and Muslim conflict-mongers drone on against "Islamic terrorists" and "Christian infidels," respectively, while violence continues erupting in the name of Islam, and conservative Christian figures in America, like Pat Robertson and John Hagee, urge violent solutions to foreign policy problems. (Robertson, you'll recall, spoke favorably of assassinating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Hagee, the Texas mega-church minister of falling-out-with-John McCain fame, has repeatedly called for immediate military attacks against Iran.)
Yes, there appears to be considerable truth to the oft-heard claim that Christian-Muslim co-existence must be achieved lest our collective future turn out brief and brutal. Which is why it might appear outrageous to suggest, as I'm about to do, that religion may also be just the catalyst we need to steer us clear of the apparent collision course.
Religion -- a solution to the problem of religiously motivated conflict and violence? Yes, actually. Because in their best traditions, the world's two dominant faiths do promote peace, both through their central teachings and the lessons-by-example taught every day by innumerable Muslims and Christians who take their scriptures seriously. (MORE)