Need For Religious Unity and Harmony

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From The Editor's Desk

(Hinduwebsite Editorial - Exploring Truth Amidst Illusions and Distortions)

Historically, religions have been opposing each other for a long time. Many wars have been fought in the past in the name of religion, and millions people died or suffered due to religious wars, persecutions, communal clashes and religious prejudice. Although religions preach peace, they have been responsible for large scale violence, cruelty and aggression.

In the past, religions had no outside competition or threat, except from other religions that competed with them or the rulers who practiced them and wanted to enforce their will upon people.

Neither science nor philosophy challenged their supremacy or their mesmerizing influence over entire populations. People feared God, God’s law and the consequences of sin. Thereby, they largely adhered to god's laws upon earth and to moral and virtuous conduct to avoid divine retribution.

Religious plurality was unknown in the ancient world, except in few places such as the Indian subcontinent and China. People in the West mostly practiced one religion, which was the dominant religion of the region. When another religion tried to compete with an existing one, it resulted in conflicts and bloodshed.

In Europe, Christianity prevailed as the dominant faith for a long time, after it overcame opposition from the preexisting native faiths such as Druidism, Paganism or the faith of the Norse people. If there was any religious conflict in most parts of Europe, it was mainly between the Protestants and Catholics or between different sects of Christianity.

On the other hand, in the Middle East and parts of Asia, where Islam reigned. the conflict was mainly between the Shias and Sunnis or between different warring tribes of Muslims who wanted to enforce their culture or their dominance.

The situation was different in India and to some extent in China, where people practiced different faiths and experienced religious amity as well as violence according to the circumstances. The situation remain unchanged even with the entry of Islam and Christianity into these countries.

The situation is different today. Religious plurality is the norm in most countries, except those that are officially Islamic. In the religiously diverse nations, religions face pressure not only from their rival faiths but also from non-religious, radical groups which do not practice any religion in particular but follow certain ideologies and ideals which are either areligious or secular and which disregard the role of religions in matters of governance or public policy.

Collectively, these groups pose a bigger threat to major world religions today than any other belief or faith system. They distrust religious beliefs and values and aim to replace God with government and religion with political ideologies such as socialism, liberalism or communism. They undermine the importance and influence of religious faith, considering it an obstacle to the progress of human civilization.

As part of their strategy, they target the most dominant religion in the area of their operations and launch an organized and systematic campaign to undermine it. At the same time, they lend support to the minority religions to garner their support and keep the people of faith divided and distrustful. For example, in India they attack Hinduism and support the minorities, while in the USA and Europe, they target Christianity and speak for the minorities.

Thus, the very existential threat to world religions is from the radical ideas and groups who want to establish a new world order, not from people of rival faiths. By keeping the religious people divided and defensive, they control the message and use them to achieve their ultimate, which is establishing an egalitarian, global society, without nationalities and national borders, in which God and religion have minimal role and influence. In the process, sometimes they do not hesitate to use communalism, religious intolerance and religious conflicts to their advantage.

Because of these developments, many religions have been presently facing crises of faith. In many countries, except those which have declared Islam as the State religion, religious values and norms of behavior are weakening due to intense propaganda and misinformation. Religions are being undermined and denigrated by radical groups and politicians who support them.

They see in it an opportunity to advance themselves, their ideologies and careers. These irreverent people have one goal. They want to replace religious doctrines with political ideologies and God with big, world government. They also want to bind people with too many regulations so that they can make subservient to the government and depend upon welfare programs, subsidies and entitlements for their survival and protection.

Radical ideologies are sugar coated poison pills. People must recognize the threat they pose to the world, to their faith, rights and freedom. Historically, radical ideologies ended upon creating the dictatorship of individuals or power groups rather than delivering what they usually promise.

Therefore, people should recognize that the main threat to their religion and way of life is not from other religions but from the radical ideologies that undermine them. They should see how each religion is isolated from others in its zone of influence and subjected to systematic, negative campaign. They should also realize that in secular societies, religious conflicts favor the radical groups who want to keep them divided and distracted, while pursuing their own political interests.

Religions are better off if they identify the common threat and stop fighting with other religious groups. Otherwise, they will lose to godless ideologies and their radical followers. Religions also face an existential threat from the advances made in the field of science and technology, which radical ideologies exploit to change the way people thinking about their faiths and lives.

If religions want to survive in this age of rapid change and progress, they must live in peace and harmony. They must avoid the friction areas such as bigotry and conversions. In today's world, there is no need for religious conversions. People are intelligent enough to make their own choices and choose their faith according to their interests and inclinations. Aggressive religious conversions create distrust and promote disharmony and conflicts.

The world religions may have their own differences, but they also agree on certain aspects of their doctrine and beliefs. Most importantly, they preach many values and morals which are universal and identical, which help people regulate their lives and remain within bounds, ensuring the order and regularity of the world and society. If all the religions focus upon these common areas and live in peace, avoiding the sources of friction, the world will be a better place to live, and the best of human values and moral precepts will prevail.

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