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Who Needs Religion, If It's the Cause of So Much Violence?

Who Needs Religion, If It's the Cause of So Much Violence?

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Question:

I am Jewish, but cannot embrace Judaism as a religion. Religion is the cause of all wars, and I believe we would be closer to world peace without it. Wouldn't the world be better off if it weren't for religion?

Answer:

Rejecting Judaism because you believe in world peace is like refusing to enter a Japanese restaurant because you like sushi. It just doesn't make sense.

War comes naturally to people. It existed long before any religion. Peace did not. Peace is not natural to the human condition. It had to be taught and learned. And it was a religious idea.

The first and most powerful vision of world peace was presented to mankind by the prophets of ancient Israel. They predicted a time when "one nation will not lift a sword against another nation, and they will no longer learn to wage war." In a world that saw war as an inevitable fact of life, the Jewish religion introduced a radical new concept: that war is ultimately undesirable and peace is the ideal state for which to strive.

Without religion we would find other things to fight about, like parking spots and noise from the neighbors. But without religion, world peace would not have entered the human vocabulary. Whether you are aware if it or not, your dream of world peace is biblically inspired. Ideals do not live in bubbles. Like people, they need parents to give birth to them and a home environment to sustain them. Peace without religion is homeless. It was Judaism that gave birth to the vision of world peace and still provides a framework to implement that vision.

True, religion has been used by some as a pretext for war. But this does not invalidate all religion, just as when football players brawl it does not invalidate the game of football. Ridding the world of all religion would not end war any more than abolishing football would brawls. In fact, religion still provides the strongest argument for peace between people: that we were all created by the same G‑d. Without this belief, is there anything that really unites us all?

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous London February 15, 2017

Religion propagates class and differention both within and outside it ranks. This combined with perceived elitism between those that are a member of a certain religion and those that are not from the same religion cause prejudice, resentment distrust and ultimately conflict Reply

Miriam February 15, 2017

Religions are not the culprit It's not religion that causes conflict. It's rather the insistence of certain groups that other religions and/or individuals are not as worthy as the "other" religion one chooses. Reply

Michael Montana May 28, 2015

We all have the right for one thing, with or without any kind of religion. That one thing that we all want is to live.
Besides there are always enough parking spots, we might have to walk a little, but it's better than a war.
We should try everything we can to live because life is a goal. The goal is to live, Reply

James SC, USA February 18, 2015

We don't need religion, we need Ha'Shem. If someone, anyone does violence they need to take responsibility for the results. Isn't war itself, a form a terrorism? However, religion doesn't cause terrorism, I feel that the violence is inherent in human nature. If we as humans have free will, then it is free will we use to fight wars and kill. Free will can be good or it can be evil. Hitler and the Nazis made use of their free will and intellect to exterminate millions. Was their free will good, or evil? Ha'Shem is the only being powerful enough to protect us form ourselves. I may be wrong but I think that if we obey Ha'Shem, Ha'Shem will protect us, beyond that it's out of our hands. Reply

Samantha September 23, 2014

Religion is not the only conflict. There's skin color, the way you choose to live your life and then there's conflict between the rich and poor. People are just different and everybody needs to except that instead of judge it. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena, CA May 21, 2014

Who needs religion, If it's the cause of so many wars? B"H Mankind has used many excuse, and justifications to attack each other before the dawn of history. Religion, rather the competions between the various religions is but another of the excuses. War comes about truly because our ability to communicate is not good enough to overcome differences of opinion. All of Man's wars were first ignited by Cain when he slew his brother. Since then it has been a blood feud. Once blood has been spilt communication is almost impossible. It doesn't matter which tradition, or religious institution is involved; once aggression and reactions have gone too far, words seem almost empty. Injustice is a form of war too, simply a lesser degree. Sometimes we have to walk away, and sometimes we need to accept the blame (even if the accusation is False) rather than perpetuate the cycle of conflict. There are also times to put up walls and just say goodbye. What if that isn't enough? The walls can imprison it's own builders. G-d can fix it, plz 4give us Reply

Kevin Graham May 18, 2014

Without this belief, is there anything that really unites us all? Yes there's lots to unite us all, if ... we could only allow our world to function without religious doctrine dictating our everyday lives, especially politically. We could celebrate in the human spirit and our accomplishments instead of killing each other over religious beliefs. "Everybody wants to rule the world!" ... and religions are no exception to this rule. If like in Nigeria when a religion desires political control through an anatomist theocratic state then:- kill and destroy they will, and proxy-war their way to a sovereign political state under their gods rule.
How does this unite us all in the name of peace under one so-called creator of the universe. Their are countless examples of the negatives that religion has brought to our world over thousands of years, are we truly any further ahead in this day and age... or is our thinking still in the medevil days!
Celebrate the human spirit, celebrate peace, celebrate unity in spite of religion! Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein Chabad.org January 8, 2014

To David The distinction you make between faith and religion is very specific to the way you define them. Faith without actions is useless, if not unreal. The Torah is more interested in what we do, whether actions between us and others or between us and G-d, and less interested in our "having faith" as an end unto itself. This is how Judaism defines our relationship with G-d. Certainly we should not and do not try to force others to believe as we do, especially since we don't believe that G-d wants everyone to be Jewish. But we also do not subscribe to a universal faith in which any path to G-d is as valid as any other. For the Jew there is the Torah, and for the non-Jew, the Seven Noahide Laws (www.chabad.org/1313), without which there can be no authentic relationship with the One G-d. Rather, we try to educate people and bring them near with love. Reply

Chaim St. Louis January 7, 2014

To Karen Joyce Chaya Fradie Kleinman Bell Judaism is a word invented by the early Christians.

Jews are expected to be Torah true.
The idea that being Torah true is a religion is one I used to believe in.
Not any more.
We are a people, a culture, a tribe. We share a culture, and one of the things in that culture is a style of worshipping HaShem.
Most cultures have worship customs.

But Jewishness, although it includes worship customs, is NOT a religion.

A "religion" is a set of practices and/or beliefs which guarantee "salvation" (i.e., protect the person from eternal damnation).

Nobody is forever damned, so there is no need for such protection. If others want to practice these religions, they can still enter the World to Come so long as they avoid idolatry and the other six sins in the Noachic prescription.

Non-Jews are free to refrain non-Jews if they enjoy their religions.

Do they NEED their religions?

Do they NEED to adopt beliefs/practices to avoid a nonexistent hell?

They only need to obey Noah's 7 laws. Reply

David On the road... December 28, 2013

Faith, not religion is the answer. While I agree in principle with the answer, there is a distinction between Faith and religion. When we believe, we are Torah observant and this is Faith. When we attempt to force others to believe and define how they believe, this is religion. The wars caused by religion are indeed disheartening and the enemy does indeed want us to believe they prove that our Faith is misplaced.

This is only when we place out faith in man rather than our Father. We see this even in Judaism, which has become fractured like every other religion. There is but one Faith but many religions and the wars cause by religion and not the fault of faith or belief in our Father but fault of the enemy and the men she uses for her work, to break our faith.

The answer is to keep the Faith, not be religious. Religion is the attempt of men to harness to power of our Father. Faith is our relationship with Him. Shalom! Reply

Anonymous San Ramon, ca via jewishtrivalley.com December 29, 2012

Reading Rabbi's thoughts and the comments: So many thoughtful and wonderful people. What other religion ever produced such beauty?

How proud and delighted I am of all of you. Reply

Anonymous November 29, 2012

True religion from G-d Himself through his word does not cause violence. It causes a line to be drawn for ourselves not to be tricked into going to the other side where evil and vile religions live. We are not to mingle with those false and evil religions for our own sakes. "Tolerance" has been the bell toll for years, but we had better be careful of how tolerant we are towards unholy religions. These religions hate anyone who doesn't go along with them. These religions are cults that have come to them by their own vain imaginations to acquire control, even of the entire population of the world. G-d will not tolerate these evil religions forever, because He hates persecution of those who love Him. He sometimes uses them to teach us lessons so that we are willing to turn back to G-d. Refresh yourselves with the books of the Prophets. We are to be kind to all....tolerate their right to believe in whatever, but Israel should never tolerate those who burn to destroy G-d's chosen. Reply

Anonymous South Gate, CA November 28, 2011

The Origin of Peace It really comes down to where the word and meaning "Peace" derived from. If it came from out of religion then man can live without religion and live better without it. On the contrary if religion did bring this word to man and implemented it then man would be hopeless without it. Reply

Kolyah Pasadena, CA May 5, 2011

Who needs religion? B"H
I need religion, but the religion I need may not exist yet. I'm certain it will someday, hopefully soon. Whether I believe in a man who spoke as though he were a book, or a Book that speaks as a man; it is the same words being spoken. How many can actually hear those words fully in thier completeness and depth? I know that I can't bear to hear them without some kind of dilution. The Truth of those words can burn us if we aren't prepared. Tradition helps with this. Tis too awfully deep to convey. Many have given up the pursuit, still others have decided to try and make money off it. Others attempt to market the mystical tools only for self-gain, rather than the betterment of mankind. There is a power in Torah put there by all who have been martyred, Keeping their sacrifice in active remembrance humbles me greatly, I am not worthy to have suffered what I have as a Jew compared to their pain and suffrage. This is why I will do my utmost for Torah, and Our People, no matter what. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena, CA May 2, 2011

Logically Moot B"H
Most questions are answerable through logic, yet I am fairly certain that not all questions can be. There are also questions that have many answers, and there are those, which do not have any. I am of the opinion that; If there is a G-d, or Superior Intellect, then He/She/ It does not need man to do It's/ His/ Her fighting for them what-so-ever. If He/ She/ It did need mere mortal men to fight and kill on It's/ His/ Her behalf, then mankind is a more powerful being than He/ She/ It. Fighting and killing in the name of any g-d, regardless of name is more about the animal world, the infantile and instinctive world man creates for himself rather than any true G-d. My opinion is just that, and I am no one special to be regarded, but logically speaking it is a sound opinion. Man has, as yet, not left behind his primal survival instinctual & beastial side, and therefore; his conceptions of G-d are much to be desired. (G-d? Schmod! As long as we get paid, who cares, right?!) Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, Ca, USA via jewishriverside.com April 22, 2011

I will answer the FIRST part of the question. Who needs religion? I will IGNORE the second part, because, as I said, this is a fallacy. It is not the religion which causes wars, it is the PEOPLE who USE religion to JUSTIFY going to war. So, for the first part, who needs religion? Here, too, we can separate the word religion into ORGANIZED and INTERNAL. Not everyone needs organized religion. Everyone needs INTERNAL religion. My definition of internal religion is having all emotional and psychologically positive feelings and beliefs which SUSTAIN you through hard times. Belief in G-d is the icing on the cake, because in praising Him in all things good we do, have, and enjoy, we are FOCUSING on the good in life and not the sad/horrid/tragic occurrences of which there are many. Everyone needs this type of internal religion of belief, hope, faith, strength, resiliency, optimism, survivalism, etc. That's my answer. Whether we call ourselves Jews or whatever, it is what is in the inside that counts. No? Showing love, etc. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA via jewishriverside.com April 21, 2011

Let's divide the question because... It is a compound interrogative sentence.
1. Who needs religion? and
2. Religion is the cause of all wars.
So, to answer this, I'd have to defer to logic. This sentence would read, in logic, as: There was a war in xxx year. The basis of that war was stated as being for religion, There as another war in xxx year. The basis of that war was stated as being for religion. Therefor, ALL wars have the common denominator of being fought for religion. This is a fallacy. It's like saying people kill many cows for their meat, for food. People kill many chickens for their meat, for food. Therefore ALL animals which are killed are for food. This is not correct. Hunters often kill for sport. It is not good, in my estimation, but it happens. They also kill to show who can get the biggest animal, thinking that will make the hunter the best/most talented crackshot with a rifle. So, the question is illogical. Because the question is illogical, all the answers given are moot. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena, CA April 18, 2011

But Karen.. B"H
The conclusion is assumed out ofa supposition that the question was incomplete? If we divide the question into two parts, we can only conclude one part and not both. However; if we leave the question whole, then both parts of the question may be answered. Part 1) If I divide a child between two women, would it still be alive? Obvious answer; NO. Judaism says that the righteous of all nations shall have a part in the world to come. Catholicism says only Catholics, Protestants, say only Protestants, Islam - only Muslims. There are more than one women claiming sole proprietor of truth. Therefore my reasoning led to this thought thread: Judaism does not lay a claim to be sole proprietor, Truth is the child of G-d. The child is still alive in the Jewish world. Judaism is for the people of Israel, tho' the rest of the women may just fight and kill the child that was given to them. There are those who have surrendered to hope rather than religion. U C, It had 3 parts. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA via jewishriverside.com April 8, 2011

Dear Anon in Pasadena, OK, if we follow your reasoning, then the answer would be NO ONE needs any religion EXCEPT Judaism. Right? The question as stated was a hasty generalization, with no exceptions mentioned. Reply

Anonymous Pasadena, CA April 8, 2011

In Two Parts.. If I divide a child between two women, both claiming to be its' true parent, would it still be alive? If we divide a question, and make it two; could the point and intent of it be lost? Judaism does NOT say that only Torah based Orthodox Jews are to be granted salvation. Catholicism Does say that only the Mother Church has the way to true salvation, Protestants, say the same of their beliefs, and in Islam, whether Suni, Shi-ia, Sufi all lay claim to be sole proprietor. If you argue with them, they may even kill to justify their beliefs on this point. Judaism early on fought only as a matter of self-preservation, not because of such a claim. Even G-d has killed men directly, if Torah is believed on the literal level. G-d took the sons of Aaron, Korah and the 1st born of Egypt. Shall I say that G-d was wrong to do this? War is sometimes a necessity. Law has to do with gov't. Our G-d has a Kingdom, once we enter(Pesach) it, we live by His law; like when we go to Canada. Reply

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