Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Beyond Violence: Religious Sources of Social Transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Synopsis

In an age of terrorism and other forms of violence committed in the name of religion, how can religion become a vehicle for peace, justice, and reconciliation? And in a world of bitter conflicts - many rooted in religious difference - how can communities of faith understand one another? The essays in this important book take bold steps forward to answering these questions. The fruit of a historic conference of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars and community leaders, the essays address a fundamental question: how the three monotheistic traditions can provide the resources needed in the work of justice and reconciliation. Two distinguished scholars represent each tradition. Rabbis Irving Greenberg and Reuven Firestone each examine the relationship of Judaism to violence, exploring key sources and the history of power, repentance, and reconciliation. From Christianity, philosopher Charles Taylor explores the religious dimensions of "categorical" violence against other faiths, other groups, while Scott Appleby traces the emergence since Vatican II of nonviolence as a foundation of Catholic theology and practice. Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti of Bosnia, discusses Muslim support of pluralism and human rights, and Mohamed Fathi Osman examines the relationship between political violence and sacred sources in contemporary Islam. By focusing on transformative powers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the essays in this book provide new beginnings for people of faith committed to restoring peace among nations through peace among religions.

Excerpt

Religion today is at the heart of violence around the world: in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, the Middle East, Bosnia, Kosovo, Azerbaijan/Armenia, Cyprus, Iraq, Sudan, and elsewhere. Religion should instead be at the heart of the solution.

How is it that religion, one of the most sublime activities of humanity, has so often through the centuries—even until today— been a motivation for the most heinous of human activities? It is because of the very nature of religion that it can be both: Corruptio optimae pessima, “the corruption of the best becomes the worst.”

Religion is “an explanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, based on some notion of the Transcendent, with the four C’s: Creed, Code of Ethics, Cult of Worship, Community-Structure.” Religion does not attempt to explain just part of life, as do, for example, such disciplines as physics (the physical dimension), chemistry (the chemical dimension), biology (the living dimension), psychology (the inner human dimension), and sociology (the interhuman dimension). Rather, religion attempts to provide a comprehensive explanation of the entirety of life. Consequently, religion tends to be absolute.

“Absolute” stems from the Latin ab (from) solvere (to solve, finish, limit), meaning literally un-limited. Hence, religions tend to make unlimited truth claims (my way or the highway). However, during the last two hundred years, we humans have become increasingly . . .

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