Evolving beyond religious violence
What are your thoughts on how we can evolve past religious violence?
Lately I’ve been thinking about two ideas- 1. Hector Avalos’s scarce resource theory. Here’s an abbreviated version then I’ll put a full quotation below under references. "Most violence is the result of scarce resources, real or perceived. … every conflict I’ve ever seen has a scarce resource at the bottom. … when religion causes violence, it does so because it has created new scarce resources somewhere. …[for example] the idea that God reveals himself in one set of texts…”2. In one of his books Neil Postman used a phrase “clear their path” which I’ve taken to mean that the monotheistic or exclusive religions clear their path by insisting that they have the only truth. Let’s say the exclusive religions have been taken over by …I’ll call it the only-truth-meme. In terms of evolution, this meme has been extraordinarily successful but also extremely violent. Because we are a global society now, the only-truth-meme no longer serves the interests of the whole. (Something like the Lizard Legacy if left unchecked).
If we put the two ideas together at an interfaith conference, one thing we could do is “clear a path” of religiously based scarce resources. Or clear a space of the only-truth-meme. For example, clearing a ritual field would mean confirming to everybody that no religion has the exclusive truth about God. Interfaith conferences probably do this in some form already. Question: how to take this ritual field and extend it into the everyday life of a religion?
Re-interpretation is one way. TGFE page 202: “Given what we now know about deep-time creativity and grace, we can no longer in good conscience continue interpreting the story of Jesus’ birth, life, teachings, passion, death, and resurrection as primarily having to do with saving a select group of human beings from the fires of a literal hell when they die. ” And page 203: “Salvation must be available, as well, to those who cannot give their assent to literal interpretations of the Christian doctrines of virgin birth, resurrection, ascension, and so forth…”
Neil Postman phrase from the Narratives chapter of Building a Bridge to the 18th Century.
Hector Avalos quote from Freethought Radio podcast 6/2/07,
discussing his book "Fighting Words” (subtitled The Origins of Religious Violence):
“Most violence is the result of scarce resources, real or perceived. Whenever people perceive that there’s not enough of something they value then conflict may ensue to maintain or acquire that resource. So, just to give you an example, if there’s not enough love in a family people may tend to fight about that. Whoever has that love may want to keep it and the person who doesn’t have enough of it wants it. Respect in a couple can be a scarce resource. One has more of it than the other. Water can be a scarce resource on a global scale. Energy is. All those things… every conflict I’ve ever seen has a scarce resource at the bottom. And that goes from the smallest scale of human organization to the largest.
The second premise of my book is: when religion causes violence, it does so because it has created new scarce resources somewhere. So, in particular I argue that in the Abrahamic traditions- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- you have four scarcities that have caused violence over and over for the last two or three thousand years. And the four are 1 the idea that God reveals himself in one set of texts or books and not in every text. The second is sacred space: the idea that some spaces are more valuable than the surrounding spaces. Like the Holy Land. Group privilege is the third: where a group believes they have special privileges by virtue of belonging to a religion that others don’t. And the fourth one is salvation which can be variable but it describes some kind of commodity that people think they have on a more permanent basis when they belong to a particular group. Eternal life would be one- you get eternal life by belonging to, say, Christianity.
So, in the case of sacred space, you can see how the scarcity drives conflict. For example in the Holy Land, so called, there is no oil there. There is no large agricultural production. The whole value of that space has been created by the religious belief that it’s valuable.”