Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
The military crisis in Iraq is typically described in religious terms – a millennia-old conflict between Sunni and Shia. No doubt the sectarian divide has fueled tensions and defined the war. It has given critics ammunition to argue against sending more troops into a religious civil war. There is an emerging view that we should just stay out and let the parties fight it out themselves, as they have done for hundreds of years.
For some, it’s hard not to blame religion. Religion is often in the frame of modern conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict predated the creation of the modern state of Israel. The civil war in Ireland pitted Catholics against Protestants. Religious tensions in Nigeria divide the country between the Muslim north and the Christian south. Hindus and Muslims oppose each other in South Asia. The conflicts in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo involve Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim followers.
Religion seems to be connected with violence virtually everywhere. Critics of religion are quick to put the blame on religion. Advocates of faith counter with religion’s record as a force for peace. One 18th century writer said we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
As people of faith, how to we talk with those who say religion is to blame? How do we respond when someone asks if religion has succeeded in any of its efforts to unite mankind?
When a critic points to conflicts in Iraq, across the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe and says religion is to blame – how do we respond?
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Due to a lack of spiritual intelligence, ignorant persons misidentify the eternal self with the temporary body and mind. Such illusion does not only include ideas such as, ‘I am White’, ‘I am Black’, ‘I am American’, ‘I am Democrat,’ but also the illusion also includes ideas of, ‘I am Hindu’, ‘I am Christian’, ‘I am Muslim.’
For the person who has received spiritual training understands that, ‘I am not this body but rather I am an eternal soul.’ Therefore a spiritually wise soul does not discriminate against others based on temporary bodily designations but rather sees the soul proper.
“He who sees systematically everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being.
One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?” - Śrī Īśopaniṣad 6-7