Doesn’t religion make people violent?
If religion was the cause of violence, then all the places in the world where there was no religion would be free from violence. The two places where atheism was tried out on a mass scale in recent history are the former USSR and China. And what was the result? The number of people killed in these two countries during their atheistic regime was nearly three times the casualties during all the wars of the twentieth century15. So rather than religion, it is the absence of religion that breeds violence.
Apart from violence in general, let’s look at wars in particular. In the two biggest wars in recent memory, the two World Wars, religion was hardly an issue. The same holds true for many other wars like the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Indochina war and so forth.
When people are self-centered and power-hungry, they wage wars and incite others using whatever means are convenient, including ideological means. Such people exploit religion as a convenient ideological tool.
To prevent such misuse of religion, we need to provide philosophical education on a mass scale to help people understand what true
15 See LethalPolitics:SovietGenocideandMassMurderSince1917by R.J. Rummel, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1990. The victims of the Marxist governments amounted to 95,200,000. By comparison, the battle-killed in all foreign and domestic wars in this century total 35,700,000.religion is. If people truly became religious, they would become devoted to God, see all living beings as their brothers and sisters in his family and thereby promote harmony, not violence.
Even practically, the number of people who are inspired to acts of service and compassion by religion is far, far more than the number of people incited to violence by it. Millions of people are inspired by their belief in religion to be charitable towards others. However, because most such acts are inconspicuous, they rarely make it to the news. In sad contrast, acts of violence, even if far less in number, being sensational make it to the news far more frequently. When we over-rely on the media that reports only sensational facts, we end up with a distorted picture of the effects of religion on the world.
True religion enables us to attain inner happiness, which is the prerequisite for peace. We are all souls, who are the lost children of God. Due to not finding inner happiness, we have become filled with desires for external enjoyment and are forced to fight with each other for the scarce resources necessary to fulfill our desires. So, as long as we seek happiness externally, we cannot end wars. And the best, in fact the only, way to find inner happiness is through sincere religious practice culminating in the supreme fulfilment of love of God.