Sometimes I like to play Devil’s Advocate. And sometimes I like to throw the words of well-respected “peace practitioners” back in their faces – especially when they are hypocrites.
I’m not going to sit back and be brain-washed. I’m also not going to pretend that their very prejudiced teachings are peaceful and tolerant.
I may not be PRO-religion myself – but I will not listen to them preach about the inferiority of those who are religious. Why am I the only person in my classes who seems to understand that I’m in a very prejudiced and racist course? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO STUDY PEACE and I can see that they are super hypocrites. So why, why, why can’t these students – who claim they are passionate about peace … WHY CAN’T THEY SEE IT?
Second of Five Reflections
We discussed the three types of violence (e.g. structural, cultural, and direct) in class this week. I would like to return to the example in my first reflection as the foundation for this entry. With the help of my readings and the discussions in class, I have been able to look at the previous experience in more depth and with a different light.
Today I wish not to dwell on the conflicts my experience presented, but on how the lack of protection for religious privacy can lead to religious discrimination and prejudice which is a form (according to definitions by Galtung and classroom discussions) of cultural violence. I also believe that the way in which religion is discussed and criticized by Galtung breeds discrimination and ironically encourages exactly that which he wishes to abolish.
As the world becomes increasingly more educated and the horrors which religions have inspired are brought to light, it is impossible to dismiss the cloud of reasonable doubt hovering around the likelihood that organized religion was intended to be more than merely an institution of control, fear and war. Put more simply, I understand the arguments that organized religion is corrupt.
It becomes exceedingly more difficult to find an academic who carries a firm belief in a religion. How can you dismiss the repeated violence? How can you dismiss the horrors? The attempts at Genocide? The millions of deaths in the name of a Higher Power? All caused by religion!
An example of how pervasive the attitude that religion is wrong within the world of academia is the religion class I attended. There were only two students in the class who professed to have any belief in religion or in a God. Each and every other student took the time to not only announce their superiority in intelligence for rejecting religion (and I make this as a statement of fact) but made a point to explain that they achieved this “new intellectual plane” through personal growth and knowledge (signaling that those who do not share their views are not as advanced or informed.) One girl even stated that she feels “sorry for Christians because they are so in the dark.” Another explained during the break that if you are intelligent and logical, at all, that you MUST discount religions and see them for what they “really” are.
I have no major qualms with these opinions. I personally have doubts with regard to the legitimacy of organized religions myself. The new trend in developed countries is to attach oneself to Atheism or Agnosticism. But for the sake of playing the devil’s advocate and in light of my new understanding of cultural violence, I would like to argue that this belief system (like any belief system can) has created a new culture, a very limited, and incredibly prejudiced culture – which by definition can cause cultural violence.
The deep-rooted yet unstated belief in the superiority and advancement of those who can see religion without rose-colored glasses inherently fosters the belief that those who choose to follow a religion are in the dark, not as intelligent, and/or inferior. A great portion of the academic world, in general terms and by nature, breeds a culture of contempt for religion. This breeds discrimination. But instead of discriminating based on religion (which is arguably one of the reasons religions are corrupt) they discriminate based on religion under the guise of “intellectual advancement.” You are either agnostic or atheist or you are not smart.
Galtung clearly indicates that religion is a form of cultural violence. It’s his first example in our readings. He makes valid and well-founded arguments about how religions create rationalizations for inequality, racism, prejudices and discrimination.
He does not offer religion any credit for their core belief systems or for their foundation of culture apart from their corrupt leaders. There is no doubt that Galtung rejects organized religion nor is there doubt that he wishes to expose religion as an institution that should be abolished in order to establish positive peace.
By creating this definition of religion, Galtung sets up his own class system. Those who follow a religion vs. those who see it as a corrupt institution needing to be abolished. I think he explains (albeit unintentionally) the danger of this better than I could.
“The lines may no longer be drawn between God, the Chosen, the Unchosen, and Satan. Modernity would reject God and Satan but might demand a distinction between Chosen and Unchosen; let us call them Self and Other.
…A steep gradient is then constructed, inflating, even exalting, the value of Self; deflating, even debasing, the value of Other. At that point, structural violence can start operating. ”
Galtung claims that “modernity” equals rejecting God and Satan. So those who DO believe in God and Satan have not reached the same level of intellectualization. The Chosen now become those who are atheist and agnostic, those who are intellectually advanced enough to see religion as corrupt. The Chosen become the ones who have grown in wisdom enough to be able to change the world. The “other” or “unchosen” become those who are religious. Those who are not as advanced (according to his own definition) and those who (as long as they hold onto their religious beliefs) do not carry the power to create positive peace.
Galtung himself cautions about the dangers of firmly held beliefs of “self” and “other” which I argue can be applied to his disdain for religion. “…And certain tenets of belief in modernization, development, progress are seen as apodictic; not to believe in them reflects badly on the non-believer, not on the belief.” To believe in religion, according to the teachings of Galtung, can be seen as not believing in modernization and this, he admits, (within the structure of cultural violence) can reflect badly on the non-believer.
violence can absolutely be fueled by religion. Creating a “superior” culture of people who reject religion can also fuel cultural violence. And a belief system that defines Self (e.g. agnostic) as superior to Other (e.g. religious) fosters inequality which can result not only in cultural but also in structural violence. This anti-religion culture, which often falls under the sheltering arm of academia, provides rationalizations for this Self vs. Other, anti-religion belief system.
Galtung, in describing exactly what is wrong with religion and ideologies, explains perfectly what he is doing himself: fostering, rationalizing and excusing a form of cultural violence.
I WAS discriminated against during the classroom break after announcing my religious orientation. Students DID say I was a member of a “crazy sect” and whispered about it in front of my face. I was immediately rejected for my belief. The culture of anti-religion that Galtung encourages may be just as dangerous as the culture of religion which he abhors.