Wednesday, 29 August 2012

God’s people: Reformers or stormtroopers?

Politics and religion are both ways in which humanity has tried to organise its collective life. The roots of politics lie in our need to make collective decisions and the desire of some people to have others follow their lead. This leads to a range of political forms from participatory democracy to tyranny and genocide.

The roots of religion lie in our tendency to believe that most events are caused by beings with desires (rather than physical processes) and our reluctance to believe that when a loved one dies then that person is gone for good. This leads people to believe in the existence of gods, spirits, ghosts, witches and saints and their involvement in deciding the weather, the harvests and our recovery from illness. Religion also leads to a variety of human behaviour from visiting the sick to torturing suspected witches and to such public displays as sung evensong and the Haj.

In short both are natural for us humans and neither has clean hands.