NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will We Blow Each Other Up in The Name of Religion?

July 16, 2002

To the alarm of U.S. policy-makers, a world that has become more accessible through jet travel and more intertwined through a global economy and the Internet has also become an arena of hot conflict traceable to religious zeal.

Jim Lindsay, who studies post-Cold War foreign policy a the Brookings Institution, observes: "You can mobilize people to do things they wouldn't do on the basis of class, they wouldn't do on the basis of ethnicity, but they will do on the basis of religion."

Most Americans agree. By more than 10-to-one, Americans surveyed by USA Today last month said religious disputes are tougher to resolve than others. At base, the attitude is "My God is right and yours is wrong." And many of the Earth's population are ready to kill to defend that belief.

  • In Kashmir, Hindus are fighting Muslim Pakistanis to the brink of nuclear war.
  • Israelis and Palestinians are fighting what has so far proved to be an endless religious war.
  • In Northern Ireland, Christian Catholics and Christian Protestants have engaged in religious strife lasting nearly the entire 20th Century.
  • The terrorists who attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11 say they are waging a jihad, or Islamic holy war.
  • NATO forces are patrolling Bosnia to prevent a return of violence among Orthodox Christian Serbs, Roman Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosnians -- which in the 1990s left one million people displaced and one-quarter million dead.

"It makes the conflict more difficult to mediate and more difficult to find a conclusion to," says Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. "No one wants to compromise the transcendental."

Source: Susan Page and Jack Kelley, "In God's Name, the Most Mortal of Combat," USA Today, July 16, 2002.

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