Divided we fall
On reflection it grieves me to say that religion, which should be a unifying force, fails to bring about harmony and human understanding.
In spite of our belief in one God there is and never has been evidence of mutuality and common purpose in the way we relate to the Creator. The disunity in our approach to and worship of the Almighty is steeped in antiquity and precedes the birth of Christ. It gained momentum from then on with further emphasis on division with the rise of Islam and reached its peaks with the Crusades, the persecution of Jews, the Inquisition and the Thirty Years’ War.
As we remember the First World War we should also be aware that both sides laid claim to God’s protection to the extent, if I am correctly informed, that the belt buckles of German soldiers bore the inscription “Gott mit us” or words to this effect. In most armed conflicts troops were accompanied by clergy and received a blessing before going into battle. Wars in the name of religion were known for the ferocity with which they were fought. It was not only the case in medieval times, but during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and is evident in the armed conflict between the practitioners of both main branches of Islam.
The inability to accommodate our religious beliefs and practices was vividly explained in the experience of Protestants who were denied the sacraments in Episcopal churches. In the same vain I was forbidden as a boarder at a South African state school to attend other than reformed church services and constantly made aware of the errors in religious observation of communities of faith not based on Calvinism. It divides families, local communities and nations and detracts an increasing number of people from any form of belief and religious observance.
This is never more evident than at Easter and Christmas, which to most individuals are nothing more than celebrations based on consumption. The associated overindulgence and demand on emergency services are a heavy price to pay. The divisions are very evident in the great number of unsustainable congregations and the associated financial burden on their members based on the limited scale of their operation. Surely this disunity was not intended by the founders of the major religions and can also not be pleasing to God.
Let us remember at this supposed time of goodwill to all men the untold number of victims of religious wars, who will not be able to share in the abundance of food, entertainment and presents that many of us will enjoy.