Conflicts have been all over in the world and up to date there is no country, community or society can boast that it has never experienced or encountered any sort of conflict. Conflicts come in different magnitudes that are right from armed conflicts to inter-clan or inter-family conflicts. Nevertheless conflicts take a different dimension when they emanate from religion. In this regard the paper will highlight the impact of religious conflicts in the society. This paper may not limit the argument of this issue to only one religious group but a few religious groups.
Impact of Religious Conflict in Society
There are very many or numerous different religious groups or religions in the world today. Many of them have sprung up due to different doctrinal interpretations. Religion has undergone many changes and the changes are attributed to the teachings which are interpreted by different people in different ways. These interpretations may be the main causes of conflicts within the group.
The conflicts may be classified into two i.e. internal conflicts and external conflicts. Internal conflicts between or among the people of the same religious groups are caused by; fighting for positions to be leaders in the group or there may be grumbling over the utilization of the resources of the religious group. External conflict may be of a higher magnitude compared to the internal ones. Some of the main causes of the external conflicts among religious groups are; a feeling of intrusion of a dominant religious group by another, for example Christians may extend the religious teaching to another country or community dominated by Muslims and the Muslims may feel intruded and vice versa. This has been evident in countries like India, China and Indonesia. As (Lewis 1996) notes, “Misunderstanding causes geopolitical hostility that is, if two religions do not understand each other and there is disruption in their coexistence, suffering comes in with devastating impacts to the people of differing views in religion”. Another cause may be internal extremism that may divides up one religious group into a large scale war like activities or it may be a large scale conflict between the main religious groups for instance the Jewish versus the Muslims or Muslims versus Hindus or Muslims versus Christians. The conflicts are so many, but what do they reveal to the society about religion?
When such conflicts occur, the society loses confidence in religion and its teachings of tolerance and love; the hope to be found in them is lost because religion is believed to harbor virtues that are the cause of light and positive living in the world. The conflict impacts the society negatively especially those who are not strong believers because they may ignore the teachings and may conclude that religious and non religious are the same. And yet this is not the case because religious people must be discerned from non religious people clearly through their actions and behavior. In this same point, such a conflict in religious can be a pillar to some society members because they will learn to search for ways to end conflicts within and outside their religion.
Religion is looked upon by the society to teach moral values based on a strong principle to protect lives. Hence when there are conflicts of which some end up in bloodshed and loosing lives, then the society has no obligation and sight to respect religious views or teachings. Then religions loose value no matter which religion. The impact to the society is enormous because people in that particular society and even those who hear about the negativity of religion in far away places naturally loose moral directions. For instance, abortion is regarded as killing the unborn ones and it is against the principles of life as instituted by the creator of whom every religion entreats for life. Then, there are conflicting statements from various religions some ending to supporting it, the society looses direction and the impact may be that people or the society may no longer respect life. In tandem with this, it is when two religions fight and shed blood between and or among them, then this impacts in the society negatively as it is believed by the society that religion is there to promote strong character, united families and show the world how to promote peace and live harmoniously.
There are other matters that cause conflicts within a religious group and among religions. And the truth is that these matters are so close to the society. One of the issues is same sex marriage which for a long time has been debatable in many religions and even the governments have not been left behind. To society, this is a very sensitive matter; it impacts strongly on morals of a society. There has been a protracted war of words even within the church and to be precise, the Anglican Church where gay bishops have been ordained to serve in the church. This issue has almost divided the church into two; those ones who are supporting the gay bishops and those who are opposing. What does this tell the society? And how does such an issue impacts the society? One must not be a Muslim to oppose this! One must not be a Christian to stand up against this matter! This has created a serious dent in religion concerning family and it is religion that teaches and promotes values and virtues in families. The society totally looses confidence in religion. The society no longer respects teachings about family when the teachers and leaders who profess to know better about family life, break and trample fundamental rules about it.
Many other issues like birth control or family planning methods, religious groups supporting the government or can church leaders join active politics? And many other issues cause conflicts and in turn these conflicts bear sentiments that negatively impact the society. However some issues may impact the society positively because it may generate curiosity in the society and through this curiosity people may learn lessons.
Countries that have certain religious groups or religions dominating in them may have different negative perspectives towards other countries with their religion and beliefs. For instance many Middle East countries are dominated by Islam and the western countries by Christianity. Due to the different and parallel beliefs they differ in principle to an extent of causing animosity and ending in armed conflicts hence the society starts a very negative attitude towards the other religion for instance the Muslims say the westerners who are mainly Christian are infidels and in the other hand the westerners say Muslims are terrorists which in both sides is not true but the damage has been done. “It is hard to generalize Muslims; they only feel that the American way of life threatens them and their values as a religion. It is the western democracy that threatens the Islamic extremists because within its community more Muslims are to value the freedom that political democracy allows” notes (Lewis 2004). While inter-religion misinterpretations of others’ beliefs and activities may cause conflict and in turn the conflicts may have devastating impact to the society when for instance the conflicting issues breed war or war like actions.
Religious conflicts impact the society negatively and to some extent positively. It will be a positive impact if the conflict is within the religious group because it may lead to soul searching and the society may be strengthened through the general solutions of conflicts within this religious group. In the other hand conflicts impact negatively if they are not first, solved amicably and two if they cause misunderstanding, war, fighting and animosity, then the society loses moral respect of religion. Therefore, it is the obligation of religions to sow seeds of love and understanding which will in turn teach the society and effect positive changes towards life and among all the peoples of the world.
Lewis, B. (1996). Cultures in Conflict: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Age of Discovery. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lewis, B. (2004). The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks.
Roberts, K. A. (2003). Religion in Sociological Perspective, 4th edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing. (Roberts 2003)
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