Religion and Extremism

One would agree that before religion was presented, life was much different than it is today. If one studies history, it could be concluded that people were much barbarous than they are today. Currently, religion account to 86% of the world’s population. 1 The existence of religion for many centuries, has shaped mankind. One could claim that religions have changed the society. They have taught one the way of life and have injected it with beliefs, morals, ethics and laws. However, philosophers such as AC Grayling, criticize religions by suggesting that it is outdated and that the society is due for a change.

This change would require placing religion in private domain, leaving the public domain free of religions. Needless to say, he firmly believes that faith-based schools should be unwelcomed in the society. 2 To agree with AC Grayling would be to ignore all the goodness associated within the religions and faith-based schools. As John Murray clearly explains that is “to insult the goodwill and hard work of the many people involved in these schools”. 3 Clearly, AC Grayling’s argument requires a second thought due to the fact that Grayling’s argument shows the lack of understanding in religions and faith-based schools.

He suggests that faith-based schools should not be funded. In other words, they should be eliminated because their teachings cause division, tension and conflict in the society. However, It would be unreasonable to agree with such a claim because it is only one point of view. AC Grayling mentions that religions blaspheme one another and that they promote war. It is true that religion has been given the heading to many undesirable situations. From domestic holy flights between a group of people to ‘holy wars’ including different nations.

A few notable of the many ‘holy wars’ include the French Wars of Religion, Muslim Conquests, Crusades, and Reconquista. 4 While one group plays a defensive role in trying to protect its people, the other triggers the war for material gain fuelled with jealousy and hatred using the brand of religion. However, after a thorough study of the major ‘holy wars’, it becomes apparent that they were merely for conquest of land. A religion does not teach war nor does it teach to conquer land, in fact, it teaches otherwise.

However, it has been used as a tactic by the exploiters to control a mass group of believers to fight for their cause, personal beliefs or hatred towards another group. Similarly, religion does not teach one to blaspheme one another, but it’s merely the extremists who do so. Faith-based schools are formed to increase faith of a group of people by means of educating while sharing a common opinion. If one was to step inside a faith-based school , one would realize, among many other teachings, that they teach the very notion of peace, eradicating discrimination and spreading equality among mankind, regardless of faith.

For example, Islamic law puts strong emphasis on good attitude, even towards people that insult and discriminate. Such attitude is considered to be a important part of their faith. “The most perfect in faith of the believers are those who are in their best attitude towards others. “5 Similar teachings of respect and kindness are practiced in all other religions as well. Murray points out “denominational education is concentred with public morality, human rights and social peace.

It aims at helping religious belief and commitment to promote the common good for all”. For example, they teach one to spread peace, to be gentle with earth and its resources, keeping in mind that others share it as well. To be humble, polite with others, display of good manners, honesty and forgiving, even if one has caused harm. Also, people of all faiths are taught to help one another. One way they practise this by making donations to their mosques, churches and temples. These donations are then spread out within the society and given to the less fortunate. Therefore, eliminating faith-based schools means, in essence, an elimination of a source of their education.

As well as, a source for their self betterment and goodwill for the society. Putting an end to denominational schooling would also be putting an end to growth in religion. If faith-based schools are eliminated, religious group then would be forced into a ‘one-type-fits-all’ school system, as explained by Murray. 7 The problem with this school system for the religious group is that their religious beliefs are not practiced, taught or welcome . It is important to note people that are a part of certain faith, choose to follow that path because of their belief, not because they are forced into it.

Forcing or making modification to their rights will result in problems. On one hand, the extremists of religion purpose many problems, as history has shown us. On the other hand, Grayling’s suggestion of forcing religion out of the public sphere and setting restrictions on faith by eliminating their schools, spells unfairness to religious believers. Much would be loss if we eliminate faith-based schools because of extremists. Thus, Grayling’s reasoning for keeping religion in private sphere falls weak because his arguments are surrounded by extremism, which are not teachings of any religion.

Also, in claiming that society needs to secularise, he should give it a second thought. Mainly because it seems as if he does not realize that 86% of the world believes in religion and that replacing secularism with religion will present great problems. 8 Thus, the solution would be to protect the religion and its believers from extremists by every means necessary. This is possible if the society and religious believers work together. Moreover, in dispelling extremism, we would also disseminate the discriminative eye, which has blinded people with hatred towards religions.