len anthonyBy Len Anthony  ||  I recently heard a pastor declare that the United States must support Israel because “the Jews are God’s chosen people.” That is the sum total basis for his position on a tremendously important foreign affairs issue.

As a pastor his position is respected and followed by a huge portion of his congregation without question or reflection. By “support” he meant not only economic but military backing. In other words, go to war over religion.

Imagine the harm caused by such thinking? Imagine how peaceful the world we be if we followed John Lennon’s advice in the song “Imagine” when he asks the listener to:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

People can and should believe whatever they want regarding heavens and hells and gods and saviors in order to bring meaning or peace to their lives.  To bring peace to the world however, everyone needs to respect everyone else’s beliefs, question their own beliefs and recognize that is all they are: beliefs.

Reflect upon the world today, and the reason for the vast majority of the bloodshed.  In the Middle East Shiites are fighting Sunnis. They have been fighting for over 2000 years.

Why are they fighting?  They are fighting over differences in religious beliefs.  There are also battles between Sunni sects and battles between Shiite sects, again over religious beliefs. Jews are fighting the Palestinians, over religious beliefs.  Muslims are fighting Christians, over religious beliefs. While not engaged in physical violence, there are disagreements between Catholics and Protestants, and splits within the various Christian denominations over religious beliefs.

These differences in beliefs result from varied interpretations of verses in the Bible and the Quran, both written thousands of years ago in archaic forms of Arabic, Greek and Hebrew which have been translated in to today’s languages.  Putting aside the discussion of the integrity of any of the interpretations as well as the veracity of either book, none of the interpretations can be demonstrated to be the one and only correct interpretation.

For instance, the Bible would have us believe that a merciful, loving, all powerful and all-knowing God created the universe, all plants, all animals and people.  Regarding people, he began by making a man and a woman.  Since God is all-knowing it seems reasonable to assume God knew the attitudes and character of his creations.  He placed these two people in a paradise type environment telling them they could consume any fruit in the paradise except for the fruit of one tree, the tree of knowledge.  God then either allowed or sent a talking snake to tempt the woman, Eve, to eat the forbidden fruit.  Eve gave into the temptation and subsequently convinced the man, Adam, to do the same. God discovered that Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, and the first sin had been committed, a sin that would then follow all mankind.

Thus, all of the fighting and killing is based upon nothing more than differences in beliefs (none of which can be proved) derived from books written by people who understood little to nothing about the universe, biology, genetics, physics, etc.  Common sense and rational thought must be inserted in to our reasoning and belief systems.  Blind obedience to ancient assertions and pronouncements cause more harm than good.

Importantly, religion is no longer needed to establish the rules of civilized people.  We have governments to pass and enforce laws to maintain order. Ironically, many violations of the criminal laws occur due to religion.  From the Crusades in the 1200s, to the Puritans in Massachusetts in the 1600s, to the killings in Nigeria today, religious differences have caused not prevented lawless behavior.

Finally, it is very curious how all religious combatants appeal to their gods to support them on the battlefield.  Instead, they should consider the last verse of Bob Dylan’s song “With God On Our Side”:

So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: After spending thirty years as in-house counsel for a public utility, Len Anthony is now semi-retired living in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.  Wanna sound off on FITS?  Submit your letter to the editor or opinion column HERE.