Christians, Jews and Muslims: Making the Peace
A View from the Outside Looking In
By: J. Marlando
It is interesting to me that after 5,000 to 15,000 years of so-called civilization, our planet has not been able to create an international peace so that the children of the world can have the unforeseeable future to believe in again. Indeed, belief in the unforeseeable future went away with the Cuban Crisis back in 1962 when the two superpowers (The Soviets and the U.S.) came within literal moments of nuking each other and most of the rest of the world with them. While, these days, it looks like we Americans are finally preparing to quit the war in Afghanistan, the cost of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars in hard dollars and human lives has nevertheless been overwhelming since 2003.
Just about everyone remembers September 11 in 2001
One of the major problems with the “human condition” is that it is founded on centers and what this means is, that both religion and politics are based on egocentrism that places them in the center and places everything that is not them outside their center. This was the fundamental structuring of war since the old god/kings ruled; all those who ain’t us, are them.
To some Muslims, “them” are all those who do not except the Islamic faith and who Allah grants rewards to for killing disbelievers. Indeed, to those Muslims everyone is doomed to hell except for themselves. The major problem in all this is that when one devotes himself to God, he is actually devoting himself to the dogmas and doctrines of the religion and its leaders—the Muslims to Mohamed, the Catholics to the Pope and so forth. What is historically missed, most typically, is that “god” is obviously made in the image of man as opposed to being the other way around.
The greater problem, however, is that people are bound by cultural influences and ideologies or, in other words, they do not think outside their centers.
For Westerners this was blatantly demonstrated when the Irish Catholics and the Irish Protestants were killing one another—same God, two different centers!
Jews, Christians and Muslims all have the same god but different centers. They all list Moses in the highest esteem and they all trace their beginnings back to Abraham. Neither Jews nor Muslims accept the concept of original sin, however.
Christianity is centered on the icon of Jesus, Islam on Mohamed, the center icon for the Jews is Moses. Moses after all led the Hebrew people out of Egypt and into freedom. In any case, because, we’ll say, Christians and Muslims are not included in the Jewish center, they are marginalized by the Jews just as Jews are, in turn, marginalized by Christians and Muslims for being outside their centers.
This of course is where the problems begin for those Big-3 religions that we’ve been discussing; the religious bureaucracies that have given us a history laden with blood from ancient wars into modern times. Judaism, for example, virtually begins with war after their emancipation from Egypt. As the story goes they wandered about the desert for forty years but then conquered Canaan
Actually it was Christianity that attempted to be a peace loving religion at its beginnings. The church not only forbade fighting but the bearing of arms. Indeed, it was St, Martin who expressed this in the 4th century by saying, “I am a soldier of Christ. I must not fight.”
A few decades later St. Augustine came alone saying that war could be moral and just. Indeed, like the Muslims, the early Christian Catholics agreed that “war could even be holy.”
A few centuries later the “holy” Crusades were being fought and this is where our scenario begins to unfold.
The Crusades and Other Absurdities of War
First of all there is or was nothing holy about the crusades. The crusaders were made up of religious zealots, treasure hunters and pure adventurers; hundreds of thousand took vowels for which the Pope gave them plenary indulgences and a cross as their “sacred” emblem. There was a catch, however, some of the sincere crusaders questioned the validity of the crusades—hadn’t Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, to love thy neighbor as thyself…warring seemed to be in exact opposite of these values. They were told that they were, indeed, soldiers of Jesus Christ and so the crusades were suddenly deemed “holy.”
It was a demonstration of this same kind of ignorance that prompts the calling for jihad or holy war for today’s fundamentalist Muslims: Quite suddenly murder and torture becomes “God’s will” for which the word jihad symbolizes. In this case, the symbol becomes the centralized icon permitting (or sanctioning) atrocious acts in the guises of “cause.”
The Bible itself glamourizes wars and its warriors: In Exodus, for only one example, Moses defeats the army of Og then has every man, woman and child killed in Og’s sixty walled cities and afterwards, you guessed it, they confiscated the land and all the wealth in it.
Ideology is why soldiers fight and die while wealth and power has always driven the demagogues who instigate it from their armchairs. Indeed, the age-old trick of governments for getting their populations behind some war effort is first to create (through propaganda) fear of the named enemy. Fear easily turns into hatred because we want to compromise anything that scares us. Once we start to “hate” the enemy we are ready to support a war with him. This tactic, for example, was used to gain support for escalating the Vietnam War. The then Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara announced to the American people that North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked U.S. destroyers that were just on routine patrol in international waters. The American people quickly responded—they weren’t about to let anyone endanger their Navy boys without retaliation. The problem was that the attack never happened but the fear/hate tactic of the social engineers certainly worked and off to escalating the war we went. Every warring country in the world, past and present, has used this kind of social engineering to stir their population to raise arms
Incidentally when it became known that the Bay of Tonkin attack was a hoax, once again “faulty intelligence” was blamed.
War has never been without material ambition often called “expansionism.” And so it was with the so-called “holy” crusades. Back in 1095 A.D. Pope Urban II, a kind of Hitler/Stalin type seen here preaching his warring philosophy
At the time parchment maps showed Jerusalem as being the center of the world. Jerusalem then as now was important to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. For only one thing we are told that it was in Jerusalem that God formed his bond with mankind.
We know today that there are no centers in nature but such knowledge was unavailable in those olden times so to Christian, Muslim and Jew, Jerusalem was indeed the center of the universe. At the time, however, Muslims and Jews were living together in the “holy city” of Jerusalem in relative peace and harmony. No one there suspected that an Army was soon to be formed to launch Christians against Muslims in the desire to confiscate Jerusalem itself.
Not every Christian, however, was anxious to war against anyone because they had been indoctrinated to think that warring was against the teachings of Christ. Yet, then as now, all it took was a little social engineering to change this view. So an admired priest by the name of Peter the Hermit stepped to the forefront and announced that he had received a letter from Heaven authorizing the crusade. Quite suddenly nearly everyone was band-standing going to war and liberating Jerusalem.
The armies of rich and poor, nobleman and commoner were gigantic. For one thing, as said earlier, the Pope had promised everyone who fought the infidels would have their sins forgiven.
Back in the Dark Ages people truly feared going to hell so the promise of rewards in Heaven was enough to inspire them to pick up the cross and head toward the holy land.
The first crusaders were led by Peter the Hermit and a knight with the name of Walter Sans-Avoir. The vast army seemed well disciplined and orderly as they passed through Germany and Hungry but by the time they reached the Rhine they were brewing for trouble and attacked Jewish villagers along their way. In any case, the crusaders divided into armies and new armies were forming all the time. Nevertheless, the Turkish Sultan, Kilij Arslan had defeated those fighting under Peter the Hermit in one of the earliest battles but he would lose to a heavy Christian cavalry not long after his victory.
No matter which side the victorious army was on, the victors made plundering a major part of the very reason to fight. This made the road to Jerusalem a profitable journey as brute force began to prevail over reason.
The first attack on Jerusalem was a brutal massacre of both Muslims and Jews. Some historians say the streets were flooded in their blood. It is also said then that while the first crusade was successful that would be the only real military success the crusaders would have—the next four crusades that would evolve would be blood and guts fighting during which, as said, the typical spoils of war became far more the causes for fighting with religion serving as the mere excuse.
It was the crusades, however, that served most to ground hatred between Islam and Christendom. The savage fighting on both sides took countless lives. In fact, Bernard of Clairvaux
During those nearly two hundred years of crusading, however, the church greatly expanded its wealth in confiscated property alone much less other booty. But, again, booty and property became the underling motive for warring for both Christian and Muslim especially by the time of Saladin and the Third Crusade. Saladin was a great and beloved Sultan
But greed had always played its roll in those so-called holy wars: When Jerusalem was taken in the first crusade it is said that some forty thousand Muslim men, women and children were slaughtered with many of the men’s body split open because it was rumored they had swallowed gold bezants (gold coins) in their desperation to hide their money from the intruders. In our times, the crazies who ran commercial jets into the Twin Towers did so to gain wealth, comfort and virgins in a mystical heaven in the guises of being jihad patriots. In view of all this, take away or abandon the greed factor and war most simply goes away.
Understanding the Present Day Conflict
As an American I hear this question often, “Why do the Muslims hate us so much?” First, not all Muslims hate us but there are enough that do to address the question. (1) As a nation calling itself Christian, there is a long history of bloodshed between our distinct religions. And, our recent war in Iraq and Afghanistan has only increased the hatred for America by some Muslims. Especially by the fundamentalist Muslim! (2) As a powerful nation we obviously back and support Israel against the Arab; a statistic for 2011 shows we have sent Israel over $8 million a day for military aide. One can understand how the Palestinians interpreted this as supporting their enemy…which of course it is.
As a quick aside, in my own view, the U.S. war in Iraq had nothing to do with Israel as some folks think. That war was to please the desires of the House of Saud. If this is true, and I believe that it is, then an extremely heavy price has been paid for nothing other than politics. With that said, we will move forward.
At this juncture we’ll add another way that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are compatible. While only Christianity accepts Jesus as Savior, the Muslims hold Jesus in much esteem as a prophet. At the same time not all Jews reject the idea that there might have been a historic Jesus; a teacher belonging to some religious sect rebelling against the status quo. Remember Jesus is known for wanting to reform the Judaism of his times so he would not be recognized by the religion’s historic hierarchy as being anything but a rebel
Today, however, the Jews are seen by the Arabic world as modern crusaders who are occupying portions of their homeland. This is why we mostly hear of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The Arabian view is not all unfounded as this map points out:
on the other hand, here is another map showing the boundaries of “the promised land.”
According to Jewish tradition they are taking only what God himself gifted them with, through who else but Abraham? In Genesis, the Lord says to Abraham: “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” And of course that became the Promised Land; a piece of real estate that stretches from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates.
As another quick aside, it was Golda Meir that said: “Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us forty years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.
The truth is that the Hebrew people changed a dry, desolate dessert place into the symbolic “milk and honey” it now enjoys. The question is, does any of this give them a right to covet properties that have been occupied by others for thousands of years?
So how is a problem, made serious enough to be symbolized by this photo
First of all we need to climb out from under the stack of propaganda that makes the Palestinians look like savage terrorists, outlandish in their quests and, at the same time give Israel a more scrutinizing appraisal. For one thing, be it said aloud or only in whispers, there seems to be an apparent Zionist attitude by the Israeli government. That is a desire to isolate the Jewish people from other races, cultures and religion, making Israel the “center” of Jewry. This would obviously include the city of Jerusalem, once shared by Jews and Muslims in relative peace and harmony.
The Palestinians obviously rebel against Zionist racism and want a state of their own to take charge of their own fate as a people and as a religion. The religions could actually be easily reconciled, however, because both Judaism and Islam are historically racial in their religious heritages. They have different traditions, rituals and symbols in their centers and so a “live and let live” policy could evolve if it were truly desired by both cultures.
The truth is that over 700,000 Palestinians were exiled from their homeland in 1949 by Israel’s militant aggressions. Israel had been granted statehood in 1948 or, in other words was recognized as a country in its own right by the United Nations. On the other hand, Israel was attacked on the same day it gained its independence. On May 14th, the armies from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq attacked Israel. Israel’s army of 100,000 were surprised by the unexpected attacks but prepared and won victories on all fronts. As in all war, there had been atrocities committed by both sides.
As I understand it, as a result of the Arab/Israel conflict, Israel immediately expanded their territory by going into Palestine which ended in the 1949 exile
spoken of in the above paragraph. The exile had been stirred by fear of, or force from, the might of the Israeli military.
This conflict is in continuum as we enter further into the second decade of the new millennium.
A Healing Hypothesis
I have had conversations with people and I’ve also read where it is said that the strong Israeli stance. That is, the Zionist stance that seems weaved into Israel’s modern day politics actually relates to the Holocaust; thus preservation of heritage and bloodlines become of ultimate importance to the Jewish people. This should be easily understood by everyone.
Because I’ve written two books on the Holocaust, I am a kind of expert on the subject. There is no doubt that the Jewish people endured unimaginable pain and loss during the Nazi occupation of Poland and other European countries. Jews were targeted not to only to be exiled from their homes but to be annihilated as a race. (I have a dear friend of mine who recently passed away who lost his mother and father, two brothers and around 300 friends and family to gas chambers and other Nazi executions between 1939 and 1945). No one in their right mind would deny that the Jewish people have reason to want exclusivity and, if you will, to protect their future as a religion and a people.
But does this justify the Palestinians being exile from their homeland; from their homes, farms and businesses? We are reminded of the old axiom that tells us that two wrongs do not make a right.
In many ways the Arab/Jew conflict is represented of our history as a so-called civilized species. Add the Christian or Western attitude toward the Middle-East there becomes a certain triangle of disagreements and conflicts at both the personal and international level. These histories go back thousands of years beginning with the Jewish one-god declaration and followed by the other two who adopted that god and created “him” into their own image.
These Big-3 religions were all based on the knowledge of ancient peoples and their mythologies long before physics much less quantum physics; long before modern-day astrophysics or neuroscience or…well, the list goes on. Indeed, one reason that such great numbers of scientists and scholars in our times reject the idea of God altogether is not because they cannot grasp some spiritual essence but because they cannot accept the apparent fabrications of organized religion. The fundamentalist Jew believes that Jewish souls and non-Jewish souls are greater than that between humans and cattle. The fundamentalist Muslims are convinced that killing infidels is in God’s favor while the fundamentalist Christian thinks Jesus is going to return to destroy all non-Christians while lifting the Christians up into the heavens. All these views belong to an ancient past when demagogues ruled both state and religion; when the tyranny of self-anointed god/men reigned over the ignorant and gullible.
Peace between the Arab, Jew and Christian must begin by deconstructing their centers and letting go of their “us and them” realities. Modern religion needs to work toward cooperation and unity, not separation and segregation. We have all heard it said that more bloodshed has been spilled by religions than all the other wars put together. Well, it is time for religion to ask why; to inquire into its own past and deny the apparent evils spliced into their faith. It is a simple procedure for Pope or Preacher or Ayatollah to do—if an act is not kind it is therefore wrong. How simple is that?
So in this view, the simple question needs to be answered: Is it kind to keep Palestinians from their homeland?
Our entire “civilized” human history is a bible of cruelty; war itself is a cruel endeavor! But then when one contemplates only a few examples of inhumanness such as the horrors of the inquisition, the torturing and stoning by Middle-East fanatics PIX the witch hunts, the horrifying unfolding of Hitler’s genocidal insanities and the genocidal attempts of more recent times. Here a reminder of the Rwandan genocide
Here we see the unnecessary poor of Saudi Arabia
Nearly ALL human suffering, including hunger, is NOT a result of Nature such as storms, droughts and floods but rather the result of human greed and much of it supported by the so-called religious communities. Here are the faces of hunger in India, known as the spiritual capital of the world PIX As a friend of mine from India said, India is very wealthy, it is only the people that are poor. And here are hungry faces u
Where and when does it end…can it end?
I believe that the world can only become safer, kinder; happier and more loving if the Big-3 religions begin to protest cruel human action as opposed to supporting it and often causing it. War, hatred, torture, genicides, lynchings, stoning along with most hunger and starvation are never accidental. Hunger and starvation are the results of governments and armies; of human greed and blind-ambitious drives of the materialist. Positive change could occur today if Arab and Jew opened their hearts to one another through a deconstruction of their centers, those invisible walls that separate their worlds.
Is this pure polyannish chatter? Perhaps but religion and cultural-ism has failed to produce peace on earth since the times of the old god/king 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. In fact, religion and cultural-ism have been at the roots of man’s inhumanity to man since the forming of the first city/states and the building of the first temples. Back in 1989, the anthropologist, Marvin Harris summarized what I am not attempting say, “…Death squads, secret police, and the torture of prisoners remain at all-time highs, and ethnic, religious, and racial groups are killin each other on a grander scale that ever: Protestant against Catholic in Northern Ireland, Jew against Palestinian in Israel; Christian against Moslem in Beirut; Shite against Sunni in the Saudi Arabia; Hindu against Muslim in India; Sikh against Hindu in the Punjab; Tamil against Ceylonese in Sri Lanka; Hutu against Watusi in Burundi; black against Afrikaner in South Africa; white against black in America; Armenian against Azerbaijani in the U.S.S.R; Iraqi against Kurd in Iraq; Basque against Spaniard in Spain.” This is our world—perhaps some names and locations have changed but wars upon wars continue creating pools of human blood and suffering worldwide.
How many of the above oppositions were acting in the name of God or in the wake of some religious ideology or philosophy justifying their cruel human action? In this view Mormon to Muslim, Catholic to Jew needs to reevaluate their motivations in honesty and humility. They need to deconstruct and reconstruct in order to lead the world in peace and harmony as opposed to prejudice and self-centeredness. They need to evaluate the pictures below:
Governments from democracies to tyrannies evolve into self-centeredness just as religions evolve into self-righteousness. War and other inhumane acts result from both and have since the advent of civilization. Governments will not change until the people change because even in blatant dictatorships, at bottom line, all governments are a people’s government. Men like these
Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them.
Judaism: What is hurtful to yourself do not do to your fellow man.
Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain; and regard your neighbors loss as your own loss.
Hinduism: Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause ye pain
Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.
Darryl Reanney says, “The Unity of insight in these sayings is all the more remarkable because they seem, for the most part, to have evolved independently, in different parts of the world.” This easy task of merely treating others as you’d want others to treat you is essential to the teachings of any group or organization that names itself a religion. Only doing this much would immediately change the world and a changing world would make new demands on governments. As a result, government would be obliged to become more altruistic and thus more compassionately representative not only of their own citizenry but of ALL people.
Where might all this good will begin? We will cover this question in the following summary.
I believe that the start of world-change needs to be seeded by the Big-3 religions that we’ve discussed in the above. I think that U.S. Christianity should STOP funding war and start funding peace. I believe this would influence the Arab and Jew to reconcile or at least begin a reconciling. After all, until religions begin living up to their humanity, governments never will.
It is somewhat a miracle or at least a synchronicity that the ancient quest for Jerusalem becomes a major modern issue, especially in the Middle-East. We’ll recall that for the first crusade the city served as an excuse for war and bloodshed; a dividing factor between Christian, Muslim and Jew; a place of divinity and division for all three religions and that, back then, it was believed that Jerusalem was the center of the universe. Today we know that the universe has no center. This, in itself, should alert those who claim divine knowledge of God to dissolve the walls of their own centers and become open forums for the world to rejoice in or reject at will.
Jerusalem should be declared internationally neutral; a symbolic house of God and not of any religion or political party. It should house representatives of Christianity, Judaism and Muslim equally in the tradition of the round-table myth where peace and love is the goal of its group membership. Peace and love as religions only motivation would soon enough see changes across the planet not only amidst the people but of governments since not even in democracies have religion ever been fully separated from the state.
Today’s big-3 religions must relinquish their dogmas and doctrines. That is their ties to ancient mentalities rather seeking the divine which necessarily results in human kindness.
Philosophically, we need to at last bury Nietzsche’s god and give rebirth to a God of love and tolerance. We need to at long last learn from history, those millenniums of man’s inhumanity to man and begin to simply do onto others as we’d have them do onto us.
Jerusalem needs to symbolize this intent; Jerusalem needs to become the place of an ever growing peace that spreads across all cultures and sub-cultures; the blossoming of a new and kinder world and the birthplace of cooperation and unity among people.
It’s about time!
Yet, we cannot put the weight of change only on the Jews and Arabs. After all, it is as Mahatma Gandhi
If you enjoyed this article you probably want to read “An Interview with Jesus.” Click below:
References & Suggested Further Reading
Carmichael, Joel * The Birth of Christianity * Barnes & Noble
Chamberlin, E.R. * The Bad Popes *Barnes & Noble
Harris, Marvin * Our Kind * Harper Perennial
Ghiglieri, Michael P. * The Dark Side of Man *Perseus Books
Mercatante, Anthony S.* Good and Evil *Barnes & Noble
Read, Piers Paul * The Templars * St. Martin’s Press
Reanney, Darryl * After Death * William Morrow and Company
Reston, James Jr. * Warriors of God * Double Day
Zinn, Howard * A People’s History of the United States * Harper Perennial