Sunday, November 15, 2009

Using God As A Weapon?

Gandhi once wrote that "the Satyagrahi's only weapon is God."  (A Satyagrahi is one who practices Satyagraha, Gandhi's peaceful and powerful version of civil disobedience.)

Some of religion's most vocal (I do not say best) contemporary critics argue that religion is either irrelevant or dangerous.  It's irrelevant, they say, because it is just an evolutionary holdover that we no longer need.  It's dangerous, they say, because it allows people to use God as a weapon.

Gandhi and many others remind us that there are two ways of using God as a weapon.  If we use God to justify using other weapons to kill or oppress people, we turn God into a tool or an idol.  At that point, religious people would do well to ask just what it is they're fighting for, since it can no longer be piety.

Gandhi illustrates the other way, in which God is that which can never be taken away from us, and that which is ultimately worth living and dying for.  In this way, God is not a "weapon" we wield to harm people, but one that serves to fight against injustice.

Tyrants set themselves up as gods on earth; belief in a God above the tyrant can deflate the tyrant's power and give the Satyagrahi the necessary soul-force to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with her God."  Against such things, it seems to me, only would-be tyrants and their servants will argue.

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