Religious people must not allow violence in name of religion: philosopher
TEHRAN – Charles Taliaferro, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, says religious-minded people must not allow their faith to nurture violence.
“I believe that those of us who are religious must not allow our religions to be used to foster violent forms of resentment, envy, and anger,” Taliaferro tells the Tehran Times.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: What are the preconditions for materializing a world without violence?
A: If violence is construed broadly to include not just the illicit use of physical force, but to include the violation of the rights and integrity of people, probably bringing about a world without violence would require a massive transformation of human nature itself. Sadly, periods of relative stability and peace in human history such as certain periods in the Roman Empire or in some of the Kingdoms in China such as the Han Dynasty were established on the basis of the threat of ruthless violence for those challenging authority. But Aristotle suggested that among true friends there would be such natural accord as there would be no need for justice; in such ideal conditions we would naturally look out for and care for friends. Friends do not threaten one another with self-serving violence. So, to speak positively to your question, if everyone on earth somehow might treat one another as friends, perhaps then we might have a shot at a world without violence or at least with massively less violence than we experience today.
Q: Do you think that a world without violence is utopian?
A: I think it is an ideal we should hope and pray for and even work toward. Probably the worst thing we can do is to think that violence between persons and nations is inevitable and so ineradicable that we resign ourselves to the fact of violence and loose our will to resist violence. So, perhaps it is utopian in the sense that it is an ideal which seems and probably is unreachable, but that does not mean it is unapproachable.
Q: How can religions help create such a world?
A: I think that religions are the most powerful forces on earth that can move us in the right direction. I believe that those of us who are religious must not allow our religions to be used to foster violent forms of resentment, envy, and anger. As a Christian in the United Sates, I feel it is my duty, for example, to join fellow Christians to protect Muslim Americans from hate crimes and persecution. Just today, I met with 30 Episcopalian priests who voiced complete solidarity with Muslim neighbors to fight against their possible forced deportation.
Q: Can dialogue between cultures actually help establish a violence-free world?
A: I think dialogue is more crucial now more than ever. We are seeing a rise in world leaders, certainly the President elect Donald Trump, who does not have a history or reputation for empathetic dialogue. And, as the saying goes, what we don't do often, we often don't do well. To avoid or radically reduce the prospects of violence between non-Muslims and Muslims there needs to be an opening up to loving dialogue, not a shutting down in fear, mutual distrust, and alienating estrangement.