Because of Belief? Two Sides of Religion

By: Herlianto. A

Sumber: Editing

Sam Harris, an American author, tells of a young boy was on a bus wearing a coat. He sat near a middle aged couple. The bus was getting full. The young man suddenly detonated the bomb that was designed in his coat earlier.

He and other passengers were killed, it was a horrible and sadistic journey. That was a deadly terror had ever happened. Harris wrote this sad story in the introduction of his book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and The Future of Reason, a book which is the guide of modern atheist or scientific atheists.

Harris then raises a question: what was the general view of the perpetrators. Do you think he is an engineer? a popular student at school? or an scientific intellectual? To all of these questions, the answer is no.

Who is he? Why is he so easy to commit this heinous act? Harris said: “You can bet in your life that the actions of young people are triggered by their religion.” So the perpetrator is a follower of religion, has faith and believes in God.

Sadistically, continued Harris, his parents celebrated the child’s death as a successful religious for he had flown to heaven, the way in which only done by a few people. Meanwhile, the victims are believed to have been sent to the hell by God. This is a fact of how selfish religions and dangerous beliefs are.

This problem of belief does not only occur in believe in religion, but also in ideology such as liberalism, racism, and even democracy. A belief will dictate adherent behavior to an extent that is completely unreasonable. Many evidences could be attributed to Harris’s hypothesis in now days, in the name of democracy America bombed Syrian, Saudi Arabia killed Houthis in Yemen, etc.

We still have fresh memory about Brenton Harrison Tarrant who massacred 51 Muslims in New Zealand mosques. He was not a devout religious man, but a devout liberalist. George Floyd’s death in America which is later became an issue of racism. Likewise with the issues between religious beliefs, the bombs that exploded in Indonesian churches, ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in Myanmar.

Not to mention those recorded in world history in the past. In fact, in one religion which has different schools can also fight each other, we saw that between Catholics and Protestants, Sunnis and Shia, Wahhabis and Ahmadiyah, and so on.

All that makes Harris seem to find the legitimacy that any religion and belief is both a danger and a threat. Every belief gives birth to the spirit of ecumenicalism, that is, it considers other than himself are wrong, incomplete, and flawed. This is the belief in which intrinsically a spirit of intolerance and of killing.

We can’t deny Harris hypothesis, but the problem whether it applies universally to every incident at any time, involving Harris’s own beliefs? Here it is necessary to compare other facts on the Harris hypothesis. It seems not difficult to find facts that are on the contrary of the Harris hypothesis.

Some historical facts, in my opinion, showed such as a falsification of his assumptions. Let’s say how Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle to free Indian from British colonialism by employing religion doctrine. Satyagraha, ahimsa and swadesi are the teaching of Hindu which motivated Gandhi against colonialism.

Ali Shari’ati in Iran who was based on his Islamic belief in fighting for the Iranian Islamic revolution, Muhammad Iqbal did it in Pakistan, Dalai Lama on the Tibetan plain with his Buddhist belief fights for its right to be independent from Chinese aggression. Likewise with liberation theological movements that resonate in Latin America and Europe to the rest of the world.

If so, we have two hypotheses and two realities about religion and belief, namely the destructive which is stated by Harris and the constructive which is done by Gandhi and others. It means that the pendulum of this belief will move depending on who moves it.

Rationality and emotion in this case are the driving force behind the pendulum. If rationality sinks into the storm of emotions, desires, and passions then religion will become hell for humanity. Religion will be the source of all falsehoods, sadism, terrorism and misfortune.

But on the contrary, rationality can be established, then religion will become a shady tree that shelters human life, a spring that treats thirst in the field of humanitarian crisis, a light in the darkness of modernity, and a source of harmony in the midst of an increasingly crazy global conflict. In fact, no bad religious teaching but human interpretation of that teaching has the potential to be bad.

Finally, religiosity is a patternable for anything. Knowledge and awareness are the keys so that religion is not humiliated to blackmail and fool people themselves. Harris has succeeded in showing one side of how religion is corrupted, however, there are other facts that can be explored as a counter reality to Harris's hypothesis. So, is it because of belief? It depends on you.