We know that the human notion of God has been at the centre of so very many wars throughout history, and still remains so, in Israel and Palestine, for example. This idea, of religion being at the centre of war is so often used, almost as a weapon against religion and the people within it, in some cases. However, what is not oft discussed is how the human notion of God, or religion has also been the cause of so much peace in the world. Figures such as the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, come to mind.
For many of us in our own community, too, religion can often be used as a grounds for conflict. It has been too often where I have heard, in our own community, offensive words used against people of another faith to the person using the language. Again, religion can be used as a weapon against religion and the people within it. However, what is not written enough about, is how religion guides the actions of so many people who are selflessly doing good in our community, Azem Elmez, for example, has helped to raise a great amount of money for many worthy causes and visited many people in prison as a Muslim chaplain.
So we find that religion, or a person’s idea of God can be both the start and the end of war.
As a Buddhist Agnostic man, I believe in Buddhist philosophies strongly. I too, believe in a notion of God as an Agnostic, as there is no specific idea of God in Buddhist teachings. This is a belief I have developed, not through birth into a religion, but through an exploration of world religions in contrast with my personal values and ideologies. This is a notion I have developed with the assistance of religious education in schools, which was largely a christian education.
This is true of many schools, that religious education is predominantly grounded in Christian education rather than a view of many religions and spirituality. This means that children grow up with a view, at least through our education system, of Christianity being the primary religion, viewing God almost exclusively through the lens of Christianity. As an Agnostic, I hold no animosity toward Christian values, but to look at God blinkered can be a dangerous thing.
To know a persons idea of God, to know their values, is to know a great deal about a person, you begin to see their vision for themselves, their family, their place within the world, how they value others and what they live for. This too is true of people who do not believe in a God. So to know more of God through different lenses is to know that God can be seen through different lenses. It is not enough to know of the existence of other lenses, but to actually look through them.
If one can see God through many lenses, even if not to engage with God through these lenses, one can exercise one of the vital elements of peace: empathy.