Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: David N. Hempton

“The Fog of Religious Conflict”

Religion is not often discussed with rationality.

There’s a quote in the article I’m going to share that gives an eloquent reason:

Religious ideas have the fate of melodies, which, once afloat in the world, are taken up by all sorts of instruments, some of them woefully coarse, feeble, or out of tune, until people are in danger of crying out that the melody itself is detestable.
George Eliot

I decided to do this post to give writers who may be considering including religion in their stories something to think about

In my short novel, Notes from An Alien, I worked to include characters with false religions, those with rational religious sentiments, those who had no patience with religion, and even folks who saw no compelling reason to be religious but respected those who were.

No matter your personal beliefs concerning religion, I think you can agree that it needs a pretty thorough examination, with a cool head and a humane heart?

Not addressing it personally is opening oneself to the prejudice of others

To set the stage for what’s to come, I’ll offer a quote from Shoghi Effendi.

In 1941, he said:

“After a revolution of well nigh one hundred years what is it that the eye encounters as one surveys the international scene…

“A world that has lost its bearings, in which the bright flame of religion is fast dying out, in which the forces of a blatant nationalism and racialism have usurped the rights and prerogatives of God Himself, in which a flagrant secularism—the direct offspring of irreligion—has raised its triumphant head and is protruding its ugly features, in which the ‘majesty of kingship’ has been disgraced, and they who wore its emblems have, for the most part, been hurled from their thrones, in which the once all-powerful ecclesiastical hierarchies of Islam, and to a lesser extent those of Christianity, have been discredited, and in which the virus of prejudice and corruption is eating into the vitals of an already gravely disordered society.”

I must thank my friend on Google Plus, Barney Leith, for linking to an article by David N. Hempton called, The Fog of Religious Conflict.

In the article by Mr. Hempton, he brings up three categories of religious coverage in the media:

“…the seemingly endless supply of bad-news stories about religious and ethnic conflicts throughout the world.”

“…religious good-news stories, which are mostly a bit quirky, but sometimes also quite endearing.”

“…the apparently endless feuds between conservatives and liberals in many of the world’s great religious traditions.”

After some personal reflection on what shaped his perspectives on the topic, he give his “eleven reflections on religious and ethnic conflict”:

1. Religious and ethnic conflicts are more complicated than you think, and are often more complicated than so-called experts also think.

2. Religious and ethnic stereotyping are powerful agents in sustaining ethnic and religious conflicts.

3. Violence radicalizes people.

4. Religious and ethnic conflicts put enormous pressure on the law and legal processes.

5. Many people inside conflict zones see the conflict as a zero-sum game; few outside see it that way.

6. It is easy to be wise after the event.

7. Living in conflict zones requires individuals to make moral choices on a regular basis.

8. Social and economic misery stokes conflict and makes peacemaking much more difficult.

9. Leadership matters.

10. Peacemaking is a process, not a result.

11. History makes you pessimistic; but very occasionally, the human desire for peace and justice surprises you.

He gives more of his thoughts for each point in the full article.

There’s one paragraph I need to quote here because, to a certain degree, it echoes what I tried to do in my novel:

“This past summer I toured many of the working-class districts of Protestant and Catholic Belfast. The old divisive murals, flags, and emblems are still there, provocatively declaring ownership of territory, but there are also some new murals paying homage to concepts of social justice, the dignity of labor, community pride, and human rights. These concepts have not triumphed, but at least they are visibly there.”

He wraps his argument up with this quote from Seamus Heaney:

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

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