Brussels March 2016
In response to media reports issued throughout the world, CFI Canada has published statements condemning faith-based violence and calling for tolerance throughout 2015. We have objected to violent bigotry and intolerance whether it takes place in Paris, Dhaka, Peterborough, Copenhagen, Kabul, Lahore, Jamame or indeed anywhere it happens. Indeed, we now condemn violence that has taken place in Brussels, Belgium.
Paris is the tourist capital of Europe, but Brussels is its real capital. A famously unglamorous city, it is home to many of the key institutions of the European Union—the European Commission, the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament (which also meets in Strasbourg, France). It is known mostly for its high concentration of Eurocrats and postwar Brutalist architecture (outside the Old Town), and, lately, for the Islamic extremists who inhabit its drab suburb of Molenbeek, which lies to the west of the city center.
Vox presents a series of articles analyzing the significance of the Brussels attacks by Matthew Yglesias on the threat to European Union, Zack Beauchamp on how jihadism became a significant problem in Belgium, and Johnny Harris and Max Fisher present their perspective of why Brussels was attacked. In a second article by Zack Beauchamp, he quotes Alain Grignard (a representative of Belgium’s anti-terrorism task force)
Previously we were mostly dealing with ‘radical Islamists’ — individuals radicalized toward violence by an extremist interpretation of Islam — but now we’re increasingly dealing with what are best described as ‘Islamized radicals.’
In addition to the horror and sadness that these events raise, is a terrible sense that these events have become commonplace and routine. So pervasive and continuous is faith-based violence that even religious leaders are unable to pretend that their religious mumblings are not a cause of problems. On March 14, Canadian Father Raymond J. De Souza, published an article in The National Post (http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/father-raymond-j-de-souza-decoding-the-theology-of-religious-violence) where he states that:
The answer to the bad theology that gives rise to religious violence cannot be no theology, as if jihadists should become secular liberals. The answer to bad theology must be good theology. But excellence in theology, as in other fields, cannot simply be ordered up at will. It is rare.
De Souza explains his assertion by citing one of his own Catholic Pope’s meddlings which directly led to violence in 2006. Imagine that! A Catholic priest, who claims to believe that his Pope is directly connected to his god, acknowledges in print that his Pope espoused some bad theology.
De Souza’s argument seems to be that the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) simply need to get their biblical interpretations together and everything will be all right. In light of the very routine nature of the violence that is rampant in the world (which De Souza seems to have forgotten includes radical Hinduism, not part of his Abrahamic sing-along, is also on the rise) and the observations of people like Alain Grignard . We must understand that there simply is no “good theology” to answer the problem as it currently exists.
While discussing this article with CFIC members, Ashley Rooney – our Branch leader in Sudbury commented,
To admit that theology is valid in the first place, requires the acknowledgement of the existence of a deity of some sort that requires discussion and reasoning of, and whose mind can be known. From there, you have to then admit that it is left to (usually a select group) of mere mortals who are best positioned to interpret god’s will so that it may be imposed on the rest of us. Judging from history, any means and justification can be contrived for such imposition. We must acknowledge that there is no such thing as “good” and “bad” theology. There is only theology, which is a completely useless discipline as elaborated by Thomas Paine: “The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not anything can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.”
The world faces a terrible situation where some unreasonable religious people are using violence to promote their faith and some violent people are using religion to justify their violence. A clever new interpretation of a biblical story isn’t going to solve this problem – it’s going to be called a blasphemy, or a heresy, by whomever doesn’t agree with it and inspire further distancing of sects. That is how it has always worked with clever new interpretations of religious doctrine.
It is time that reasonable people inform theologians that further meddling simply won’t help.
What we need is to study the patterns and systems of religious violence – not the literary interpretations that inspired the violence in the first place. Study of systems, and the subsequent design of methods to alter those systems, may be found in scientific and systemic fields like psychology, law and security and sociology – not theology.
When we have recovered from our grief and anger, when we have finished with condolences to the families and friends of those who have been murdered, reason and science can provide the tools and methods that are needed to push us out of this appallingly familiar pattern of bigoted violence.
Eric Adriaans – National Executive Director