Throughout history, religious tension and humans natural want to be able to express their own individual religious beliefs, have played a significant part in almost all societies that have risen, fallen, and progressed over the course of human history. People’s own personal beliefs have caused conflict all over the world, to the point that almost no country, person, or society is safe from ideas that oppose their own. Because all individuals have their own perspective and interpretations of religion, it becomes easy, intentionally or unintentionally, to contradict ideas and beliefs of others because of the many different possible ways that individuals define and practice religion.
Religion does not have a certain definition and can be defined as any individual deems fit. This freedom of definition only becomes a problem when people begin to push their own personal definitions of religion or standards of belief on to others, causing either a blind follower or an angered warrior ready to protect their belief systems. Humans natural inability to accept others individual religious beliefs is due to their natural egocentrism and constant need to conform to the wants of others, in order to feel a sense of belonging in a certain community. It is human nature to live one’s life driven by a personal ego.
Throughout an individual’s life, their ego provides them with a sense of identity that they believe completely encompasses their true selves. Individuals link certain characteristics of their lives that they believe play a significant role in making them unique such as religion and political standpoints, with the word “I”. “In everyday usage ‘I’ embodies the primordial error, a misconception of who we are”, providing humans with a certain false sense of self-identity, affecting their everyday lives and the way that they perceive reality itself. A person’s sense of self is manufactured by the way in which their egos perceive reality from its own one point of view.
Humans natural egocentrism negatively affects the way that they accept or understand any ideas or beliefs that are not strictly their own because they believe that their one perspective of the world and especially religion, is the only true perspective there is.A person’s egocentrism greatly affects the way that they interact with other humans who possess different opinions and beliefs from their own. These negative interactions become very prominent when conversation topics switch from the weather to religion. Because of humans egos, “religion is the most dangerous force in the world, especially today” due to the neverending conflicts that results from its relationship to the human ego. “It has become clear that the more limited egocentric way of being in the world, whatever our worldview may be, has been the very source of chronic and intractable forms of violence to self or others”. Due to individuals many possible different perceptions of their own and others religions, it becomes extremely easy to cause conflict between people, countries, and religions as a whole because of their contrasting beliefs. When different religions mix together or combat one of another, people tend to become violent and cause disruption of peace and conflict between members of different religions with completely different beliefs or even members within the same religious community with only slightly differentiating beliefs that do not match those of their own.
These personal beliefs have been invested in with time from a person’s life and are possibly considered to make up a large portion of a person’s identity. People turn to violence when they feel like their religious beliefs have been challenged or attacked because they take this as if their own identity is being attacked. If their religious beliefs are so deeply embedded in what they believe to be their true identity, then when someone questions their beliefs then they take this as equivalent to someone questioning their own identity. If suddenly what they believed, which made them who they were, was suddenly proved to be incorrect, then they would have to face the truth that they do not actually know or understand their true identity, disproving their egos and possibly destroying them. The disappearance of the ego sparks an identity crisis that humans attempt to resolve through violence, constantly trying to prove other individuals faiths, beliefs, and religions to be false, opposed to their own. In the minds of humans, these conflicts become necessary to “defend yourself, or rather the illusion of yourself”.
Furthermore, it is a common notion for humans to feel the need to impress their own egocentric ideas and beliefs onto to other individuals in order to show dominance and prove their superiority. “It is the sense of superiority the ego craves and through which it enhances itself”. This natural need becomes a problem, especially when it comes to religious communities. When humans become a part of a larger community, such as a church, or follow a hierarchy of religious practitioners such as priests, popes, and chaplains, they become susceptible to being force-fed others beliefs, opinions, and religious interpretations that are not their own.
These contrasting ideas and concepts can either cause conflict between individuals which leads to violence that is commonly left unresolved or in other cases it leads to the blind following of someone else’s ego. In religious communities people tend to follow another person’s ego, changing their own beliefs and ideas to those of someone else, in order to feel as if they have a place in the community. In doing so, people lose their ability to connect with a more personal God because they are constantly experiencing someone else’s.
The same goes for following certain sacred scriptures, such as the Holy Bible and the Quran. These sacred texts are both documentations of one person’s beliefs, their personal connection with God, and their own methods of practicing a religion. When this blind following of text occurs, manipulation of these followers becomes significantly easier, leading people to act on thoughts, opinions, and beliefs that are truly not their own, but someone elses. Especially in today’s modern day societies, many religious conflicts still remain unresolved due to the fact that people do not know how to resolve them or even where to begin doing so. People cannot simply stop fighting for what they believe in because they would feel as if they are abandoning a true aspect of who they are, even if it is just a preconceived illusion manufactured by their egos. To solve these conflicts without causing an identity crisis is for individuals to realize that they know very little about what they are actually fighting about or for. Individuals need to step back from their egos and look upon religion as a whole, and accept that their illusion is just that and move on.
“If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves”. This idea of interreligious connection is similar to the way that Unitarian Universalist perceive religion which is like a Cathedral with, “millions of windows, each telling its own story of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, each illuminating life’s meaning”. This Unitarian Universalist approach accepts all religions as a part of one large truth, allowing its practitioners, not followers, to search for this true meaning of religion and reality as a whole, on their own. They “do not reject religions, they extend its compass”. With this mindset, individuals would be able to end their conflicts without having to decide who is wrong and who is right, just simply acknowledging that there are many possible interpretations besides their own.
When a person steps back, understanding that they have perceived their life from their one egocentric perception, they will open the door to another point of view that they did not have access to before. “Through this global lense, we experience common ground, deeper interconnections with all people”, moving past violence and closer to religious diversity. Without our egos to blind us from the truth, humans can finally become unique religious beings opposed to members of violent and conflicted religious communities. Ultimately humans live in a constant state of being controlled by their egos, negatively affecting the ways that they experience religion.
Their egos provide them with a sense of religious truth that is subsequently not real, and only one perspective, one interpretation of the ever-changing world around them. Humans egos are the reason for conflict, wars, persecution, and oppression of all sorts, and in some cases the inability to admit when one is wrong or at fault, because of the fear of losing one’s identity or disproving their own beliefs. Egos destroy communities or make them a toxic place for people to exist in. Communitues inevitably lead to the blind following of someones else’s ego.
The only way to avoid the ultimate destruction of all religions beliefs, is for humans to step back and realize that there are many different interpretations of religions and that they should be open to learning about and accepting all of them no matter what events transpired in the past or contrasting religious beliefs that might rival their own.