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Borders of Non-Violent Resistance
When I think about violence towards another human being, I start thinking about the consequences that are going to come about afterwards and then I start thinking, what’s the point? That’s probably why I have never been a fight in my life, physically that is. I look at all these people on TV or in the media “standing up for what they believe in”, but where do you draw the line from getting violent to get your beliefs across to just taking the calm approach? In today’s society if you want to be heard, you either have to blow up a building, kill several thousand people or get violent in some other way. Right now in the world today, I can not think of one person in the media that is currently standing for what they believe in without getting violent. It seems like everybody I think of is in the past. Take Mohandas K. Gandhi for instance. He was a man that lived a long time ago that had many borders to cross to get his point across to people. He faced many challenges, lots of oppression and tyranny, but he never raised his fist in a thought of violence. Because he was so loved by the people, everyone started to follow his ways and eventually stopped the violence and stood up and showed their beliefs in more peaceful ways without fighting. This is a man that should be the ideal role model for society when we think about going to war. I’m not just talking about war with other countries; I’m talking about war with our words towards others and war with our actions when we get frustrated or angry with other people. A really poignant quote that stood in my mind that came straight from Ghandi’s mouth in
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the movie was this; “Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” In my mind, Ghandi is basically saying that a man using his brain instead of a gun is more destructible that the man using the gun. Because the man using the gun may be able to take one quick pull of the trigger and shoot a bullet, but sooner or later that man is going to run out of bullets and then what do they do if the other man is still standing or if there are more like him still standing there waiting? Ghandi was trying to change a specific thing and that is usually how it is when someone stands up to be heard.
In today’s society whenever you hear someone throwing a fit or starting a war in some way, it is usually over religion, because everybody believes that they are right and that everyone else just needs to shut up and sit down. I am a born again Christian and I firmly believe in standing up and showing that I am a follower of god. But today more than ever, that is extremely hard to do. When I sit at home reading through the bible I come up with so much violence and hatred toward believers and followers of god and believe it or not, history does repeat itself. But even though there is much violence between the people, there are a few characters that do stand up for what they believe in without getting violent. Take Peter for example, this is a man in the book of Acts that is basically a missionary for god and travels from town to town preaching the good news to those that don’t know about god. He arrives at this town and is preaching the word to the
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unbelievers and when the authorities find out, they beat him and drag him out of the town and throw him outside the city gates. What does Peter do you may ask? Well, he gets up, dusts himself off and heads right back into the town. This is a perfect example of standing up for your beliefs without getting violent. There are many people in “the good book” like Peter but he is just one that I thought of. Now you may ask what the significance of telling that story about Peter was. Well, the whole point to my essay is standing up for your religion without getting violent through the persecution of others. And in today’s society that’s a really hard thing to do because everyone has their beliefs and opinions and they all think that they are right. The people that crashed the planes into the world trade center towers on September 11, 2001 were standing up for what they believed in. They believed that god (Allah, in their words) told them to do it. They died for what they believed in, but unfortunately they did it in a violent way and took thousands of people to the grave with them. As you sit here reading this paper, look at your life. Think back to high school and try to remember how kids used to treat you or how you treated others. Did you do things in a violent way because people weren’t the same as you? When I look back, I was pretty much an all around jock all through high school. I would go to the parties on Friday and Saturday nights and I would get really drunk with everyone and not remember a thing on Sunday morning. My senior year my life changed and I accepted god into my life for the first time. This was an extremely hard thing to do because it was so hard to stand
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up for my Christianity, and give up the past at the same time. Everyday, I was persecuted by my “friends” because I started reading the bible instead of drinking a beer. They all still liked me and we got a long, but sometimes it was so hard to stand up for my beliefs. Now, I’m not a violent guy, I never have been. I have always had a lot of fear in my life, but I have never been violent. I have always had fear of what others would think or say or do and I think that has also helped out the fact that I have never done anything really outrageous or irrational. Whenever somebody would test my faith, I would and still to this day test him or her right back. For example if someone asks me the question, “How do you actually know that there is a god and that he created the entire world?” Well, I just turn back on them and ask the question, “How do you know that there is not and that he didn’t?” I think that there are many, many ways to stand up for what you believe in and make your point across without getting violent.
Another point that relates to this subject, is that everybody in this world today are so caught up about what people think and what they will say or what they will do. And I will be the first to admit that I think these things sometimes also, but I think that when we overcome these frustrations, it will be so much easier to share our faith with others and not be afraid because Christianity is not the “cool” thing.
So anyway, in conclusion I would like to say in the world today, there is so much violence because of people standing up for their beliefs. Yeah violence is
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wrong, but at least these people are standing up. I think if the rest will stand up for our beliefs in a non-violent way and show others that violence is not the way to get a point across, this would be a much better nation.
Buddha taught that in order to live a life that is free from pain and
suffering people must eliminate any attachments to worldly goods. Only then will they gain a kind of peace and happiness. They must rid themselves of greed, hatred, and ignorance. They strive to cultivate four attitudes, loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The basic moral code prohibits killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. Morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith. By observing these, lust, hatred, and delusion may be overcome. This is known as Nirvana. It is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community.
The most devoted followers of the Buddha were organized into the monastic sangha. They were identified by their shaved heads and robes made of
unsewn orange cloth. Many early monks wandered from place to place, settling down only during the rainy season when traveling was difficult. The Buddhist have lasted because they have the ability to adapt to changing conditions and to a variety of cultures.
Monks are expected to live a life of poverty, meditation, and
study. They must avoid all sexual activity. They devote themselves to work,
study, and prayer. They all dress in special robes. Monks play an important part in preserving and spreading Buddhism.
Historians have attempted to discover universal constants of human nature, a bond that forms from continent to continent, human being to human being. Is there a constant quality that all peoples posses, and is reflected in all civilizations? Indeed, it is extremely difficult to make generalizations about centuries of modern history. To say that something is true of all of history is virtually impossible, as a counter-example exists for just about anything that can be said of any group of civilizations. To say that all religions are spread by violence is equally unfair and untrue – because contrasted religions has been spread in exceedingly diverse regions of the world, by vastly different cultures. Islam, as a prime example, has been characterized inequitably by historians and the media as a religion of violence. To put it bluntly, as this article does, “Islam was mainly spread through Arab territorial conquests (Sudo, 4).” However, upon examination, it is not fair to make the generalization that Islam is a religion of violence, and one notices when looking at world religion on a whole, one finds that Islam was no more violent than any other religion. In fact, not only is Islam not a fundamentally violent philosophy, but we can also see that many other religions normally considered “non-violent,” such as Christianity or Hinduism, have been spread through bloody conquest. Thus, in searching for a universal constant of history, we ought not fall into the “fallacy of abstractions,” as Sydney J. Harris keenly puts it, and assume that because of isolated incidents and conflicts of territorial ambitions, that all religions have violent tendencies. Islam has, throughout the centuries, been somewhat a victim of circumstance – indeed it has been perceived by many as oppressive and cruel. This belief originated over a thousand years ago, when Islamic peoples first threatened the western world. As they slowly undermined Byzantine authority, Christians became terrified of their presence, resulting in widespread animosity and aversion. Hindus and Buddhists of the South Asian subcontinent lived under Islamic law for hundreds of years (Ahmad, et. al., 186), and eventually, in the twentieth century, split the region into angry factions (Ahmad, et. al., 207). Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, was a great warrior. This invariably lead defeated peoples to believe that he begot a cult of war and violence. Over the centuries, it also has developed the ability to instill a sense of holy purpose onto its believers and soldiers, where they go into a battle of certain death for their faith in the jihad, or holy war. Even today, the jihad is still a potent source of conflict and aversion, as the many of the problems in the Middle East center around the issue of Islamic Fundamentalism and the jihads. Originally, Islam was perceived by western historians as a religion of violence and conquest; “by preying on the caravans of the Quraish, Mohammed weakened them to the point of submission (Mohammed and Islam, 1).” In fact, Mohammed was a warrior, aristocrat, and brilliant strategist – a stark contrast to many other holy men of history. He was forced to both defend his cities and force submission, as the passage had shown, because of the strong military powers of his religious predecessors and oppressors, the pagans of the Middle East. Islam means “submission” according to the Islam discussion in class – and one might assume that the submission was attained through military and forceful means. In fact, while Mohammed preached peace from 610 to 622 AD, he attracted few converts and was persecuted by the current ruling paganistic regime. After the visions of 622 AD, he realized that his cause was even more urgent than before, and only at that point did he begin to utilize his military skills (Class Discussion). However, despite the more violent nature that his quest took, even after the revelations by Gabriel in 622 AD, “by reciting his revelations aloud, Mohammed made many converts, (Mohammed and Islam,1).” Mohammed was not a purely violent man, but also a great speaker and demagogue (Mueller, 2). He did not solely attack the pagans of the Middle East, he also attracted a great deal of converts by the truths he spoke. “If he could be ruthless, he was more often gentle, kind, generous, magnanimous. He could be Christ-like in his sympathy for the poor (Mueller,2 ).” Another non-violent way of spreading Islamic culture was through the merchant system which developed around its new centers of trade and culture in both Mecca and Medina (Ahmad, et. al., 572). People from all around the region would come to those cities to trade, and were attracted by the religion. As Islam developed and spread rapidly, its control quickly began to encroach on Byzantine territory where it found diverse groups of people, who resented the foreign control of the flailing western power. The people viewed the Middle Eastern Islamic conquerors as liberators from the oppressive Byzantine Empire, and welcomed both Islamic soldiers and religion. In addition to other non-violent means of conquest, when Muslims actually did militarily gain territory, they allowed other religions to grow around them. They did not force conversion by slaughter in the name of Allah, as Christians often did. The Muslims were tolerant of both foreign religions, peoples, and traders. They welcomed Far Eastern merchants into their territory. In India, while they did militarily gain control of the South Asian subcontinent, they never forced conversion, nor did they enter the territory with a religious intent. Indeed, the reason that the Hindu and Muslim clashes arose was based on religious differences, which were largely initiated by the Hindus, who viewed their conquerors as heretics – not the opposite (Ahmad, et. al., 186). In fact, that page of the text also notes that the first Delhi sultans set up hundreds of schools, hospitals, and other public establishments. The Koran was very tolerant, accepted many beliefs, and was another basis for the peaceful spread of Islam. The Koran, according to “The Koran” article and class discussions, appealed to the impoverished and the destitute – people from all walks of life could embrace the Koran, because it was targeted at them, not at the government-ranking aristocrats that most other religions were centered around, as those religions had been created for the purpose of social control, rather than deep spiritual convictions or for spiritual well-being. The Muslim needs no priest nor intermediary to pray to Allah – the only spiritual transmitter to god he needs is prayer – Islam does not even require a mosque or temple for litany. The actual religion of Islam preaches decidedly against violence and speaks out against aggression. “The concept of jihad refers to inner spiritual struggle of Muslims for self control in order to do good (Sudo, 5).” Actually, the average Muslim is not violent, nor is he driven by any form of holy conquest. Islam has been unfairly depicted as a religion spread through Jihad and the lure of riches and conquest. But Islam, the most unlikely of candidates, has been, throughout the centuries, a relatively tolerant religion. It has never believed in any form of religious genocide, nor had any inquisitions or messianic crusades, as religions of many other parts of the world did. In fact Akbar I of 1556-1605 AD, the third ruler of the Mughal Empire, took the ultimate steps toward tolerance, by marring a Hindu princess, and allowing Hindus a strong role in the government (Ahmad, et. al., 187). The wars that Islam fought have been rather secular, despite the fact that their government often was not. However, the same cannot be said of Christian, Hindu, and Aztec government, all which had strong ties to both violence and conquest, and indeed, while often are characterized as non-violent forms of religion (with perhaps the exception of Aztec), are equally as violent as Islam, if not more so. Perhaps the religion which has perhaps shaped the world, for better or worse, more than any other religion, has been Christianity. This is not to deny the roles of the vast numbers of religions in many parts of the world, nor which is to say that Christianity has been particularly unique. Despite the fact that the Western world likes to set European man and Christians apart from the rest of the world, their connection to imperialism, mercantilism, and social conquest is undeniably real. While Islam is seen by many as a violent religion because of its origins and the popularization of the term ‘jihad,’ they have never had far-reaching imperialistic goals, nor have they preceded their soldiers with missionaries. Christians, however, as we have studied, were instrumental in the undoing of Africa, and in fact the seeds that the pious missionaries of Europe planted into African society eventually lead to the destabilization of centuries of culture and hierarchy. The missionaries poured into Africa, only to be followed by soldiers and company men – it was the foothold of the missionaries that allowed Europeans to eventually dominate the continent All of which was done in the name of “saving enlightening the heathens.” Christianity is certainly not without its bloody conquest, as the most blatant example is that of the Crusades, which were, to Christians of the middle ages, the very symbol of their faith. The Christians ventured towards the holy land with the sole purpose of killing the ‘infidels’ and ridding the holy land of all Islamic influence, bringing it back into the light of Christianity. However, the Muslims in the holy land provided important technology for the Christians. In all truths, Christianity was spread to Latin America in a most brutal fashion. The Spaniards murdered millions of Indians, and wiped out civilizations of peoples not for the purpose of not only religion, but gold! The primary reason that Christianity remains the ubiquitous religion in Latin America is because the Spaniards forced conversion of their Indian slaves – something that Islamic conquerors rarely did. In fact they charged a tax on their non-Muslim subjects, which eventually lead to conversion by choice rather than by force. Christians in the Americas came to dominate the continent by using their superior technology to forcefully overwhelm, enslave, or force conversion on inhabitants, in contrast to the Islamic people, who attracted converts from an economic standpoint, but also came to absorb many conquered peoples, as evident in the cultural blending of South Asia, which eventually fell apart for secular reasons (Ahmad, et. al., 186). Spaniards burned books, temples, and sculptures, and quelled all rebellion by the once mighty Americans (Ahmad, et. al., 46). The Spanish enslaved the Indians of Central and South America, while the British, Dutch, and French enslaved the Africans. Another religion with ties to violence is Hinduism. While that may perhaps be a startling revelation, history proves that it has had many violent incidents and tendencies. It was originally a product of the early Aryans, a war-like people who stormed into South Asia, sacking cities and eventually covering virtually all traces of the early culture of the Indus Valley. These Aryans transmuted their beliefs onto the now helpless people of the Indus river, and created what would eventually be Hinduism. While Hinduism remained relatively non-violent throughout the centuries, when the first Muslim invaders appeared and they clashed in both a philosophical and violent sense. Hindu violence returned in the mid-twentieth century, when they finally regained control of India. They smashed a Muslim temple at Ayodhya (Ahmad, et. al., 207), and Sikh and Tamil rebel groups rebel against their authority. However, what is even more notable about Hinduism, is its rigid caste system, in which peoples have set social classes, that are totally unchangeable, and are products of the religion. The untouchables were considered as low as animals, and forced to do menial work such as sweeping and leather working. They were forced into a life of separatism, and the rest of Hindu culture either ignored them completely or hated them. And on the other side of the world, in Central America, the Aztec people were powerful warriors, who swept across the Mexican plains, conquering villages and whole peoples (Ahmad, et. al., 450). Their religion consisted of brutal human sacrifices of enemy slaves – in fact the sacrifices grew so many in number that they were watching their population decline significantly, which eventually allowed the Spanish invaders to overcome them. When we look at the aggregate spectrum of cultures and religions, we see a significant relationship between religions and violence, one could conclude that much of the world’s problems today are echoes of past religious exploits in places such as Latin America, India, and Africa. To say that religion on a whole is violent and counter productive would be a massive abstraction – and a false one too. In fact, the purpose of this essay is not to denigrate the notion of organized religion, but to clarify the purpose of the Islamic religion, and to dispel the commonly held notion that Islam is solely a cult of violence. Through the ages, religion brought light to literally billions of people. It has inspired artists, scientists, writers and scholars. It was the founding basis of Western Civilization, and our entire society. We cannot deny it’s overriding role in our history. The purpose of this essay is also not to contrast Islam as good and Christianity as bad. Truly, Islam, when closely examined, is a rather tolerant and non-violent religion – it has no history of imperialism, nor has it ever forced the conversion of mass people. Whatever violence it has created, it is at least not any worse than any other religion. In summary, it is not fair to say that religions are fundamentally violent, nor does it do justice the study of history, which indeed proves to us that often religion had a far nobler purpose. Would our world perhaps have been a better place? That question can never be answered We do know, however, that religion was both violent and beneficial – to classify it as one or the other would not do it justice. However, we will continue our search for the universal constant, and perhaps the study of religion will someday bring us closer to the truth.