In Search of Solutions:  Religions and Conflict


I am contracted with Equinox for a book on religion and conflict.   With others, I concede that religion is a factor in many conflicts.  I disagree with some that religion is better at fostering peace than fuelling war, contending that it is rather good at the latter.  I argue that religion all too easily lends itself to support an ‘us-against-them’ attitude and that, while economics and other causes are usually at the root of conflict (that is, religion is not the main cause) it is dishonest to claim that religion is not a significant contributor.  On the other hand, I do not think that many conflicts would cease were religion to be subtracted.  Some humanists argue that religion should be abolished (and will die off eventually as people realize it is really a malady) because it causes fanaticism and conflict.  I disagree with this diagnosis, preferring a functional view that religion will only survive and thrive if it fulfils a valuable role. I do suggest, however, that once pluralist affirming religions have done their job – created a world society in which want, ignorance, hatred of the Other has been consigned to the dustbin of history, religion will cease to be needed, since people will have direct fellowship with God in the hoped for but not-yet-here Kingdom of Heaven.  Using Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine as in depth case studies, my book will offer detailed analyses of the role of religion in these conflicts and of the relationship between religion and other factors, such as national identity, economics and tribalism.  The psychological aspect of how we ‘Other’ others will also be considered.  My book will suggest that religious exclusivism, informed by scriptures (or by particular interpretations of scripture) fuels animosity and that new, more pluralist interpretations of scripture need replace traditional and often popular understandings, if religions are to help solve rather than fuel or cause conflict.


© Clinton Bennett 2005