Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Old Habits Die Hard

Why does America not have nearly the intrigue and lawlessness of other countries, particularly those coming out of despotism? The reason is a healthy religious life, including respect for other peoples' religion.

After nearly 20 years, Romania still has problems related to communism. Secret police and communist leaders, once the political be- and end-alls, migrated into the economic sphere, and now control great swaths of the semi-free market. Unsolved murders, although not as prevalent as they once were, are still somewhat the norm.

The recent death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko underscores how difficult it has been for the former Soviet Union to transform itself into a free and prosperous society. All indicators point to former KGB boss, Vladimr Putin, as being behind the murder. Twenty-something years after glasnost and perestroika, Russia is still feeling the pains of centuries of intrigue and fear.

With these events as patterns, what do we expect from Iraq, which has recently emerged from under the rock known as Saddam Hussein?

I once debated with a friend whether or not religion had caused all of the wars in history. He said Yes, it did, and I said No, it didn't. When I suggested that Communism had killed more people than any other force in history, he said "Well, Communism is a religion of sorts, isn't it?"

I suggested to a friend of mine from Tatarstan (a territory of Russia) that I was writing this blog post, and he agrees with my principle thesis, that a lack of freedom of religion (whether it still exists or previously existed for a long period of time) is at the root of most of the problems in his country. Many people in Tatarstan would agree with this statement, he said.

Religion generally provides people with a way to strive for the good things in life. Religion generally encourages people to do unto others as they would be done by. Religion, although it can be prostituted for non-religious purposes, has an ameliorating effect on society, with very few exceptions.

Two of those exceptions--in which religion can be a detriment to society--are when religion dominates the legal society, as is the case today in many Islamic countries, or when the legal society dominates religion, as is the case in Iran (and to some extent, Israel) today, and as was until recently the case in Iraq.

Religion is one of the greatest passions in the human breast. Generally, the free exercise of religion channels that passion for worthwhile purposes. When that passion is bottled up, either through religious or legal domination, social problems ensue. The problems we are seeing in the former Soviet Union and former Warsaw Pact countries are generally a result of the dark night of Communism, wherein the only sanctioned religion was the worship of the state.

The problems we are seeing in Iraq are equally deep seated in both the domination of society by Islam over the centuries, and, more recently, the domination of religion by Saddam Hussein.

It would require divine intervention to effect a quick solution to the Iraqi problem. In the meantime, one by one, Iraqis must decide that their fellowmen are more important than the deep seated hatred they have for them as a result of having so long not been allowed to practice religion according to their personal passion and freedom of choice.

For those of us who believe in a God who is willing to bless us and answer our prayers, perhaps we should pray that the "one by ones" can have his guidance and protection, so that Iraq can emerge more quickly from the dark night of despotism into the light of a day of newfound religious freedom.

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