Many people today will tell you that they don’t care what ideology people adhere to, so long as they don’t harm anyone else.
Harm is a complicated matter though.
Harm comes in a myriad of forms: emotional, spiritual, physical.
In order for one human being to lash out at another a cascade of decisions must be made before that one action can be reached.
In a moment of heated passion even the greatest pacifist may lash out. However, this outcome is far less likely than another person who has been trained their whole life in the art of death, retaliation, and vindication.
What is often left unsaid is the underlying force that ideology plays on our actions.
In Islamic fundamentalism jihad is a reality.
Kill those who do not conform.
This form of killing, otherwise totally unknown in the natural world outside of human beings, is borne heavily out of ideological motivation. It is the fundamental element that separates human beings from animals: ideology, belief, the capacity to choose ideas, to be influenced by ideas. From this reality a great chasm is formed which enables we human beings to be both capable of loving, but also capable of cruelty.
If we, as humans, seek to end cruelty, torture, and war, what path must we take?
To simply kill our enemy is never a sufficient end; if his ideology lives on, then more will simply follow in his footsteps. In addition, dealing death to end death only results with more broken hearts, more grieving souls, more people willing to do whatever it takes to get revenge.
Sometimes, war is necessary, especially against a determined and violent invader. To decide when this is or is not the case is to stand on a line with an enormous grey expanse, and I pray that I will never find myself standing upon it.
There is a form of warfare that lies outside the battlefields, the training camps, and the broad expanse of military actions.
The ideology of death must be overcome.
Not destroyed or obliterated as in typical warfare, but consumed wholly by an ideology of life.
In the same way an animal grazes grass and incorporates that very grass to become part of it’s own self, transformed irreversibly into its own strength, in this way life must consume and eliminate death.
People don’t seem to realise the role that ideology plays in war.
We criticize unjust wars, we condemn the killing of civilians, but we rarely condemn the specific ideologies that lead to these atrocities.
Some have taken the path of making broad strokes and saying things like “religion is to blame,” but that is never an accurate insight into the stark reality.
Many operate under the pretense “believe what you like, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else.”
The problem is, is that once a person is harming someone else, it is already too late. Their ideologies have already poisoned their reason, their love, their compassion.
So what is left to do for this soul?
Do we kill them and prevent them from hurting others? Or do we try to indoctrinate them to understand that killing indiscriminately is not ok? Or do we take another route and put them in prison and isolate them to protect society?
The point is, we don’t want to arrive at this crossroads at all.
If we want to prevent such choices, then it means taking ideology seriously. It means understanding that belief is the fundamental trigger for violent human action.
Whether we would like to realise it or not, we are at war.
Anyone who has taken part in a debate about abortion, for example, knows this well.
Our ideas can lead us to believe that life is wanton and a commodity to played with; conversely, we may see that it is immutably precious and deserving of rights. It can lead us to think that foreigners are somehow of lesser value, or that every human person is equally deserving of life. The results of devaluing human life can be seen in history over and over again.
The morality of war begins at home, in our living rooms, our kitchens, and our bedrooms. It starts in our workplaces and most especially in our thoughts.
I do not believe in and defend the existence of a loving God because belief is innocuous, but because of both a personal experience and the pain I see when I take a long sober look at the world news feed; I witness the price we are paying for our choices in the realm of belief. With Russia poised to invade the Ukraine under a guise of “humanitarian aid”, with ISIS enacting what is looking more and more like a genocide in northern Iraq, it is not difficult to witness firsthand.
In our own country we decry the death of innocent civilians in Gaza, especially children, while happily supporting our own assault on defenceless children in the womb.
We are in the fullest sense hypocrites.
It is not just a choice we make, like which bananas to buy.
It is to pick a seed.
The seeds which I plant, consciously or not, become the tree of my own knowledge.
Either I choose the seeds of selfishness, death, and chaos, or the seeds of selflessness, love, and meaning.
When stated so simply it seems so simple, but the fact remains that it is not.
It is complicated because few spend time in prayer, in honest contemplation, in time spent sincerely exploring, reading, and sharing ideas.
Often I meet those who are capable of retorting to me the popular opinions shared on Reddit or other social media sites, but rarely do these thoughts contain personal insight.
I can respect an atheist who brings to me ideas, thoughts, and arguments which construct upon already known ideas, which respond to my own. But what is there in a person who merely takes something they heard the other day and regurgitates it, and nothing else?
The problem is not social media, but the death of curiosity.
The cultural gold of our current generation is the great advances in technology and education. With great advances we thrust ourselves into the world of technological innovation. This advancement will be forfeit, however, without the sobering and enabling qualities of morality and spirituality.
The use the of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is a poignant reminder that all technological advance is not necessarily good in its own regard, but only good if wielded with a conscience.
If we simply take the opinion that sounds the best on the internet without personal reflection, we become no different than the unwillingly indoctrinated.
Freedom is popular in North America, but often times it is never exercised in a meaningful way.
To be free is not to idly accept the rebellion of others, but to understand and honestly accept or reject this rebellion based upon its actual merit and not its allure.
It is like a man who fought tooth and nail for a piece of farm equipment which was stolen from him. He argued that without this machinery he could not live, could not support his family. Finally, after a long, arduous battle, he wins the machine back. Except, in his victory he merely parks it in the shed, and leaves it unused for many years.
Few things are more exciting than climbing the machine of our freedom and taking it for a joy ride.
To see just what is out there, what of the world brings life, and what only leads to death.