So much conflict in the world is underpinned by religion, and has been through history. Partly this is because religion is often closely tied to cultural identity, so religion takes the blame for what is, really speaking, a larger culture clash. The other big problem is that religious people (whether we admit it or not) do tend to feel that we have the monopoly on truth and the right way of doing things. Of all the religions I‘ve encountered, Druidry is one of the ones most willing to acknowledge that there is no one true way and that we don’t have the monopoly on truth, but we have a share of hardliners too. After all, why take up a belief if you don’t truly believe it? Most religions simply do not include any conceptual space in which other religions can be perceived as valid.
It doesn’t help that there can be a lot of money and political power tied up in religion – and historically that’s been even more true. This gives extra reason to use religion in political contexts and to give extra justification for war. People seeking after power, status and wealth have, through history, been known to take religious routes to gaining this. None of this is really about the heart of what any religion means, but people are messy, complex entities and we don’t keep different aspects of our lives neatly compartmentalised. Religions of all shades, politics, money, power, wealth and status all get tangled up together in all kinds of unhelpful ways.
If our current set of world religions took more peaceable, accepting and co-operative attitudes to each other, we would as a planet be one big step closer to peace. As individuals, this is something we can get involved with.
Interfaith is a fascinating, frequently challenging area of work, but many pagans do get involved with it. It can bring you into contact with all kinds of people, some who will be welcoming, interested and supportive, others who will see you as heathens to be converted. However, getting involved with interfaith is a way of getting paganism taken more seriously, and of reaching out to other religious groups.
Even without joining an interfaith forum, it’s possible to do positive work for inter-religious peace. We all of us come into contact with all kinds of different people in our lives. Taking a peaceable, relaxed attitude to other people’s faiths is a way of contributing to the process. As with all other peace related issues, respect and care are critical for establishing good and peaceful relationships. The problems come when you hit issues that it’s not ok to be tolerant of, and from a Pagan perspective, many of the other big faith groups have these – attitudes to gay people and human sexuality are frequently points of tension. Handling these without creating conflict and causing problems, is a minefield, and not something I can explore today (I may well be back).
None of us can put the world to rights in an afternoon, but any dialogue, any honest and careful communication contributes. Every move we can make as individuals, towards peaceful co-operation, is well worth making.