The Pew Research Institute conducts invaluable research on many aspects of religion around the world. Their recently published survey of the American Jewish community triggered more than a flurry of reflections, condemnations, soul-searching, re-prioritizing around the American Jewish map of organizations and institutions.
This week, Pew published another study that touches on a subject that troubles me deeply: the dynamic of hostility targeting religion and hostility targeted by religion:
The study examines government restrictions on religion and religious groups and social hostilities involving religion . . . two fields of inquiry that simply should not exist. Title of the rubric under which Pew published the study is "Restrictions on Religion." Appallingly, the title of the published study is "Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High."
The opening words of the study are:
The issues around religious hostilities include government policies restricting religious practice in different ways; the existence of state-sponsored religion and the attitude toward other religions; state funding of religions and religious education. Social hostilities involving religion relate to violence, damage to property or person directed at the adherents of specific faiths, mob violence, violence perpetrated by one religious group against another religious group, and threats of violence and acts of violence to enforce religious norms,
It is inexpressibly tragic that religion is the catalyst for or the target of violence, hostility, hatred. It is a perversion of every true faith to turn the adherents of other faiths into targets of bias and hatred. There are so many factors that go into creating these lethal mixtures of restriction and hostility and faith . . . but they are not theological factors, they are economic and political and ethnic factors. Those who contend that religion divides people, creates barriers between people, take the name of religion in vain . . . and those who use the terminology and institutions of faith to create hatred and bias and violence take the name of religion in vain.
People of faith, people in whom the awe of God instills humility and gratitude and respect for all humanity know better.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.