There are certain cliches which made no sense when first uttered and make no sense even today. One of the most irritating is the ridiculous idea that religion has been the source of most of the world’s wars and deepest problems. The very bright but very unwise Christopher Hitchens liked this idea, not because he thought it might be true, I suspect, but because he was happy to use any pebble to throw at God.
While it is certainly true that religion has sometimes been a source of tension and even war, it is not difficult to think of such glaring exceptions that the cliche is simply proven wrong. Hitler was motivated by hatred, not by religion. Stalin was motivated by lust for power, not by religion. The Killing Fields of Cambodia reflected a love of brutality, not religion.
There, we’ve looked at a mere half a century of incredible cruelty and murder. In light of these three examples alone, no one can possibly defend the argument that ridding the world of religion would end war and mayhem.
It is a shame – and sometimes a deadly shame – when intelligent people are utter fools. Clearly, high IQ is not invariably a path to wisdom. Wisdom is a matter of character. It is built on a foundation of knowledge and understanding, but foundations do not build houses of the soul and psyche. Only character can do that.
In “The Seven Habits of highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey notes that until recently literature aimed at helping people become successful was devoted to describing good character. Since WWII the idea of how to be successful called forth countless books, almost all of which were aimed more at how to appear successful or how to manipulate one’s way into promotions.
What a sad transition! It does not bode well for our future, because wisdom and character are inseparable. When we lose one, we lose the other. The world will be led by people who mistake silly cliches for wisdom.