The killings at the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in West Jerusalem earlier this week were another reminder of how religion all too often creates rather than solves problems. This latest incident has been linked to unrest in East Jerusalem, and rumours (strongly denied) that Israel might be about to allow Jews to once again pray at the site of the Al Aqsa mosque which for the Jews is also known as Temple Mount.
In the present climate such permission would be incendiary but surely if religion is the force for good that some claim would not the image of Jew and Muslim praying together at this shared holy site be the best possible image of hope for the world? Instead religion (and none of the world’s faiths are free from this taint) seem the source of so much conflict and killing. It is as if the moment one person says “I believe…” there is an immediate judgement, even condemnation, of the other. It is easy to see why some would want to say the world would be better off without religion.
Yet the violent cannot be allowed to have the last word. Religion has also deeply enriched civilisation and people of faith continue to be significant contributors in making this world a better place. Perhaps people of all faiths need to be less free in claiming to speak in the name of God, learning instead to be still in the presence of God, and striving only to out do each other in acts of love and of service. Only then might those of no faith begin to think that there is a valid role for religion in our world.