A new survey of Britons’ attitudes to faith suggests that half of all adults think the world would be more peaceful if no one was religious.
The polling data from ComRes and think-tank Theos was included in a newly-published report by Christian ethicist Professor Robin Gill, which looked into the relationship between religion and violence.
It showed that 47 percent of British adults agreed that “the world would be a more peaceful place if no one was religious” and 70 percent felt that “most of the wars in world history have been caused by religions”.
However, 81 percent blamed religious extremists – “turning holy texts into unholy sub-texts” – not religions themselves, and 61 percent thought that “the teachings of religions are essentially peaceful”.
Discussing the relationship between religion and violence, Gill said “a key factor in all this is that the holy scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – as well as other faiths – do have some texts that appear to justify violence”.
But he adds: “It is by reading these texts in context that a more peaceful, consistent and representative message is discernible… In reality, Jews and Christians have long contextualised some of the more violent verses in Deuteronomy and the Gospels.”
Gill cites Christian theologian Gregory A Boyd’s ‘The Crucifixion of the Warrior God’ giving the first two texts from the Torah – the most holy part of the Bible for Jews – as “examples of God commanding genocide and enemy hatred”.
However, Gill explains that this and similar examples from other faiths can be “read in a way that builds peace rather than violence”.
Theos director Nick Spencer said: “Many people strongly associate religion and violence, although even more think that religious teaching is essentially peaceful and that religious violence is down to extremists, not to religion itself.
“This is a confusing picture, but it still poses a real challenge to all religious people to denounce all forms of religious violence and to handle their sacred texts with care.”