Arguably, human beings are the only species on Earth that harm and kill each other simply because of differences of opinions. I’ve pondered this anomaly ever since my teenage years.
Personally, I think this trait is a deplorable evil. If I express this opinion in some parts of the world, I could be harmed or killed because it deviates from “acceptable” social opinions. Some may feel offended because my belief is contrary to their belief. After all, political and religious beliefs are highly esteemed opinions.
Beliefs and opinions are basically appraisals, judgments and points of view regarding particular concepts or people. Beliefs and opinions may or may not be backed up with hard evidence because they are strong mental convictions. We adopt these convictions out of personal preference or out of fear of adverse consequences.
These opinions might be as banal as believing the Oklahoma Sooners are superior to the Kansas State Wildcats in college football. Or they might be as devisive as believing one particular religion is the one and only chosen, true path to a pleasant and wonderful afterlife so all other religions are mere pretenders. Very strong quarrels and violence take place in defense of these opinions.
We all harbor at least one particular strong belief or opinion. The strongest opinion might even be the basis for identification with a group of people who possess the same beliefs and opinions. Is the person a Sooners fan or a Christian? To what lengths will a person go to defend those beliefs?
Causing harm or killing others is universally considered as evil, regardless of culture or religious background. It’s obvious that depriving another person of life or well-being are terrible acts in and of themselves. One does not need any particular religion or philosophy to understand this primal knowledge.
Somewhere, sometime in prehistory, humans began justifying that harming or killing of people in order to validate and justify their beliefs is an acceptible thing. It has long been organized as a social institution. Harming and killing has been committed en masse since that time. Mass murder has been used to acquire territory and wealth since the dawn of time. Perhaps soon afterwards, mass murder was used to settle disputes over differences of beliefs.
If a disinterested person looks at a contest with an objective mind, violence and death seem absurd and nonsensical. Young men (it’s usually young men) risk great injury to defend the athletic reputations of their universities. Not only do members of each team risk permanent brain damage or even death to defend the honor of their teams, their fans express heated disagreements, too. Because I couldn’t care less about either the Sooners or the Wildcats, I can look at a highly touted contest between the two with puzzlement and amusement. To other cultural outsiders, these organized conflicts just seem weird.
When it comes to political or religious disagreement, the tendency to harm others is ramped up to a much greater degree. The powers that be tell us that we must allow for some amount of suffering and harm in the defense of our own marvelous ideas. Causing great harm or death to people who do not share our grand ideas is justified because we are pursuing a great service to mankind. The implication is that performing a great wrong enables a great right. Haven’t we been taught that two wrongs do not make a right?
Humans have built and perfected great institutions to enshrine our beliefs and opinions. We have other institutions that justify and defend the great institutions of religion and state. The institutions defend the evils of mass harm and killing in order to protect us from the harm and killing which others believe they need to protect themselves from us. The cycle of evil goes around and around through many generations.
Evil is evil. War never brings about lasting peace. This is why attachment to view, opinion, or belief is harmful to us, in the long run. Don’t just accept my belief as true. Objectively, honestly contemplate the justification of evil on your own, during your private, quiet moments.