The fight against religiously motivated violence will be one of the defining battles of the twenty-first century, wrote Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at the start of his new book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” (Schocken Books).
Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, deplored how only too often “people have killed in the name of the God of life.” When religion is used for political ends it is not righteousness but idolatry and to invoke God to justify violence is not an act of sanctity, but a kind of blasphemy, Sacks argued in the book’s opening chapter.
Summarizing the argument of his book Sacks explained that there is a connection between religion and violence, but it is oblique, not direct. Religion, he said, is the most powerful force to create and maintain large-scale groups as it solves the problem of trust between strangers. Most conflicts and wars are about secular matters, but sometimes religion is enlisted in the support of aggression.