As a longtime teacher of comparative religions at several universities, let me add a note to a recent topic in the news and among letter writers. When judging a behavior or attitude connected with a religion, we should think first whether the actions under judgment are the result of the religion itself or not.
A supposed believer may act against an adopted doctrine and set of beliefs — in which case he or she is judged bad or wrong while the teachings are not. In the worst case, though, the believer is judged bad or wrong, as is his or her beliefs.
It is a historical fact that all religions, at some point, have persecuted others with different ideas. In our present age, we see that Christianity has admitted its guilt and asked for forgiveness, judging its past actions as wrong and never to be repeated.
But under certain tenets held by some people, very “wrong” things done in the past were considered “right,” and people today keep doing these wrong things. For example, Algerian “pirates” — from the Middle Ages until the 19th century — commandeered ships and held people for ransom. The recent Algerian tragedy suggests that this attitude still exists in the 21st century.
Yet, few people of the same faith as the perpetrators state in public that these actions are wrong or immoral and should be forbidden by fatwa! Those who see wrong being done but don’t say anything can be said to be indirectly cooperating with evil.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.