Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Claiming God's assent results in all manner of evil

SOME of the greatest evils spring from recruiting God exclusively to one's side. The claim to have unique access to God's intentions for the world leads inevitably to arrogance and fanaticism. What is happening in Iraq has its provenance in this kind of thinking.

As the surge of evil gathers momentum across the Middle East and North Africa, we begin to see how warped minds reach for every available instrument of terror – all in the name of God – driven by a delusional ideology that seizes the imagination, festers within communities, and offers the certainty of a place in heaven.

This gives young men a narcissistic sense of significance; a chance to be a somebody and a maker of the world.

To demand that people who do not share your faith relinquish theirs or die takes arrogance and inhumanity to a new level.

The massacre of 80 Yazidis, followers of one of the oldest monotheistic religions, as they refused to convert to Islam, and the unspeakable depravity of the murder of James Foley should awaken the world to the threat to human freedom and disregard for innocent life represented by the Islamic State (IS) fanatics.

The smugness accompanying dogmatic certainty, underpinned by the unaccountable exercise of power, can only be punctured by dialogue and reflection. Unfortunately, this is in short supply when you presume to be acting on behalf of God, or engaged in the creation of a new utopia.

PHILIP O'NEILL

Oxford

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