Suppose that I wanted to know whether Judaism permits the eating of pork. How would I go about answering this question? Would I look toward my Jewish friends to see whether they eat pork? Many of these individuals do not take kosher laws very seriously and as such I might come to the erroneous conclusion that since the majority of my Jewish friends eat pork, “moderate Judaism” has nothing to do with this food taboo. The correct approach in this case is to examine the relevant religious texts. The answer does not lie with individual Jews who may or may not adhere to the religiously sanctioned food taboo but in the religious edicts that define the practice of Judaism. Anecdotal evidence regarding your friend Solomon Goldstein’s love of pulled pork is utterly immaterial. Judaism forbids the consumption of pork. Jews who eat pork are doing so in violation of their religious teachings.
Reason and science allow us to properly think about the necessary data that are required in order to answer a given question. This is precisely why the scientific method is the most powerful framework for understanding the world. Given a research question or posited hypothesis, one must establish which data to collect and how to analyze it in order to weigh in on the matter.
This brings me to a topic that has become part of our collective conscience — namely, establishing whether a given religion is peaceful or not. Before we attempt to answer this question, let us examine another specific religion: Jainism. A central defining feature of this faith is the adherence of nonviolence toward living organisms. Practicing Jains who fully abide by this edict will walk with a broom and will sweep the floor prior to taking a step lest they might inadvertently kill a bug. If you know of a Jain who has been convicted of animal cruelty, this would not be indicative of the fact that Jainism permits such evil acts. Rather, the person in question is simply not following the teachings of his faith. Again, a scientific mind allows one to establish the relevant data needed to test a given hypothesis. Jainism preaches nonviolence even though a specific Jain might be violent.
If we wanted to establish the peaceful/violent nature of a religion, there are many sources of data that can be used to address this issue. Here are a few examples:
- We could examine the historical records since the founding of a given faith to establish the number of individuals that have been slain by its adherents (in the name of their faith). This would allow us for example to establish whether Christianity has yielded greater bloodshed than Jainism.
- We could delimit a given contemporary time period (e.g., the last 50 years) and tabulate the number of terrorist attacks that have been committed in the name of various faiths (see the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database). This would allow us to establish whether there have been a greater number of Christian-inspired anti-abortion attacks than, say, Jihadi-inspired attacks. The data are there. We simply need to collect them and conduct the proper analyses.
- We could identify various contemporary terror lists (e.g., the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist List) or governmental lists of terrorist organizations (see the Canadian government's list), and gauge the extent to which various faiths are represented as central elements of the terrorists' raison d'être. This would allow us to conduct the appropriate statistical analyses to answer the question: Do Mormon-inspired terrorists outnumber Judaism-inspired terrorists? No need for sophistry. Let the data speak.
Read the rest of the article (you will be pleasantly surprised at where this analysis leads), and please share it with your friends and family: How Do We Know if a Religion is Peaceful?
Contact information for Dr. Gad Saad:
John Molson School of Business
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West
Montreal, QC, CANADA
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 2900
Fax: (514) 848-4554
Evolutionary Psychology in the Business Sciences (http://bit.ly/g2TfSj)
TED talks: http://bit.ly/egNuXr and http://bit.ly/12tewh7