In response to Pat Morrow (Religion at root, Feb. 13), I present the First World War, Second World War, the Cold War and all its connected conflicts. What do all of the largest wars of the last century have in common? They all have nothing to do with religion.
Now if I were to take my own selective view of history I could come up with a simplistic conclusion similar to Morrow's that nationalism and political ideology are at the root of war and atrocities. But the actual root of our inhumanity is human nature.
We've inherited from our prehistoric ancestors brains that are wired to divide ourselves into different groups. The lines that we draw can be religion but they can also, be race, language, nationality, politics, or anything that makes you different from me. In the end it comes down to my tribe versus your tribe.
Take religion out of that equation and history shows we'll fill the gap with something else to justify killing or marginalizing each other.
Pat Morrow ignores the evil perpetrated by the avowed atheists who first rose to power in the 20th century: Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others.
The real answer lies in our evolution toward a species where in "pecking order" is of primary importance. Almost all religions call for a conscious rejection of this innate drive to be "first." Religions generally call us to replace this drive to aggrandize the self with compassion for the other, the neighbour in our community, to accept that we are all fundamentally equal and that we are obligated to each other. What are the principles of atheism? It has none, or else it too would be a religion, albeit a godless one.
The fact is that we as specific individuals, theist and atheist alike, will often succumb to our nature and pervert the principles we profess to hold dear. It should not really be a surprise that we tend only to pay lip service to principles of non-violence, justice, and community well-being, given the path of our evolution so far.
At the very least, religion calls us to choose another way. And change is hard.