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Peace on Earth?

By Joseph Bass

“Peace on earth and good will toward all men” is a common phrase heard this time of year. Of course, maybe we should remember it all year. But where are we in attempting to achieve this lofty goal? Daily news reports indicate we are nowhere near achieving it.

How can that be? How is it possible that we can send people to the moon and have people living in a space capsule circling the earth, and there is still hatred, violence and death? Why is it that the United States is the richest, most creative, most technology advanced nation in world history, and we still are unable to help overcome the world’s social challenges?

Part of our problem, as I have previously mentioned, is because we attempt to study society in fragments instead of an interrelated whole.

But another problem is that we as Americans have created a society that is a great deal more tolerant of social, cultural and religious differences than in other parts of the world. Too many promote the idea that world peace can be achieved through everyone being nice to each other. But this thinking is far removed from the thinking of people in other nations. Many believe their national economy will fail and leave all in poverty if everyone doesn’t worship the same way and be members of the same race or ethnicity.

Many nations are not far removed from this type of thinking that was common among hunter-gatherers. Here in the United States, we view the world from our culture that promotes a separation of church and state. It is difficult for us to understand how different we are, and we attempt to apply unrealistic approaches to international problems.

For example, nations that we consider “modern” still collect a “church tax,” much like an income tax, channeling money through government to churches. These nations include Germany, Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Italy. The Church of England is the United Kingdom’s government-supported church and the monarch is its head.

Nations that are closer to hunter-gatherer thinking are the nations where there is the most violence, conflict and bloodshed. In some of these nations, murdering a person solely for his or her religious beliefs is accepted legal practice. These people’s thinking is much the same as Europeans’ hundreds of years ago when “infidels” were burned at the stake. For example, Michael Servetus, a religious scholar, was burned at the stake in 1553 in Geneva for questioning standard religious doctrine. It is estimated that more than 3,000 people were executed by the Spanish Inquisition (1498–1834) in a protracted effort to have only one religion in Spain.

If Americans are going to help the world achieve “peace on earth and good will toward all men,” we are going to have to change our approach to studying and solving social challenges with the same dedication we currently study technology.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at ABetterSociety@aol.com.