Our sign of peace Left on the Moon
I am tired of hearing that faith is the war monger of humanity so that peace will flow at last, like mighty rivers, the day we get rid of religion.
Religions will stay with us, probably as long as humanity will survive and they may even help us survive withe their lifebelt of hope.
Intolerance, rejection, hate and violence, are worldly, not divine; war has many causes other than religion; this is true even for the religious wars. To find the enemies of peace we must search here on earth, not in the heavens.
The ills of intolerance and unfreedom of thought were exemplified and proven by history, that case is made. Yes, those crimes were and are committed. And yes, religions went to war with each other. Each in turn, the great religions live their middle ages, we understood that. Indeed, the three brothers, descendants of Abraham, are still unable to see eye to eye.
The paradox strikes however: why faith, this pursuit of the human spirit of something sacred and good, is perceived by so many as a war monger?
Look at them and observe; all religions were revealed as ideals of peace, each of them gives to peace the highest value, they all wish
"Peace!" as a most important thing for the host and the guest; all religions agree on the golden rule
– do not do to another what you hate to be done unto you; all religions stand up as civilising forces meant to rise man above the beast, towards spirit and to the values of the greatest human Good: compassion, fairness, forgiveness, love, sincerity, respect for life. Isn't war the opposite of the aims defining any religion?
Religions were the vehicle and treasurer of civilisation from times immemorial, from the first respectful burials and meaningful drawings in prehistoric dark caves, to the splitting of the universe between Good and Bad, between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman, to the civilised man of Confucius, the compassionate Buddha, generous with all sentient beings, to the tables given to Moses, the Christ's "turning of the other cheek" and the spiritual struggle of Mohamed. War is the contrary of all that.
Those - believers or unbelievers - who care to read holy writ - any holy writ
- with their own eyes, from beginning to end, see that they contain entire universes of thought and example of wisdom and folly, in fact they contain everything human mind can imagine, good or wicked. Selecting out from those chronicles of civilisation a few words of hate and an archaic call to kill - which you can always find - is perverse manipulation or beastly stupidity.
Saints, great mystics and grand theologians who live their faith deeply and entirely, understand the whole; they rise high with their faith instead of walling themselves into it, debate, commune and admire each other in their humility and love of God. Meanwhile, irritable goats clash on narrow bridges.
Intolerance, fanaticism and “fundamentalism” is not in the heart of the religions but in that of the bad people misusing religion and anything else - reason and science included - as an alibi to follow their predatory instinct, their insecurity, their interest or their proud hate. Murderous orthodoxy is not religious in nature; it can dress the garb of religion, of politics, nationalism, racism, greed, even of science or justice; any truth when it is unique and absolute begets monsters.
The same, who killed yesterday for food, land, women, power and aversion for difference, then for God, kill today for ideologies or for money and will kill tomorrow to save the planet. It is because of such freaks that believers get to hate each other.
No faiths clash, no gods fight with each other in the Heavens, but people who have the impudence to pretend that they personally
represent and bring God on Earth; blasphemers who dare to think that a very high divinity can be reduced to their understanding or can be offended by the differing human quidam
and that they
are entitled to take up an imaginary gauntlet for that offense. Such sad bigots, instead of rising up to their God, spend their life to oppose one faith to another.
For religion to be a force of peace
let us consider then – while we wait helplessly for a clash of civilisations – not the sacred truth that divides irremediably this doctrine from that – but the wisdom and the many values that make them alike here on Earth. Let us not be naive but count on our ten fingers not what separates but what could bring together the scattered good will.
Maybe we can advance carefully, for the sake of life, from hypocritical tolerance serviced with the lips, towards honest, negotiated, respect. Not in theory but in practice. Not by giving in with wobbly relativism, but with frank identities affirmed as a right of man. Maybe we can find the elements to build sacred rules of respect
, the shared covenant to sign by all the respectable creeds of Planet Earth:
Which concrete things must all religious communities do – and refrain from doing - to practice respect for other religions and for the non-religions so that they have the moral right to be respected in turn?
What explicit signs of respect does science and rationalism owe to religion and to what signs of respect does Science and Reason have right in return?
Which things are - by common agreement - flagrant abuse of legitimate respect among believers of different creeds, convictions and theories?
What must the present-day leaders of a religion do to prove and keep it respectable, to deserve respect, to gain respect instead of going to war?
How to practice real-life respect in the face to face encounter and coexistence of persons
belonging to different religious rites and customs or not belonging to them?
It appears that there are minimal conditions to mutual recognition while preserving difference: Respect
should be declared a sacred ground
, safe, where conflict is at least suspended and judgment delayed with dignity. The wise will summon respect, with moderation, to suspend conflict and make negotiation possible. As long as we hold greeting hands, and pass the pipe of peace we may avoid hostility.
Second, believers must know each other
, from childhood, school or by means of inter-religious events, to see the differences and feel if they are as great as the suspicion mystique around them. When we talk to each other, the ugly less than human faceless labels turn into persons with names and children, like us
Third, when will the religious authorities legislate reciprocity
? There is no such thing as demanding more respect or more freedom than what you give. Ask then not what respect you will be granted, but what respect you are able to offer, fairly; this is what you will get. Respect means entitlement, rights, but duties as well; no mutual duty no legitimate right
Fourth, respect is clad in good manners, politeness and rules to follow – rites of peace
. The work of peace will then be to draw up the golden-ruled savoir-faire book
of etiquette among religions and also between religions and atheism for that matter.
Further, to allow space for respect, sacred spaces need frontiers and interspaces
, not a hodgepodge melting pot.
Common sense shouts (in my
ears) that humanity needs to check the hubris
of this globalisation utopia
and greed-driven Ponzi scheme that sweeps across the world, and crowds face-to-face, people who are not ready at all to talk and listen to each other. I know, it sounds sooo reactionary, so politically incorrect, so unliberal, but maybe we cannot but let some people live as they want
, as long as they do not come with it, disrespectfuly, to our doorstep. Is peace worth that much compromise or must “the best” values and the most recent truth prevail universally, right now? Give time to time.
For the sake of world peace, instead of blaming divinity, we may find out who exactly, personally, are the war mongers today.
Religions being lived by people, it may be effective to detect and make visible the responsible individuals who are the opinion leaders of each faith at a given time, the ones who interpret the word of divinity and the actions that follow from that word here and now. Do not let them be anonyomous in their modesty. They are the ones accountable, partners to negotiate with or wrongdoers to lock up.
It seems to me that a small minority of the uncompromising is unavoidable, ever ready to put the world on fire; they should be held responsible in person
for what they do, each depending on the importance of their office and their decisions. There are international tribunals for that, not only for fallen tyrants.
Another minority of saints, sages, mystics and devoted clerics
work in each religion to extinguish the fire of evil with depth, compassion and love; they are forces of peace
and they deserve the respect and the support, not the suspicion and the hostile critique.
These good people of the religions became, or always were, too shy, while the fanatics shout with loud voices easy to hear. They, the saintly, are the best ambassadors of peace. When they organise and speak with one voice they are powerful indeed. That joint power I dream of when I write about Religion as a force of peace. I dream but I am not the only one...
The rest of each religious community follow the leaders. They are people like you and me, many of us trusting and quite easy to sway.
At the bottom-line, and deeper, to preserve peace, it is up to us, believers or not, to accept and proclaim – as civilised people - that it is normal to agree to disagree.
Since all true believers and unbelievers know certainly that the truth is theirs, to live in peace, instead of fighting to reduce other true beliefs to our own "the unique correct one" we will need to work out the human right and law that all people and all creeds have a right to error
; as long as they do not force themselves upon other people.
A compass, not a measuring staff
“Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" 
If you want an example of maxim certain to be wise, this is it: life-saving, sensible, fair, virtuous but also condition of a happier, peaceful life;
because what goes around comes around and, time given, as you saw so shall you reap.
This, the Golden Rule
, is the core of axial wisdom, on which all religions and philosophers agree, from Confucius to Christ, in many tongues and formulations. As the famous rabbi Hillel observed, the rest of the sacred writ  is commentary.
The Golden Rule is a matchless, elegant piece of wisdom. Confucians, Hindus, Old Egyptians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Moslems, all granted that this is a good thing, easy to understand and fair to do.
Stick to this and you will be of the civilised, with a chance to keep out of harm’s way. You are well advised to love your neighbour as you love yourself , because most probably, sooner or later, you will need him as he will need you. If we all did this, our life would be that much less harsh, kinder and happier; if you respect the Golden Rule you are entitled to live as you let live.
The advent of the civilised human person starts with this unnatural bet on the reciprocity of good will, thrown in the face of Nature’s survival of the strongest.
Without this first step of a social contract
, humans are condemned to mutual fear and hostility. That leads inevitably to the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life of Man wolf to man
- engaged in the war of all against all
described by Thomas Hobbes 
So far so good. Nevertheless, the Golden Rule is not as neat to apply as it to understand.
Practiced rigidly, as a Kantesque imperative, any variant of the golden rule is horse's blinkers, leading to unilateral weakness, utopia or to outright double-faced hypocrisy.The Golden Rule is a compass not a measuring staff.
It is a guide not a chain. You will know by it the wise direction. You must still decide with your own head and common sense what you do and how far you go. The breach of the golden rule is not that you stray from it when you must; but rather that you do not follow it when you can.
It appears that attention is fleeting while we encounter other people; mysteriously, we forget to consider their point of view and we neglect to imagine what it would do to us if we were treated in the same way. And of course they do not seem to care much for us.
To keep the score of reciprocity people have, providentially, four guardians: memory, reputation, gratitude and revenge. And laws. We do not spit in the well because we may have to draw water from it again. To apply, the Golden Rule needs however time, long-time relationships.
In short encounters, various hit-and-run scoundrels and idiots, when they see the golden compass at our wrist, profit of it to abuse us. Worse yet, the corrupt, do it to us “before we do it to them”  just because they lost hope in reciprocity or never had it. For those, be good but carry a stick.
Difficult questions arise when other people do not care to respect the rule. Would you keep golden anyway, leap for faith for goodness’s sake, turn your other cheek, resign with stoicism and masochism, or will you do something against the transgressor, to stop evil? Let me believe in my weakness that there is a jusified common sense limit to one-way goodness, as non-violence should tolerate everything except its negation, violence.
How to count with people who detest the things that are good for you and who value things you hate? People do have different needs, like the stork from Aesop`s fable who could not eat from a shallow plate while the fox could not eat from a high jar. As people are not equal, reciprocity must be wisely unequal
What do you do with the wobbly moralists who concede that everything is relative, cultural and national, that everything goes and must be accepted?
And what about those who force-feed you virtues and fair treatments which you do not want and in exchange blackmail you to reciprocate?
Be certain then that you and the other live in the same moral sphere
; by which I understand sharing the main values and obligations. If the moral spheres are radically incompatible, the golden rule must be preceded by negotiation - from a distance. Those have a right to your
Golden Rule who obey it.
With irreducibly different values, the golden rule of reciprocity is that of mutual respect. This is unfortunately a kind of apartheid
: you must let the other live by his rule as you request him to let you live by yours. Live and let live! This arguable solution may work, provided the respectful distance is mutually preserved. Sad consequences for human rights! Here open the gates of Hell...
Today’s world unfortunately abolished the distances needed for peace. It appears that there is a limit to globalisation.
Consider also some corollaries of the golden rule that should not depend on a difference of tastes and beliefs.
Spend some time and care to find out what other people want and detest; so that you are not blinded by your point of view
Beg others not to do to you at least what they would not have done unto them within their own values; that much should be easy to understand for everyone.
Negotiate with them not to do to you that which you would not do to them.
Request those things you do not want to be done to you to be considered too, by your right to be different. Those who ignore your difference, should expect you to ignore theirs (but this is the way of war).
It may be needed, as I mentioned, to establish private territory and borders when building one World fails. Unfortunately we must also consider force: si vis pacem para bellum.
Do not let others do to you what you rightly do not suffer under the false excuse that they have different beliefs, better ones. Your own absolute beliefs, good, right, beyond discussion, are not justified to be imposed on differing people in their own house. If you accept other people’s right to be wrong they must too. Without a right to be wrong there is no golden rule.
There may be some tit-for-tat wisdom even in the way we punish those who break the Golden Rule:
First of all, react proportionally, not by all-out war.
Those who do to you knowingly what you would not do to them should expect to be visited an eye for an eye, not a life for an insult; an eye for an eye is the contrary of the cruel revenge some believe it to be. From Hammurabi on , it was great progress, calling for proportional compensation instead of killing each other in revenge as it was the habit of old times.
My choice looking at this mountain of real-life inconsistency
is modest; to reserve my uncompromising, free-will obligation of the Golden rule to people who share reasonably my foundational values or who do not share them at all but respect them. For the rest, I do my best to navigate on track, on stormy seas.
This is my golden rule: respect all people in their difference as you request them to respect you
; agree to differ!
I know that history has successive ups and downs; that all civilisations decay and fall; that barbarianism is born ceaselessly, with each newborn, with each new generation, while it takes long years to grow civilised.
I will still fight nature and barbarianism whenever I can and apply the golden rule, whenever I can, whatever I start, for the sake of my own well-being and for beauty in my life. I found it true that to have friends you better be a friend; be sincere and you will encourage honesty; be polite and you build a greenhouse of politeness; respect to be respectable, smile to be smiled to and of course, give to receive.Do not adapt to reality. Live and let live!
 Confucius, Analects 15:23
 of the Tanach, the Old Testament
 “You shall love your neighbour like yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
 “...a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain : and consequently no Culture of the Earth ; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea ; no commodious Building ; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force ; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society ; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.” Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Reprinted from the edition of 1651, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1929, Part I. Chap. 13. p 99.
 “You'd better do it to them before they do it to you!
” Donna Hightower, This world is a mess, MetroLyrics.com
 “qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum” FLAVI VEGETI RENATI, EPITOMA REI MILITARIS, recensuit CAROLVS LANG, Lipsiae : in aedibus B.G. Teubneri, 1841 p. 65
 The code of Hammurabi writes, precursor to the Law of the Talion: "196. If a man destroy the eye of a man (gentleman), they shall destroy his eye." THE CODE OF HAMMURABI, P. Handcock (ed), The MACMILLAN Company, New York,
1920, p 33
The Mouth of Truth, Rome 
There are many truths because there are many honest persons and many beliefs. Truth is not in the "real world", only in the knower and in the speaker, in what they believe and the way they represent it to other people.
Some believe that beliefs are truth only when they are objectively justified; but isn't the acceptable way of justifying a belief too?
Among us, common people*, truth is sincerity – that which is not concealed; something as you understand and accept it to be; presenting things as you are convinced of them to be. That is expressing your truth, the one for which you would risk your hand to get cut in the Mouth of Truth at Santa Maria. To be called truth, your truth must be known.
This deserves respect. Nevertheless, I dread those integrist worshipers in the cult of truth without doubt who would sacrifice everything else, and especially other people, to beliefs. Their truth becomes intolerant faith - The one Faith, the only one. These people make me count truth among the great sources of man-made evil.
The real-real truth let loose is the devourer of all truth, even itself. When only one truth rules it fathers unavoidable falsity, to survive.
Deadly contagion charges ahead astride truth, like the four horsemen of Apocalypse, whenever there is only one allowed. Other people’s sincere beliefs become errors, madness, inferior ignorance to correct, or worse, wicked lies to punish, crimes of thought. As Will Durant wrote in his synthesis of the History of Civilisation "certainty is murderous" [1a]
Sometimes, and quite often, one’s most important truthful belief is undecidable, beyond possible proof for or against it. Who has a moral right to judge, in lack of evidence, for somebody else? Truth reduced to the realm of observable evidence would make the human mind sadly poor and slavish.
The sincerity of personal belief and communication has little to do with truth among the philosophers, the logicians and the scientists – which means, or does its honest best to mean, representing things as they are, independent of people, following strict rules of judgment; but sincerity and objective knowledge need not be enemies if they recognize the border that separates their different realms.
Scientific truth about the world as it is – is an effort of detached, coherent reason and exploration of fact. You are justified to believe something after you verify it objectively and formulate it logically. Even that solid truth is proven false from time to time, as it is still obtained by human beings, not by the stars.
Huge progress as it proves to be, the scientific view of the world shows today some disquieting signs of unique truth. It obtained its own freedom a few centuries ago but now it cannot tolerate that which is not true for science and reason. This is strange; science understood already that the living person is a mixture of reason and irrationality but it is not able to take that into account. Instead it serves, coldly, as the highest value, that truth which is purified as much as possible from the human colour. What it cannot measure, experiment materially and account for, independent of people, it belittles and even declares nonexistent. What it does not understand yet, it declares irrelevant. When meeting ignorance and error science shows arrogance and paternalism. Luckily, the non-scientific are not burnt at the stake but I believe that human knowledge is crippled and progress slowed down in many scientifically incorrect fields.
Sincerity has much to do with revealed religious truth, or with political convictions which are largely based on authority, trust and unquestioned belief accepted from credible leaders, parents and tradition. Those faiths, respectable as they are, proved already how bloody they can be when they reign or when they collide. When religions coexist civilization flourishes. If one alone prevails it suffers only silent slaves.
Truth, be it personal, revealed or scientific is in all its forms, beyond all doubts, our fine, vital value and affirming, what we believe or not is the emblem of human freedom. However, what about other people’s freedom? Do we allow them a right to be wrong?
The paradox is that my best, unquestionable, justified, truth, the one made sacred because it is proved by Science, Faith, Political creed, or by my hard earned Business, my eyes and ears, by my life, leaves no place for another. Whatever differs from it is error. Be it, but then we need a rule of conduct concerning error.
As Tibor Machan found  “We have no choice but to think that everyone with whom we seriously disagree is wrong.” He found that others, the wrong ones, are usually considered “not favoured with the truth by God,.. mislead by the devil,.. too stupid of feeble minded to grasp the truth...brain-damaged... victims of various obsessions, in desperate need to be different or rebellious.” In the best case they must be improperly or incompletely informed or too lazy and wishful to think things over. Some of these explanations may be right sometimes but the whole seems to me terribly suspect: rational but unreasonable.
I do not feel able of certainty about the cause of such different and irreducible beliefs of what truth is in important matters; maybe some free, undecidable choices are involved or some unaccounted differences in logical level and point of view. When I look at truth as a person I see a moral value. This value should have an obligation to coexist, reasonably rather than rationally, with other moral values like respect, freedom and peace.
If you have a birth right to exist you also have the right to draw a line anytime and to believe now what seems justified to you and to express your truth; and also to say that you do not believe that which you don’t. Provided that you listen truly when other people come with their truth or claim to prove that you are not right; that you respect the same rights of other people when you do not believe their beliefs.
What counts for me more than why contradictory truths are professed, is to choose what to wisely do when we face such diversity.
My life solution is moral and emotional: to agree respectfully that we disagree and to affirm the right to be wrong, as long as you do not force your unquestioned belief on other people and while requesting the respect to be mutual; to live calmly in the presence of difference, contradiction and error without an urge to kill. This requires a belief that divesity is good. It also requires self-control and much practice.
* You will imagine that I do not tackle this great subject of the philosophers with a pretense that I know better. What I seek is common sense and practical wisdom that would make life better.
 La Bocca della Verità (Photo cc Roughneck) at the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, Italy. The legend of the Mouth is its role as a lie detector; in the Middle Ages, folklore has asserted that if one told a lie with his hand in the mouth of the sculpture, it would be bitten off.
[1a] "Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous." Durant, W The Story of Civilisation, Vol IV - The Age of Faith, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1950, p. 784
 Künne, Wolfgang, Conceptions of Truth, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 2003
 Machan Tibor, Why is Everybody Else Wrong? - Explorations in Truth and Reason, Springer, New York, 2011