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A Layman's Guide to World War III - Religions
By Kevin Filan

Religions:    Christianity | Judaism | Hinduism | Shi'a Islam | Sufism | Wahhabism

Since before recorded history humanity has sought to understand the ineffable -- and we've been arguing about it for at least that long. Despite our best ecumenical efforts, we're still killing each other over religion. Sometimes religion is the catalyst for conflict; sometimes it's a veil for deeper ethnic and political differences; sometimes it's hard to tell which came first.

There is enormous variation within religious practices; a Jesuit scholar at Georgetown and a Korean Pentecostal missionary have little in common spiritually, theologically or culturally. There is even disagreement as to where the boundaries of a tradition lie. Many Roman Catholics will tell you that Mormons are not Christians, while many Evangelicals will tell you the same thing about Roman Catholics. The Indian government classifies Sikhs as Hindus; most Sikhs and Jains would beg to differ, particularly those Sikh separatists who are waging armed struggle against the Indian government. Unfortunately, some of the most violent religious conflicts have arisen not between different religious groups, but out of sectarian rivalry. The Inquisition burned far more for heresy than for witchcraft.

No series of articles can hope to understand any one of these religious traditions: people could (and have) write volumes on their beliefs and practices. Rather, I have given a thumbnail sketch of some of the religious movements which may be shaping events in the ongoing "War Against Terrorism."

Next Month: Who's Been Carrying Pictures of Chairman Mao?

Kevin Filan is a freelance contributor to hybrid based in New York. Last month, Kevin wrote a piece entitled The Thermonuclear Men's Club.

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