Who gets the last Word?

Gayle Wade on whether religion causes much of the world's strife

Could it be that the love of religion, rather than the love of money, is the root of all evil?

The furore caused by Pope Benedict XVI's comments about the Prophet is yet another illustration of the blind rage which too often attends religious controversy.

The Pope managed to upset Muslims across the world by quoting a description of the Prophet's teachings as 'evil and inhuman'.

The international outcry was succinctly expressed in The Sun headline, “Pope on the Ropes!”

The Pope has since claimed that he did not meant to cause offence: after all, who could have guessed that the phrase might have been construed as an insult?

And anyone can see how the suggestion that religious faith might be spread by violence and the sword would be unacceptable to the church that sanctioned the Crusades and the Inquisition.

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Responding with all the restraint we have come to expect from outraged Muslims, protesters have firebombed churches and burned effigies of the Pope.

An Arab fundamentalist group has vowed to continue a Holy War until : “God's rule is established, governing all people and nations”, a sentiment which would probably be applauded by George Bush, Tony Blair and possibly the Pope himself.

The trouble is, they all have a different idea of what God wants His perfect world to be like, and how His faithful followers should behave.

Believers are notably unfettered by the injunction of their gods to act peacefully and to care for others.

Bloodshed and violence too often characterise the efforts of one religion to stamp out the beliefs of another.

Pope Benedict XVI (nickname - God's Rottweiler) has not confined himself to upsetting Muslims.

On a visit to Auschwitz, he said that the real victims in the Holocaust were not the Jews, but Christianity and God Himself.

Not surprisingly, this was taken as an affront to all the millions who died.

But why should people be surprised if the Pope disapproves of other religions? As evidently as bears are likely to need toilet tissue in the woods, the Pope is a Catholic and, as such, is required to believe that all other religions are wrong, and their followers bound for damnation.

This kind of single-mindedness is by no means confined to Catholicism.

Ask Ian Paisley what he thinks of the Church of Rome.

Ask Ayatollah Khameini if he would convert to Christianity.

Ask any one of the millions of Americans who believe in the literal truth of the Creation myth what they think of Darwinism.

The Anglican church is tearing itself apart in the struggle to accept homosexuality.

Muslim Shariah law condemns anyone who renounces Islam to the death penalty.

The assumption that we cannot live in a moral society without the underpinning sanction of an Almighty God is increasingly undermined by the intolerance and intransigence shown by many religious groups.

In a multi-cultural world, fundamentalist religion is blowing society apart rather than holding it together.

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