Religion's Role

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech this week was a model of leadership at its best. (See excerpt, this page.) He eloquently explained why action against those behind the Sept. 11 attacks is not only justified, but imperative.

Near the end of his speech, Mr. Blair touched on an important theme. He noted that Osama bin Laden is "no more obedient to the proper teaching of the Koran" than Christian crusaders were to the gospels of Jesus in their bloodthirsty conquests of the Holy Land in the 12th century.

Both Mr. bin Laden and the Crusaders thought God was only on their side - a fundamental error that spans centuries. The error of confusing divine will with a human passion for power, and trying to pretend God is a political ally, only denies God as being omniscient and all-loving.

There's a vast difference between saying God is on one side, and humbly seeking divine guidance and wisdom. The former leads to dogmatism and blindness. The latter brings enlightened action - action that's both humane and effective for all.

Part of the work of the new century should be to put an end to the idea that religion is a source of war. The opposite is nearer the truth - religion is a source of peace.

Blair noted a need for better relations among Muslims, Christians, and Jews: "This is the moment to bring the faiths closer together in understanding our common values and heritage, a source of unity and strength."

The British leader also hoped that a meaningful memorial to those who died on Sept. 11 would be "that out of the shadow of this evil should emerge lasting good."

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