Friday, August 31, 2007
One of the greatest problems that plagues mankind is violence.
People seem to be very inclined to attack other people. The world wars in the last century killed a total of about 112 million people. In a relatively peaceful year, an estimated 1.6 million people died from violence. Humans probably have about a 10% chance of dying a violent death, although among poor young men the chance is probably much higher. This is in addition to the huge number of people who are maimed, crippled or traumatized by violence. We are plagued by domestic violence, rape, robbery, terrorism, etc. The quality of our lives is greatly diminished by violence.
And then there is the economic cost. Global military spending is over one trillion dollars a year. That’s equal to about $200 per year for every human on the planet. What could be accomplished with that money if it were used to relieve disease and hunger? How many lives could be saved?
Why can’t we stop this madness? Why can’t we all just get along?
That question goes back to Cain and Abel. In fact, chimpanzees, which are similar to humans, sometimes engage in very similar violent behavior. Violence may be very deeply programmed into human neurology. This is all the more worrisome considering the fact that together with other scientific advances of the past few centuries, our weaponry has become hugely more powerful. A violent maniac with a hydrogen bomb is somewhat more dangerous than a maniac with a sword.
So what are we to do? Law enforcement does great work. The United Nations is doing great work. However clearly much more needs to be done to conquer our wild animal nature.
I think I have a solution: God.
We need to educate people from early childhood to realize that there exists a supreme being who is constantly watching them and who will punish them if they commit a violent act. Furthermore, this punishment is inescapable – it will occur after death, if it does not occur in this life.
These are the essentials:
A prohibition of violence
(This is basically what the Noahide Laws amount to.)
Convince people of this you’ve solved the problem.
And I have proof that this works.
The Orthodox Jewish community includes about two million members and we do educate our children to believe this. The number of Orthodox Jews who are currently serving prison terms for violent crimes can probably be counted on ones fingers. (This is in contrast to Christianity, which seems to teach the paramount importance of belief, rather than behavior, and Islam, which seems to teach that God rewards violence - the precise opposite of the truth.)
So what is the rest of humanity waiting for? Let's at last beat our swords into plowshares (Micah 4:3).
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:56 AM