|Spielberg at Auschwitz Memorial|
I know he was not trying to make a controversial religious statement. I rather suspect he was going for the opposite. That is the point. This is the kind of thing people say without thinking about it. I should not pick on Spielberg. Any number of folks are making similar points.
It really does not make any sense. Religion is something extreme. It is the answer to life's biggest questions. What is the meaning and purpose of my life? What happens after I die? How can I know what is highest good or highest truth? If we have answers to these questions they have to have an extreme impact on us. If a religion does not give you something to live for and something to die for then why bother with it?
The truth is that it is the content of the religion that is the problem rather than the intensity of it. That is one of the ways to evaluate a religion. Ask yourself about the people who believe it most intensely. Are they good people or are they scary? Catholicism has its saints. There is no better way to evaluate the faith than looking at the saints. Do you want to be more like they are?
When it comes to violence the key question to ask is if a religion respects the dignity of the human person even if that person does not believe that religion? Do Christians respect non-Christians? Do Jews respect gentiles? Do Muslims respect non-Muslims? How well developed and consistent is this teaching? Does that religious group have a strong consensus around the idea that non-adherents do have the right to live and to put forward ideas that are offensive to their faith?
The reason Spielberg does not go there is obvious. To ask the question is to answer it. They one major religion that lacks that strong consensus is Islam. All other religions seem to have a few people who have gone nuts but very few. The vast majority of even very strong adherents do not believe in violence even against their most offensive opponents.
Islam is a different story. From Al Qaueda or Boko Haram to ISIS to Hamas we have Muslims concluding over and over that violence is the way to go. Even extreme violence against defenseless people. It is not that they are too religious. It is that they have embraced the wrong religion.
Spielberg can't say that. Modern society has as a dogma that all religious are the same. They give you some comfort. They give you some guilt. They give you some holidays. The trouble is it isn't true. They are not all the same.