People hold all sorts of beliefs. Belief systems have powerful influences. But few people resort to extremes such as murder to express what they believe.
This week in London a fanatic killed several people, including a police officer. It transpires that he has a record for violence. He had apparently now adopted a radicalising, fundamentalist version of a world religion.
This was his justification for killing innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before attacking a police officer doing his duty outside Parliament. The place and the deed suggest that this man was acting according to a belief system he had adopted. That there was calculated method, and calculated intent according to an extreme religious agenda.
That he certainly believed. But which came first, the belief or the mentality of the man in question?
In fact, he was already someone with a criminal mindset. His attitude was that others don’t count.
Given that the vast majority of people of his espoused religion do not commit acts of murder, it does rather beg the question. Which actually comes first, the belief system or the attitude with which the belief is held ?
It seems to me that the attitude and mentality of the man was susceptible to selecting for himself a particular take on a particular religion in order to justify his evil mindset.
We all know from history that there are many belief systems, particularly in religion and in politics, which have seen extreme adherents doing unspeakable acts against their fellow human beings, justifying all the while their evil by reference to their belief.
Yet the vast majority of people holding that belief do not behave in such ways.
Of course all belief systems are intended to provide a framework for our thinking and our behaviour. We all recognise instinctively those tenets of a belief which encourage socially minded thinking and behaviour, and those that do not.
A system of belief which does not intend to answer the questions about the way we live is really of no value at all. And will be seen as such.
As someone who believes that the Christian faith in its early simplicity provides the most pertinent insights and advice, I note that Jesus Christ its founder spoke primarily to mindset, to attitude.
And that his teaching in general may be summed up in the words – a summary of his own words – love God and love others.