Religion: History of Violence

Religion represents one of the oldest institutions that govern social and personal behavior and yet, the history of religion is a history a violence to the extent that a correlation exists between years of wars and countless lost lives in the name of a deluded sense of religious righteousness.

The History of Religion is that of Violence


All major religions, Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism are tainted with violence, vindicating the generalization that violence can be said to be inherent to religion.  Historical reflection will attest that religion and violence are woven together in the tapestry of historical conflict.  Numerous religions have justified violence under certain circumstances, and many more have become caught up in its processes.  Zoroastrianism transformed earlier combat myths into a theology of eternal apocalyptic struggle between god and evil, and ancient Judaism forged a confederation under conditions of war.  Early Christianity had its martyrs, the Medieval Roman Church, its Crusades and Inquisition.  Islam holds within a close association between rulership and religion which, coupled together with the principled of jihad as a vessel of reformation, infuse politics with enduring potential for violence.  Throughout human history, people have killed and been killed in the name of their gods.  Ironically enough, this idealist entity of supreme power and knowledge is intended to serve to strengthen the bonds of solidarity among those who worship the same god.  Nevertheless, this solidarity breeds enmity towards those who worship other gods or worship the same god differently. “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Blaise Pascal, French Philosopher The scriptures of the numerous religious beliefs have served as catalyst for numerous occasions of bloody conflict, as well as existing as an umbrella justification for any potential feuds or divisions that are in need of willing sacrifices from the ignorant masses.  Religion provides rules for social order and government, and those who fail to follow these principles must pay penance or penalty, or else the whole of society, could be visited with disaster.  4 of the first 5 books of the Bible are descriptive of the penalties for not following its rules.  The Old Testament presents God as a virtual punisher for the slightest deviation from his laws.  Pharaoh’s Egypt was visited with 7 plagues for refusing to free the chosen people.  1 of the 10 Commandment speaks of punishment even unto the thirds and fourth generations.  Modern interpretation have not demonstrated peace or acceptance either, as the New Testament speaks of the death of Annias and his wide Sapphira for not disclosing and surrendering to the church the entire sum of money that they had sold their house for.

“Time and time again, we see leaders and members of religions incite aggression, fanaticism, hate and xenophobia – even inspire and legitimize violence and bloody conflict.” – The Declaration of a Global Ethic

Though the diction of the scriptures have vindicated years of violence, as well as illustrating a vengeful and violence god, interpretation and ambition have resulted in religious violence.   Most religions teach that those who have been called, ordained or anointed can also carry out punishment on behalf of god.  This concept of sacrifice, persecution, punishment, and holy war has led to many people believing in their status as the hand/tool of god for such acts of violence.  Yigal Amir, the man responsible for the assassination of the Israeli prime minister, stated that his orders had come from God.  Christian Identity is an organization that believes in full and unrelenting state of war against the US government, illustrated by Kerry Noble who bombed abortion clinics in the name of god.  The teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahani were essentially a direct call for the killing of anti-Semetics, justifying such deeds with Jewish theology, historical precedent and Biblical examples.  It was his teaching that inspired Dr. Baruch Goldstein to slaughter 30 Palestinians and injuring scores more while they were praying at the tomb of Patriarchs in 1994.  The violence and acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland during the revolution were justified to oppose and fight any influence of Protestantism, represented by the British.  Evidently, religion has been a source of righteous justification for the cruelest and unethical actions throughout human history, an unwavering source of fuel for slaughter for any opportunist.

“Once started, religious stride has a tendency to go on and on – to become permanent feuds.  Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places.” – Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia

Religion is the best illustration of the problem with rigid perspective, of unwavering reference points that are picked and chosen by a biased Selectorate.  Religious boundaries separate the supposedly pure and virtuous “us” from the impure and evil “them”.  The people construct religious texts to only include things that they believe to be divine and true, a justification and reinterpretation for the evil and corruption that lay within.  Religion has been used as a tool for manipulation of the people, a tool for the state and church to mold as fuel for the masses.  So saying, religion has serve as a catalyst, a source of motivation, for the benefit of a sect of society that stands casually by as observers of a conflict fueled by blinded belief in a theoretical concept of nothingness.  The evidence of blinded belief is undeniable, as the growth of cults and fanaticism has correlated to demonstrations public violence and mass suicide.  The unwavering stance of religious figures and their believers, though strong in cults, is most eminent in the 30 Years War, the Spanish Inquisitions, and the Crusades.  Besides Western examples, the long divide of the Middle East has perpetuated throughout recorded history, forcing regions into archaic structures of society and no concept of freedom or modernization. Countries within the Middle East have never truly been united, always embroiled in some regional war brought upon by religious animosity most evident in the general Arab-Muslim division.  Moreover, the correlation between violence and religion is further illustrated by the evidence in Central/Northern Europe.  The Scandinavian countries in Northern Europe have been attested at the most democratic and peaceful nations on the world, as well as being home to the largest atheist population in the world.

“As can be seen, therefore, perpetrators of violence must necessarily demonize or discredit their victims to clear their conscience and justify their actions on altruistic or religious grounds.” – David G. Sukhedo

In retrospect, each religion is beholden to its own series of unethical and unjust sources of conflict and wars, resulting in millions of deaths throughout recorded human history.  With a history of interpretation, revision, and translation, religion has been an opium for the masses to flock to in times of need.  A source, a reference, an outlet to which the people are indoctrinated into an unfounded belief in the righteousness of their actions, their scriptures and their interpretation, while criticizing the impurity of religion founded on a parallel series of beliefs in a mosiah and a god.


One response to “Religion: History of Violence

  1. Before we get into this, consider this: where your ideas begin has everything to do with where they end. That is, if I take an evolutionary view of humans, then Darwin dictates that war is over resources. If I take a psychological view of humans, then Freud tells me that war exists due to primal drives. If I take an anti-religious view of humans, then war is the result of a fallacious faith in a nonsensical higher being. Where my views begin has everything to do with where my conclusions will land: this is an essential fact before any dialogue on such issues can begin.

    Beware of “nothing but” statements, for while often sounding quite reasonable, they tend to operate largely as unsubstantiated dismissals and little else. This kind of fight tends to lead nowhere and in fact reflects the bickering partisanship of Congress today: one side throws out a quote or factoid, declaring the other side “nothing but” (fill in the blank) to justify their position, only to have the “other side” do the same, repeating the process ad infinitum. Nobody can learn this way, just shout louder.

    That said, let’s delve into the matter of religion with a quote: “Nothing is ever so Potent, as what has Religion added to it.”

    That is, it’s one thing to tell me as a child to clean my room; it’s quite another to tell me “Cleanliness is next to godliness” (which is not in the Bible, I might add). The first is a command from a parent to a child; the second is an implied condemnation of the highest and most potentially destructive order.

    Religious faith, regardless of one’s personal views, is a remarkably potent agent and one, I would argue, that is largely inescapable for all finite beings. That is, atheists and hardcore scientists make as much a faith of their own views as the most ignorant third-world jihadist with a rifle.

    Consider: the universe is far larger than the human mind can comprehend, and our view of its basic governing laws will constitute our faith whether we call it such or not. The atheist bows down to his own clever repudiations of everyone’s faith just as much as a Christian does before Christ, and the naturalist offers scholarly papers as incense before the altar of scientific opinion as much as the most ardent Catholic priest does at high mass.

    Faith is inescapable; this is because no human being can fully understand the universe that contains him. The basic laws of scientific process are ultimately as unprovable as the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection as a historical event.

    Consider: scientific principle tells me that an experiment today reflects accurately how it would occur a billion years ago, or a billion light-years away today, but there is no way to prove this is so since we can’t go there. I just have to take it on faith, and say that what I can observe points to what I cannot observe – that is, I must move from the known to the unknown.

    So it is on a personal level: I get up tomorrow and put my feet on the ground, and I must have faith that the ground will support me; I drink water and must have faith that my body won’t suddenly consider it poisonous this time. I just have to take it on faith, for there is no other choice if I want to live sanely.

    So if faith is inescapable, then consider what you are putting your faith into, for that is your religion. If you are an agnostic, then it is your concept of absolute truth as being unknowable that is your god; if you are an atheist, it is your belief in your own mind’s grasp of “truth” that you worship; and if you are a fanatic, it is your hatred of “them” and your pride in “us” (along with your complete abdication of self-will, thought, and personal responsibility) that drives your every behavior.

    So, does religion breed violence? Absolutely. Just as much as it fuels kindness, scientific progress, and faith or despair for tomorrow. It is an agent, a powerful catalyst, but no more a fatal ingredient than salt if taken in the right measure.

    To say it fuels only the first (but not the others in equal measure as well) is at best an imbalanced view and at worst, one that is ironically fanatical itself.

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