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.
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.