Religion: Islam and Violence

After the events of September 11th, the issue of Islam and violence once again came into intense discussion and debate because of its historic correlation to jihad, intolerance and terrorism.

With the Qur'an as Justification, Islam has Massacred Millions

Not aimed at presenting an ‘Islamphobia’ post, this post aims at presenting the religious dimension of violence that goes back to the heart and origin of Islam.  Despite various political, socio-economic and cultural factors contributing to the rise of violence and terrorism in fundamental Islam (as with all religions), Muslims who commit acts of violence and terror in the name of Allah can find ample justification for their actions based on the open-ended verses and teachings of the Qur’an and the saying of Muhammad (Hadith).  Islam’s doctrines and texts are associated with violence, with laws requiring the eradication of what is considered evil by Islamic standard and law, sometimes using violent means.  Throughout history, Islam’s religious texts or precepts have been used to promote violence.  Classically, and in the modern era, Muslims and their leaders, including a large number of jurists, have upheld Islamic ideas, concepts, texts and themes to justify warfare against non-Muslims.  Some suggest that the Qur’an contains at least 109 verses that call Muslims to war with non believers for the sake of Islamic rule, verses that are mostly open-ended and therefore are not restrained by historical context of the surrounding text.  To offer a general illustration of the inherent relationship, it would do to point out that the root word for Islam is al-Slim which means submission or  surrender.  The Qur’an not only calls Muslim to submit to Allah, it also commands them to subdue people of other religions until they are in a full state of submission to Islamic rule.  Evidently, this has inspired the aggressive history of Islam and its success in conquering other cultures.

“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the place whence they drove you out, for persecution of Muslims is worse than slaughter of non-believers, but they desist, then lo!  Allah is forgiving and merciful!  And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah.” – Qur’an 2:191-193

Many claim that the verses in support of fighting in the Qur’an were for a special historical situation concerning the beginning of Islam.  They argue that since prophet Muhammad was persecuted in Mecca for the first 13 years of his ministry, he was justified in his military actions in the last 10 years of his life in Medina and for the support of the budding Islamic movement.  The problem arises however in that nowhere in the Qur’an are the commands to fight restricted to a special time period of against a special group of people.  Far from being mere history or theological construct, the violent verses of the Qur’an have played a key role in very real massacres and genocide.  This includes the brutal slaughter of tens of millions of Hindus for 5 Centuries beginning around 1000 AD with the Mahmud of Ghazni’s blood conquest.  Both he and the later Tamerlane (Islam’s Genghis Khan) slaughtered an untold number of men, women and children.  Muhammad was a military leader, laying siege to towns, massacring the men, raping their women and enslaving their children.  On several occasions he rejected offers of surrender from the besieged inhabitants and even butchered captives.  One prominent example is of the Qurayza Jews, who were completely obliterated only 5 years Muhammad arrived in Medina.  Their leader opted to stay neutral when their town was besieged by a Meccan army.  The tribe had killed no one from either side and even surrendered peacefully to Muhammad after the Meccans had been turned back.  Yet the prophet of Islam had every member of the Qurazya tribe beheaded, and every woman and child enslaved.  He actually inspired his followers to battle when they did not feel it was right to fight, promising them slaves and loot if they did and threatening them with Hell if they did not.  Evidently, Muslim armies waged aggressive campaigns and the religion’s most dramatic military conquests were made by the actual companions of Muhammad in the decades that followed his death.

“In the Jihad which you are seeking, you look for an enemy and invade him.  This type of Jihad takes place only when the Islamic state is invading other countries in order to spread the word of Islam and remove the obstacles in its way.” – Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Egyptian Islamic theologian

Aiming to avoid a concentrated view on the historic study of Islam’s birth through blood and genocide, Islam as an ideology brings contempt and violence as well.  That Islam sees itself as a theocracy has enormous ramifications for how it regards itself and for the behavior of Muslims.  First it means that Islam is not only a religion but also a political ideology, as Muhammad was a political, military and religious leader.  If the government of the Muslim community is simply God’s community, then no other governments can be legitimate.  Thus, they are all at war with God and as a result, Muslims have divided the world into two spheres known as Dar al-Islam – “the house of Islam” – and Dar al-Harb – those who are at war with God.  Second, it means that Muslims have believed themselves to have manifest destiny.  Since God must win in the end, the Dar al-Harb must be brought under the control of the Muslim government and made part of the Dar al-Islam.  Third, since the Dar al-Harb by its nature is at war with God, it is unlikely that it will submit to God without a fight.  Individual groups might be convinced to lay down their arms and join the Muslim community by various forms of pressure – economic or military.  Because of the need to expand God’s domain by wars of conquest, Islam’s ideology imposes on Muslim the duty to fight for God’s community.  This duty is known as Jihad.  The concept of holy fight or struggle has been particularly incumbent on those on the edges of the Muslim world, where there was room for expansion.  Though highly radical, 9/11 still serves as an example of the intrinsic violence involved in fundamentalism, as the terrorists believed their sacrifices as a just part of Jihad.

“He (the Messenger of Allah) did that and said ‘There is another act which elevated the position of a man in Paradise to a grade on hundred higher, and the elevation between one grade and another is equal to the height of heaven from the earth’.  He (Abu Sa’id) said: ‘What is that act?’  He replied: ‘Jihad in the way of Allah!  Jihad in the way of Allah'” – Muslim 20:4645

The examples of international directed violence committed in the name of Islam is endless.  The affiliation of violence and this religion is made most evident by the religious organizations associated with Islam; Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah.  The acquisition of the enormous land that belonged to the caliphates was through military force and the brutal suppression of opposition.  However, the golden age of the Muslim Empire began to dwindle after the death of Muhammad.  Following his death, there lacked a clear line of succession which resulted in perpetual internal war.  Sunni and Shia Islam are two major denominations of Islam and therefore, for the sake of simplicity, this post will focus on their internal violence as an illustration of the evident nature of bloodshed that is inherent to Islam.  Sunnis believe that abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad’s wide Aisha, was Muhammad’s rightful successor and that the method of choosing or electing leading endorsed by the Qur’an was in the consensus of the Ummah, the Muslim community.  Shias believe that Muhammad divinely ordained his cousin and son-in-law Ali (the father of his grandsons Hasan ibn Ali and Hussein ibn Ali) in accordance with the command of God to be the next Caliph making Ali and his direct descendants Muhammad’s successors.  This difference has resulted in a jagged schism that has left Shias and Sunnis at odds to this day.

“They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing: But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay they wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.” – Qur’an 4:89

The Battle of Siffin was the first open hostility between the two sects.  It was fought between Ali and Muawiyah I, on the banks of the Euphrates river.  Following the controversial murder of Uthman ibn Affan, Ali became Caliph but struggled to be accepted as such throughout the Muslim Empire.  Muawiyah, the governor of Syria, was a kinsman of the murdered Caliph, and wanted the murderers brought to justice.  For this reason, Muawiyah rebelled against Ali, who attempted to put down the rebellion.  The battle ended in stalemate and in thousands of casualties.  To the Shia, Ali was the first Imman.  To the Sunnis, Ali was the fourth Caliph Rashidun Caliph, and Muawiyah was the First Caliph of the Ummayyad dynasty.  The event surrounding the battle are highly controversial between Sunni and Shia, and serve as part of the split between the two groups.  More modern examples of the violence conflict are seen in Libya, Syria and Iraq.  In Libya, the tribal organization of the region has left the transitional government unable to stabilize the country because the different Islamist sects are raiding each other’s territories.  In Syria, the opposition forces are mainly Sunni Muslim whereas the leading government figures are Alawite, affiliated with Shia Islam.  As a result the opposition is winning support from the Sunni Muslim states and the regime is publicly supported by the Shia dominated Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah.  The division of Sunni and Shia Islam is also demonstrated in post-US Iraq, in which over 1,000 people have died because of a new wave of sectarian violence.  After the election of the Iraqi Transitional Government, a wave of suicide bombers, believed to be mainly disheartened Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Syrians and Saudis tore through Iraq.  Their targets were often Shia gatherings or civilian concentrations of Shias.

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.” – Qur’an 5:33

The intolerance and hypocritical nature of Islam is evident by it Qur’an verses and history. Islam is intolerant towards the notion of gender equality.  Islam is militaristic, considering Muhammad organized 65 military campaigns in the last 10 years of his life and personally led 27 of them.  Islam is intolerant to other religions, as they discouraged such practices by slaughtering them by masses.  Islam also permitted ownership of slaved the freedom to sexually exploit slaves.  Moreover, despite the fact that Islam prohibits the killing of innocent people, the definition of innocent is rather flexible and has been graded down to the fundamental rule that if someone rejects Muhammad, they are no longer innocent.  Lastly, the incompatibility of Islam and Democracy is also noteworthy, as it bespeaks of its intolerance and tendency to favor dictatorships, repressive regimes and widespread inequality.  Under Islamic law, only Muslim males are entitled to full rights.  Islam is a theocratic system with Allah alone at is head.  Allah’s law is interpreted by a ruling body of cleric.  There is not room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.  The price of challenging Islam is seen by various modern examples of its violent practices.  Hashem Aghajari, an Iranian professor, was given a death sentence because of a speech that criticized some of the present Islamic practices.  Theo van Gogh was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri for producing the 10-minute film Submission, critical of the abusive treatment of women by Muslims.  Ehsan Jami was nearly beaten to death in The Netherlands by 3 Muslims for his activities in the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims.  Of course, the more resonating example of Islamic terror and suppression is the Ayatollah of Iran.  Along with announcing Jihad against the US, he has also carried out such practices against Kurds in Iran and categorized the Iran-Iraq war as holy war.  The Ayatollah, along with many Wahhabi fundamentalists, have vocalized their belief in world domination through the Islamic faith; thus, the violent nature of Islam becomes rather apparent.


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Religion: Judaism and Violence

Unlike other ancient Near Eastern religions, Judaism introduced the Hebrew God as unitary and solitary, thus juxtaposing a new era of monotheistic against the polytheistic religions, as well as introducing scriptures and religious texts rationalizing laws of siege, wars of extermination, and Zionist assassinations.

The Chosen People Have Existed on the Ashes of Past Empires

Judaism is a monotheistic religion, claiming a historical continuity spanning more than 3,000 years.  It is one of the oldest monotheistic religions, and the oldest one to survive into the present day; having faced ethnic, religious and cultural wars throughout its history.  Many suggest that its survival can be attributed to its violent nature and willingness to use violent means to eradicate enemies.  As with other major religions, the rationalization of violence is associated with the doctrines and texts.  Judaism is no exception, in that the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament hold repeated references and descriptions of the power and glory of Israel’s God in languages of violence.  The scriptures contain thousands of passages referring to Yahweh as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and more than 100 passages involve divine commands to kill humans.  Since its beginning efforts to propagate and expand its religious beliefs, Judaic violence has been concentrated on nationhood and its inherent need to seek international recognition.  The existence of Israel among numerous volatile neighboring countries of Islamist origin, only begins to describe the animosity that exists in the tense region.

“Jews and Christian who smugly console themselves that Islam is the only violent religion are willfully ignoring their past.  Nowhere is the struggle between faith and violence described more vividly, and with more stomach-turning details of ruthlessness, than in the Hebrew Bible.” – Bruce Feiler, American Author

Much violence in Judaism stems from the belief that violence is condoned in the form of human sacrificed, violence against other religions or unbelievers, and the most common perception of the Jewish struggle for nationhood.  Followers of the Abraham religions believe that God accepts human sacrifice when he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  When Moses gathered the Semetic tribes together, it was their religious instructions to wage war against the people who were living in what is now called Palestine, kill them all and take their land, because they were not believers in the Hebrew God.  According to the commandment of Milkhemet Mitzvah, war refers to a war during the times of the Bible when a king would go to war in order to fulfill something based on, and required by, the Torah.  In this sense, the text limits violence to defensive tactics, as anything non-defensive needs prior approval by a High Priest.  Nevertheless, as ambiguous a statement as ‘Interest of National Security’, religious perspective of ‘Defensive Violence’ has been extremely flexible.  The Tanakh contains commandment that require the Israelites to exterminate 7 Canaanite nations, and describes several wars of extermination that annihilated entire cities and groups of peoples.  Several scholars have characterized the exterminations as a genocide, supported by the Judaic scriptures that ordered Israelite not to leave anything that breathed alive.  Among the rationalizations for the extreme violence is a passage that suggests that if Judaic followers were to not strike out against the Canaanite nation, they would sin against their own Hebrew God.  Evidently, the threat of sinning against their own God rationalized a supposed preemptive genocide against 7 tribes of peoples.

“It is the law to kill anyone who denies the Torah.  The Christians belong to the denying ones of the Torah.” – Coschen hamischpat 435 Hagah 425. 5

Coupled together with the commandment to exterminate the Amalekites, there does exist a correlation between such violent attitudes and the modern era. The commandment to exterminate the Amalekites was given under the premise that if they were to rescind on their duty to pay a tax to the Jewish Kingdom, the Jewish army would be obligated in killing all the Amalekites, including women and children.  Mush of this animosity from Jewish fundamentalism is considered to be the source for much antagonism between Judaism and other cultures.  The divide between Palestine and Israelis is seen as a perpetuation of the extermination wars, as many suggest the Palestinians are like the Canaanites or Amalekites, vindication an inferred duty to make merciless war against Arabs who reject Jewish sovereignty.  This brewing conflict between Judaism and Islam, most evidently embodied by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has widespread effect throughout the Middle East and exists throughout the past of the Judaic religion.  Zionists believe that they can hasten the coming of the Messiah by seeking to establish the state of Israel by the violent Mosaic method.  According to their religious prophecy, the Messiah would arrive in Jerusalem; therefore, the reason for the eternal conflict between the Jews and Arabs is evident.  This division of the two is demonstrated by Abraham’s banishment and disinheritance of Ishmael, progenitor of the Arabs, and the appointment of Isaac, progenitor of the Jews.

“This is a message to all leaders of the Jewish people not to be compassionate with those who shoot [rockets] at civilians in their houses. If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill 1,000.  And if they don’t stop after 1,000, then we must kill 10,000.  If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000.  Even a million.  Whatever it takes to make them stop.” – Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safed

The battle for sovereignty, the general statement of recognized nationhood by all neighbors, has brought the Jewish nation of Israel into multiple climatic battles with the Islamic world.  Despite the political and military implication for the wars, there does exist a strong theological justification for violence, used by Israel and Palestine, against each other; as in both their religions, the religion and nationhood are inexplicably linked to the land.  The combination of Religion, People and Land equals the horizontal legitimacy necessary for a nation to exist.  Because they are different religions, different people and different nations fighting for the same land, the inherent violence conflict cannot be circumvented.  The rivalry between to two religions is demonstrated by the 4 wars waged against Israel: 1948 War of Independence, 1956 Sinai War, 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.  Much of the antagonizing and fault is laid to blame on Islam, and will evaluated in a following post on Islam to be later published, but the general religious volatility of the region between the Jews and Arabs is the rot for such bloody and ruthless violence, thus giving credibility to the general thesis that there exists an intrinsic relationship between religion and violence.

“All the nasty people who hate on Israel, like Abu Mazen [Abbas], vanish from our world… May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel.” – Ovadia Yosef, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel

The influence of religion on radical sects and individuals is open to interpretation, but the manipulation of religious message has been utilized by many as justification for slaughter and murder, but leaving the perpetrators with a clean conscience.  Many Zionist leaders rely on religious doctrines for justification for the violent treatment of Arabs in Palestine, citing examples where pre-state Jewish militia used verses from the Bible to justify their violent acts, which included explusions and massacres such as the one at Deir Yassin.  Moreover, the teaching of Rabbi Meir Kahani were essentially a call for the killing of anti-Semetics, and were justified such deeds with Jewish theology, historical precedents 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.  Even the assassination of Prime Minister Rabid was seen as a sacred act in destroying someone, even their own leader, who committed a supposed heretical act in that he surrendered biblical lands to the Arabs.  The assassination was carried out by Yigal Amir, who was motivated by his political views and his understanding of Judaism’s religious law of moiser (the duty to eliminate a Jew who intends to turn another Jew into a non-Jewish authority, thus putting a Jews’s life in danger) and rodef (a bystander can kill one who is pursuing to murder him or her if he cannot otherwise be stopped).

“So Joshua smote all the land, the hill-country, and the South, and the Lowland, and the slopes, and all of their kings; he left none remaining; but he utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD, the God of Israel, commanded.” – Joshua 10:28-42

In retrospect, Judaism has been a source of major bloodshed and prejudicial violence, mimicking many other major religions in their conquest to be the dominant monotheistic religion.  The violence between Islam and Judaism is forefront in public media because of its climatic perpetuation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the growing nuclear threat of Iran.  Nevertheless, it’s the religious scriptures about Abraham, the common denominator of both religions, that has somehow set these religions apart.  Furthermore, its is scripture and justified violence that has allowed many individuals to abuse the delusions of others and manipulate them into actions of unjust nature that only increase the severity of the growing divide between Jews and Arabs, as well as illustrating the overall stubbornness of religious sects.  It is the concept of holy lands and holy peoples, which have been forgotten individually except for biased interpretative scriptures, that has driven religions into ceaseless war.  Judaism has beliefs in human sacrifice for the coming of their peaceful God, yet the contradiction seems inherent in that a peaceful God is summoned by the murder of thousands of innocents.  Nonetheless, if the religious scriptures say so, then it must be true; because there can clearly be no other way except for that of the Hebrew Bible and its Chosen People.

Religion: Christianity and Violence

As of the early 21st Century, Christianity has approximately 2.2 billion adherent, representing about a quarter to a third of the world’s population and is the world’s largest religion; thus, based on the premise presented in the previous blog, Christianity can be considered one of the largest sources for justifying violence.

Christianity's Compassion, Love and Acceptance are Contradicted by Years of Violence and Death

Though there are many differences of interpretation and opinion of the Bible on which Christianity is based, resulting in multiple divides in Christian faith into sub divisional religions, the set core of beliefs and ethics of this major religion has sparked and/or contributed to the outbreak of violence.  So saying, the foundation of many of its subset religions, such as Protestantism has come at the cost of millions of lives.  The division was more recently portrayed in the civil war in Northern Ireland, in which Scottish and Welsh Protestants were arriving in a predominantly Catholic country.  Christianity is a religion in which historical reflection will portray internal division and war that has cost the lives of millions of individuals due to divergent interpretation of a book that speaks of necessary violence and sacrifice.  Moreover, these bitter divisions have no real claim of vindication once taken into consideration the fact that all Christian faiths share the same set of core values; thus illustrating the reality that millions of lives were lost because of a deluded disagreement between like-minded individuals.  This division is only brought about by religion and its blinded followers.  Christianity, despite its supposed premise of compassion and acceptance, is widely considered the bloodiest faith and has the most turbulent influence on civilizations throughout historical recordings.

“Among the intellectual elite in the Western cultural milieu the contemporary coupling of religion and violence feeds most decisively on the memories of the wars that plagued Europe from the 1560s to the 1650s, in which religion was the burning motivation, the one that inspired fanatical devotion and the most vicious hatred.” – Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale University

The relationship of Christianity and violence is the subject of controversy because on view is that Christianity advocates peace, love and compassion while it is also viewed as a violent religion.  Throughout history, certain teachings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian theology have been used to justify the use of force against conceived notions of heretics, sinners and external enemies.  The need for justification is surely an example of the falsehoods represented by religion.  This justification leads to a supposed clean conscience in which followers are eased into a false sense of complacency, believing that their use of violence to kill, cheat and steal are justified under the word of god.  This belief has morphed into the just war theory, a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin which holds that a violent conflict should meet philosophical, religious or political criteria.  This sense of right and wrong is weaved around a fallible religion that justified the violence during the Inquisitions, Crusades, wars of religion and Antisemitism.  To this list, cannot be forgotten the warrior pops, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’, justification of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men.

“The bible is easily one of the most violent religious books in existence.  Blow for blow it outshines even Islam in sheer brutality and in the advocation of race based on mass genocide.” – Bhagwad Jal Park, Journalist  

The root of violence in religion also includes a correlation between nationalistic violence and nationalistic conquest.  In Ireland, although nationalism appears to be the motive behind the Catholic-Protestant conflict, at the heart of the problem exists a religious dispute that was sparked a year previous by the British encouragement of Protestants from Scotland and England to settle in the Catholic dominated Northern Irish counties.  The result was tension between two peoples of different religious labels.  Moreover, most of the activists of the IRA are strong members of the Catholic Church, whole those that oppose vociferously are Protestant ministers.  Religion provided the resources for the violence, as well as the moral justification by allowing activists to believe that nationalism and religion are intrinsically related, and fighting for one was also fighting for another.  This form of religious violence, that based on competition, can organize broader social boundaries and thus crystallize nationalist conflicts.  In the West alone, evidence is apparent in the factions among the 5th Century Christian that sought to prevent opponents from venturing out of their monastic domains, skirmished among rival Protestant groups during the English civil war, and Protestant violence towards Catholics in the 19th century US.  So saying, the above examples clearly establish the internal animosity between the different sects of Christianity, a bitter division that led to the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572 and costing almost 30,000 lives of French Huguenots.

“Religion can become a tool of conquest, both through cultural hegemony, and more materially, by settling and organizing populations in colonized territory.  Even if religion is not directly involved in the exercise of violence to secure and control territory, to the degree that it sacralizes a political regime, it lends legitimacy to that regime and thus functionally support the regime violence.” – Michele Dilon, Handbook of the Sociology of Religion

The use of religion as a justification for violence, as tool for competition and conquest is prevalent throughout the ages, serving to scapegoat the minority and manipulate the masses towards an end presumably for the greater good of the religion.  The Crusades was a stark example of Christianity’s apparent role in colonization, the abuse of foreign peoples and lands for the benefit of those opportunists able to rise through the religious bureaucracy.  St. Bernard de Clairvaux promoted a fusion between military organization and religious order during the Crusades, arguing that a member of a crusading order serves his own interest in dying and Christ’s interest in killing.  So saying, the Crusades and especially the Iberian reconquista provided the original template for subsequent European colonization.  Roman Catholicism sanctions state violence, evident with the papal bulls that authorized Henry the Navigator to enslave peoples he encountered on his voyages to convert and combat the supposed infidel.  This pattern of conquest continued throughout the Americas and soon religion became a subordinate partner for purposes of moral justification.  In the spread of Portuguese and Spanish empires to the Americas, violence was the prerogative of this expansionary state, and conquest was first and foremost a military achievement.

“Curse the unbelievers, don’t let them live any longer, the evil-doers who turn away from God.  For a godless man has no right to live if he hinders the godly.  The sword is necessary to exterminate them if they resist, the ungodly have no right to live, save what the Elect choose to allow them.  Now, go at them…it is time..the scoundrels are as dispirited as dogs.  Take no notice of the lamentations of the godless!  They will beg you, don’t be moved by pity.  At them!  At them!”- Thomas Muentzer

To illustrate the statistics related to killings in the name of Christianity, this paragraph will pool together the event and casualties.  The Crusades, mainly from 1095-1272, killed more than 1 million innocent men, women and children, none of which were involved in combat.  In 1209, Pope Innocent III called for a crusade to exterminate the Cathar people of France, mainly because they had different superstitious beliefs than his own.  Estimated suggest that 200,000 women and children were butchered.  During the Inquisition, another 350,000 were approximated to have been killed.  During the witch-hunt, some estimated are as high as 1 million innocents, though some are range it around 100,000.  The witch-hunts were perhaps Christianity’s worst crime, considering the ludicrous notions in which these individuals were accused of and then killed for.  During the colonization of North and South America, 14 million natives were estimated to have been killed.  Coupled with the slave trade that claimed the lives of an additional 17 million Africans, the bible’s words seem to have been christened in the blood of its victims.

“The Church started killing unbelievers as early as the 4th Century.  The killing (often with torture) of heretics, church splinter groups, dissenters, atheists, agnostics, deists, pagans, infidels and unbelievers was supported by almost all mainstream Christian theology for over a thousand years, starting with the intolerant St. Augustine.” – Mark Humphry

In conjunction, the Christian faith has been plagued with internal divisions since its establishment, which goes to argue that if the religion cannot make peace with followers of a like-minded set of core beliefs then there is no hope of its compassion to religions such as Judaism and Islam.  The development of antisemitism arose from the Christian faith, the first depiction of such discriminatory violence was taken by Pope Innocent III who believed that rampant disease and epidemics in medieval Christianity were caused maliciously by Jews, resulting in the burning of Jewish men, women and children.  The later reformations represented by Martin Luther and John Calvin did not present the Jews with any relief, as both men were staunch anti-Semites.   The thousand years of killing and prosecuting Jews did reach a climax, the rise in Christian led antisemitism led to the Holocaust.  In the mid-20th Century the Roman Catholic church had a fundamental dislike of democracy and religious freedom, and was searching for an alternative.  After coming to power in 1933, Hitler’s first foreign treaty of all was with Pope Pius VII in 1933, granting Hitler’s new regime international credibility and recognition.  Hitler was baptized a Catholic and attended Catholic schools and churches in Austria.  Hitler repeatedly wrote and said that he was on a divine mission from God to destroy the Jews.  Moreover, during the series of invasions that marked the beginning years of World War II, the Catholic Church did support Hitler’s fight against Jewish Bolshevism and remained separate from state actions during the genocide of Jews at the concentration camps, aware of the atrocities.

“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter.  It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by only a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they are and summoned men to fight against them and who was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.  How terrific was the fight for the world against the Jewish poison.” – Adolf Hitler

The embroiled conflict between the Middle East and Christianity is evident to even the most arrogant and deluded person, considering the sequence of events succeeding the Crusades.  Coupled together with Western imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa for purposes of exploitation and power all sanctified under interpretations of religious scriptures, the animosity between religious is evident.  Rather than focusing solely on past examples, events beginning after World War II and on have supplied numerous examples of Christian violence.  In Turkey, the country has been divided ethnically since its foundation after World War I, leaving a nation torn into regions by religious strife.  The new Egypt has come under siege of religious conflict between the Coptic sect of Christianity and the predominantly Islamist majority of the nation.  Moreover, British and US intervention in Iran before its transition under the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis was source of major strife and tension because of Christian influence entering a Islamic nation.  Lastly, animosity between the two religions was seen during the heightened controversy after a Florida pastor threatened to burn the Qur’an; which was later escalated by the burning of numerous copies of the holy book by American soldiers.

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.