Religion and Violence: I Don't Get It

WHY

God is the almighty ruler of the earth, blessed be God. God has commanded us. We must burn your home and kill you in the name of God.

I'm sorry, I don't get it.

Where is the circuit breaker that fires off in the brain, creating the bizarre reasoning that lets a person harm other persons in the name of God?

Fundamentalism

The term, 'religious fundamentalism' seems to occur very frequently in various forms in news articles about terrorist attacts, genocide, and the other kinds of violent behavior. Religious fundamentalism is defined as "a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles" by the Mirriam Webster Online Dictionary. In an article at http://www.catholic.com/ , a characteristic of protestant Christian fundamentalism is an enforced conformity, whereas if one does not dress, act, and/or speak the same as everyone else in the fundamentalist community, that person is pressured to leave.

Don't get me wrong - fundamentalism in and of itself is not evil. It is the intolerance that sometimes comes from fundamentalism that is evil. It all comes down to, "We're right and everyone else is wrong," or, to put it another way, "If you're not with us, you're against us." It is intolerance, simply stated. Intolerance of difference. "Our way or the highway."

So what of the people who choose 'the highway?' The fundamentalist must view those people as "other." Here I think is the root of the issue, since it is the ability to label one's enemy as "other" that permits the suspension of morality that allows one to do anything they want to their enemy. "They're not people, they're [sinners / blashphemers / heretics / witches / infidels / animals]." Once you have changed a person into an abomination, you can feel justified in torturing and killing them, so the reasoning seems to go.

Author Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalist movements as "embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" - for example, the fear that another religion will make inroads on their own religion, such as is occuring in India and has occured in Pakistan.

Christian Persecution in India and Pakistan

As of October 18th, 2008, Christian Bishops in India said that at least 60 Christians have been killed because they were ... Christians. Chistianity is a prosyletizing religion, and in India, as part of their mission to convert people to Christianity, Christians offer free education and heatlh care. Hardline Hindus say this incentive has drawn lower caste Hindus and tribespeople to convert. Christians comprise less than 3 percent of the population. When a prominent Hindu holy man was slain, the Christians were blamed. That's when the killing started. Reportedly thousands of Christians have fled into the forests and are now living in primitive conditions for fear of their lives.

In every culture, it seems that the majority finds it easy to blame the minority for anything that might be wrong. This, of course, is illogical. Logically, the majority must carry the majority of the blame for the bad things and not just pride itself on taking the credit for the majority of the good things.

In Pakistan, in 2002, Muslims attacked a Christian school and hospital in retaliation for the U.S. led war in Afghanistan. Their thinking was that since most Americans are Christian, and America is their enemy, Christians must be their enemy by association. "If you're not with us, you're against us." Black and white, but no shades of gray.

Religious Terrorism

The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance write that it is wrong to use the terms Islamic fundamentalist and Islamic terrorist interchangeably. They say that only a very small minority of Islamic fundamentalists are terrorists, and most Islamic fundamentalists are strict adherents to the teachings of Mohammed.

Although this may be true, most Islamic terrorists are Islamic fundamentalists, and they get all the news. Islamic fundamentalists who are not terrorists get almost no press.

Perhaps the most currently famous inflictors of religiously inspired violence are the Taliban who are reportedly regaining their strength in Afghanistan and attempting to break off a piece of Pakistan to form an independent Islamic state.

Islam does not have a monopoly on terrorism. The Jewish Defense League is considered a right wing terrorist organization by the FBI. There are Christian terrorists, too (the Klu Klux Klan, for example).

The terrorists generally come from oppressed environments where there is little opportunity for systematic peaceful change through elections or any kind of representative government. Sources agree that terrorism is motivated primarily by political aims and goals, not religion, yet religion is the tool that the terrorists use to recruit their combatants and to justify their actions. I submit that terrorism that is justified by religion cannot be wholly separated from that religion, and that those who practice said religion must stop and examine their beliefs, find out what it is that throws the mental circuit breaker that turns a fundamentalist into a fundamentalist terrorist.

Comments 12 comments

fishskinfreak2008 profile image

fishskinfreak2008 7 years ago from Fremont CA

Very thought-provoking hub. I don't get what drives religious extremism either


thirdjihad 7 years ago

I think its pretty clear that there is one religion today that poses a clear and present danger to the world - Radical Islam. http://www.thethirdjihad.com/


Onusonus profile image

Onusonus 7 years ago from washington

I dont believe that Christian fundamentalism falls into the same category simply because of the principle of forgivness. To forgive is a divine trait in that dispite other people's flaws you make the choice to allow the offender to reclaim their humanity in your eyes. Dispite weather or not they even ask for forgivness, they maintain their humanity.

And as for conformity, I don't think the children of israel had a problem with conformity when the Red Sea was parted.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Any religion that says, "My way of looking at the universe is correct and yours is not" has the potential to lapse into violence. It is this narrowmindedness that permits the labelling of others as somehow less than human. In most cases, the violence is not based on any forgiveable offense. The victim just happens to believe something other than what is permissable in the fundamentalists' view.

Radical Islam gets the most press.


Onusonus profile image

Onusonus 7 years ago from washington

Not so, My religion's way of looking at the universe I believe to be most correct. However all men are entitled to their agency, because God has so ordained it. He has constituted mankind Moral agents, and given them power to choose good over evil; to seek after that which is good, by pursuing the pathway of holines in this life, which brings piece of mind, and joy in the Holy Ghost here and a fulness of joy and happiness at his right hand hearafter; or to persue an evil course, going on in sin and rebelion against God, thereby bringing condemnation to their soulss in this world and eternal loss in the world to come.

And though I may think that I am right without deviation, I claim the right to worship almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience, I allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. While at the same time being subject to Kings presidents, rulers, and magistrates; and honoring, obeying, and sustaining the laws of the land.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Onusonus, please correct me, but I do not think you are not saying, "My way is correct and yours is not." You seem to be saying, "My way is correct for me, but others may have ways that are correct for them." That would be religious tolerance.

Also, it sounds like your religion is Christianity, and that your kind of Christianity is based on forgiveness, tolerance, and obedience to those in authority. Klu Klux Klan members also profess to be Christian, but they are not like you. They think that God endorses their hate and their infliction of terror.

The same is true in Islam. The great majority of devout Islamic fundamentalists are very much opposed to violence, yet a tiny minority of Islamic fundamentalists are among the most violent people on earth.

My article asks how the same religion can produce people who love and people who hate, and provides the hypothesis that maybe, because most of the hating seems to occur among Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu fundamentalists, that fundamentalism itself might have something to do with it. I do go further to say that a lack of openmindedness might be a factor, as evidenced by a tendancy by some fundamentalists of all these religions to shun or ostracize non-conformists.

My article does not say that fundamentalism itself is bad. It does say that fundamentalism should perhaps try to find out why this small minority goes bad in the name of their religion, if for no other reason than militant religious radicalism can give any religion a bad name.


viralprospector profile image

viralprospector 7 years ago from DFW Texas

Tom;

You say some very wise things in this hub, but I think that gets lost as you then try to connect those things to reality through an incorrect path of things.

Here is the main thing you are missing. It is in relation to Islam. Islam is the only religion that has in its holy book (in this case the Quran) the command to kill all others. That is why Islamic fundamentalists are seen as terrorists. They are doing exactly as they are commanded. Thus Muslim fundamentalists alone are violent. No ther religious fundamentalists are violent.

The exact opposite of Islam holds true for Christians. God's command and Jesus' reinforcement is "thou shalt not kill." It is a complex string of events from the Old Testament to the New Testament. It would be a bit lengthy to complete all of that chain. I would just recommend reading the Bible or searching it on a site like bible.org.

Christian fundamentalists believe they should not kill. What's wrong with that? The Ku Klu Klan are not Christian fundamentalists, and don't go get people who say they are. I know people say that, but they are only fundamentally wrong. That means the Klan are anti Christian fundamentalists, I guess.

Here is what I have a problem with in your hub (your comments are in quotes, and my replies are not),

"Don't get me wrong - fundamentalism in and of itself is not evil."

I agree totally. If Muslims are told to kill all others, then their fundamentalists should do just that. If Christainity is told thou shalt not kill, then they should do that.

"It is the intolerance that sometimes comes from fundamentalism that is evil."

 That is a paradox is all. I just said that fundamentalists do as they are commanded in the case of Islam and Christianity. There is no Christian evil, except disobedience which would be the opposite of fundamentalism. Therefore you err when you made that leap of understanding.

"It all comes down to, "We're right and everyone else is wrong," or, to put it another way, "If you're not with us, you're against us."

That is not fundamentalism at all. Nothing about fundamentalism has anything to do with how to treat others per se. The Bible commands a very tolerant treatment of others. There is not any 'with us' and 'against us' in the Bible. It is with God or against God. Christians are born of unity, not division. Anyone sho claims otherwise just does not know the Bible. So, it is ignorance not fact that Christian fundamentalists are violent of anything else the Bible prohibits.

"It is intolerance, simply stated. Intolerance of difference. "Our way or the highway."

Again, that is not true of Christianity. If people are disobedient to the Bible, they are sure not fundamentalists, are they?

"So what of the people who choose 'the highway?' The fundamentalist must view those people as "other."

Yes, this is true, others are indeed others. There is nothing wrong with that per se. It is just a fact. It yields no behavioral consequence, though, unless the holy book says so. Again, Islam does say to kill them. The Bible commands to love them.

"Here I think is the root of the issue, since it is the ability to label one's enemy as "other" that permits the suspension of morality that allows one to do anything they want to their enemy.

First, how did "enemy" come into it? In Christianity, a non Christian is the opposite of an enemy. If they are an enemy (as in the case of Muslim terrorists), they are an enemy of the state. You may think having someone different in their beliefs than you makes them suitable to do whatever you want to them, but that is your exclusive opinion. No religion believes that. Even Muslim fundamentalists simply do as commanded, not whatever they want. If they go beyond the Quran, then they are no longer fundamentalists, are they?

"They're not people, they're [sinners / blashphemers / heretics / witches / infidels / animals]." Once you have changed a person into an abomination, you can feel justified in torturing and killing them, so the reasoning seems to go.

See how far you went? You started with a comment I believe, too, then you just drifted farther and farther from truth and reality. This last statement is totally false. This is just the work of sick and twisted people totally void of any ethics and morals, much less being a Christian fundamentalist.

There are many things that are twisted today. Would you agree? The popular definition of a fundamentalist is just twisted. How can something be fundamental if it is not een a part of that thing. there is no killing commanded of me in Christianity, much less torturing and other stuff you mention.

You do this same move from wise to over the top elsewhere in this hub. So, I do not endorse your view of Christian fundamentalism at all. Still, I do think you have wisdom overall. I hope that makes sense, and I am glad to discuss this further with you if you want.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

It is just this kind of discussion I had hoped for. Thank you


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California

I agree! I think this discussion is great, and I'm sorry I can't contribute much because I'm not well acquainted with this topic, but it's for that reason that I ventured here to see what people have to say. Thanks for writing this Hub!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Thank you, Glassvisage. People clearly have a lot to say on this subject, and that's a good thing.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

Religion has a lot to answer for Tom. Personally I love the secular society we have here in the UK where religion does not sit side by side at the same table as political debate. In a way I think it's sad that churches are closing here because congregations are falling. I loved church as a child, and I was able to understand the Good Samaritan type message that was it's main thrust. Re-visiting religion as an adult was a different experience. The message had changed to something that I wasn't comfortable with, and it had little to do with tolerance. I think the hard-liners have scared off the woolier kind of Christian, and we're the poorer for it, but the unexpected bonus is that we live side by side with all colours and creeds, and tolerance abounds!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Separation of church and state is vital to democracy.

Thanks, Severn

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