Religion and Violence: I Don't Get It
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?
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.
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.
- The term Fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam
The term Fundamentalist as used in Christianity and Islam
- AFP: Indian bishops say at least 60 killed in anti-Christian violence
- Religious violence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- Religiously motivated violence, murder and genocide
Religiously motivated violence, murder and genocide
Catholic Answers article on religious fundamentalism.
- Pat Robertson describes Islam as violent religion