Islam vs Christianity: A Study in Violence and Cruelty
Islam is a violent religion whose followers will slaughter you and your family in their quest to convert or kill everyone on the planet. In blessed contrast, we in the West have a gentle religion that teaches love and tolerance and wants only for the world to live in peace.
Or so our handlers want us to believe.
Sane, rational people have asserted that the only way to deal with the Middle East is to nuke it all. They express fear that given the chance, any Iraqi and most Muslims would relish slitting the throats of every man, woman and child in America. What disproves this quite simply is the fact that the 1.8 million Muslims in America are not on a rampage.
Why do nice people have such extreme views of Islam and the Middle East?
The answer: they have been indoctrinated by our media to hold ideas that profit those who control our country. There is much to be gained by demonizing Muslims, as there are gains to be had by Islamic clerics demonizing the United States and our allies.
This is not to say that Islam is a fountain of love far superior to Christianity. This is not an anti-Christian essay. Rather, it must be understood that religions the world over, with few exceptions, have violent teachings and dark histories. Christianity is no better, and is in some cases worse, than Islam when it comes to professing and committing violence.
What follows is an admittedly brief consideration of selected excerpts from the two holy books in question as well as an equally brief historical sketch of the two religions. I am guilty of “picking and choosing” from both the texts and from history. That is unavoidable. To learn more, investigate for yourself with open eyes and open minds.
The Islamic holy book, the Koran, was allegedly revealed to Muhammad by Allah over a 23-year period, beginning in 610 CE. Muhammad would recite these revelations and his followers would write those utterances down. In it we learn that Allah is the creator and sustainer of the world.
The Koran, as we would expect, has some violent passages:
Kill disbelievers wherever you find them. If they attack you, then kill them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. (But if they desist in their unbelief, then don't kill them.) 2:191-2
Unbelievers will be tormented forever with fire. When their skin is burned off, a fresh skin will be provided. 4:56
Have no unbelieving friends. Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them. 4:89
Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. 9:5
But the Koran also has peaceful passages advocating tolerance, temperance, and forgiveness:
Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors. 2:190
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy handhold, that never breaks. 2:256
Those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; -- for Allah loves those who do good. 3:134
As well as numerous stories cautioning against killing women or children in battle, showing mercy to vanquished foes, and looking inside yourself before condemning others.
Islam has a long history of violence. From its inception in the mid 600s, Muslims soon conquered the deserts of Arabia then moved on the capture or greatly influence most of the Mediterranean peoples. They did this primarily through military conquest, requiring much bloodshed.
Even with this mayhem and prefiguring the Geneva conventions by over a millennia, the Koran set out strict guidelines in the conduct of war and the treatment of prisoners. Women and children were not to be harmed and any enemy soldiers taken captive were to be treated with respect, not tortured or sold into slavery. We see this in action in the Crusades. After the Muslims would retake Jerusalem, there would be none of the “rivers of blood” slaughter or religious intolerance we see when the control of the city rebounded to the Christians; under Muslim control, non-combatants would be spared and their individual religions allowed to be practiced openly.
Most recently, however, Islamic terrorists have committed grave acts in the name of Islam. This cannot be denied. According to the US State Department, there were approximately 11,800 terrorist attacks in 2008, resulting in over 54,000 deaths. There are many who follow Muhammad who interpret the Koran in ways that justify and encourage their deeds.
However, a Gallup poll conducted in various Middle Eastern countries reported in 2007 that more than 90% of respondents “condemned the killing of non-combatants on religious and humanitarian grounds.” If their responses are to be believed, it shows that Muslim terror attacks are being committed by the militant fringe of Islam who interpret the Koran in ways that not only sanction their atrocities but rewards them. The vast majority of Muslims do not have violent tendencies and live and love, fail and succeed just as we do in the west.
The Bible, most especially the New Testament, abounds with passages that promote peaceful coexistence, love and charity. Jesus’ main message was to treat others as you would want to be treated- the Golden Rule. Without a doubt, the Bible can be read as a valuable guidebook on how to be compassionate and in harmony with the rest of creation. It contains messages of love that can be seen repeated throughout. Following are just a few examples:
“Thou shalt not kill”(Exo 20:13),
“Love thy neighbour”(Mat 19:19)
“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."
However, as I selected the above passages in order to prove the peaceful content of the Bible, below I will pick and choose passages that show a different face of Christianity.
Lot refuses to give up his angels to the perverted mob, offering his two "virgin daughters" instead. He tells the bunch of angel rapers to "do unto them [his daughters] as is good in your eyes." Genesis 19:7-8
A child who hits or curses his parents must be executed. Exodus 21:15, 17
"He who sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed."
Under God's direction, Moses' army defeats the Midianites. They kill all the adult males, but take the women and children captive. When Moses learns that they left some live, he angrily says: "Have you saved all the women alive? Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” Numbers 31:1-54
In all, the Bible has almost three times as many cruel or violent passages than does the Koran. However, the Bible is about five times longer. Taking this into account, the Bible actually has a lower percentage of violent passages than the Muslim holy book.
So it is really up for grabs which holy book is more violent. Nevertheless, it would be safe to say that the big three Abrahamic religious canons that rely on the Old Testament (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are the world leaders in violence and cruelty.
While Christianity has a long history of charitable works, it also has an equally long history of sponsoring or encouraging conflict around the world. The Crusades (1095-1291), an obvious example, were prompted and organized by the Church and resulted in much slaughter- and many of those dead beneath the Crusaders’ swords were Christians (Byzantium- First Crusade). Their mistake was to have darker skin and to speak a foreign tongue.
The Inquisition began against the Cathars in the Albigensian Crusade (1202-1229) and went on to span nearly 700 years (1180-1850). Estimates of the number killed ranges from thousands (too low) to millions (ridiculously high). In essence, the Inquisition was a systematic and highly effective program that eradicated any challenges to the power and authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Then we have the European maritime conquests in the Age of Exploration. From Columbus to Cook, European explorers used their religion (and the prospect of riches) to inspire their sailors into the dangerous journey and to justify the subjugation and enslavement of the native populations they encountered. All in the name of spreading the good word.
Moving faster, we see the religious wars that dotted the medieval landscape beginning in the 1500s, the settling and expansion of the early pilgrims, the decimation of the Native American Indian tribes, conquest of Central and South America as well as the Pacific Island nations, and Hitler’s co-opting of Christianity to justify his actions. Currently, we have many fundamentalists in this country today who speak of cleansing the world of the “Islamic scourge” and other apocalyptic rantings.
With few exceptions, religions the world over preach and commit acts outsiders would condemn. Jews and Muslims slaughter animals according to strictures laid out in their religious teachings, some Muslims practice female castration, Christians in Africa burn children they suspect of witchcraft, and gays have been beaten and even killed due to selective interpretations of the Bible.
While much of the cruelty can be attributed to erroneous interpretations, some of the most heinous actions are very clear and require no interpretation. The behavior of the Israelites after they left Egypt if committed today, would be labeled genocide and condemned by the world.
Unfortunately, Muslim actions today are in keeping with the teachings found in the Koran. And fortunately, cruel and violent acts committed by Christians, while horrible, rarely reached the level of atrocities found in the Bible. God, at least in the Old Testament, killed indiscriminately and with such thoroughness and barbarity as to raise the envy of even the most malignant despot.
For believers, acknowledging negative aspects is difficult. But it must be recognized that humans have the tendency to emphasize the faults in others while they minimize (or even ignore) their own. This is true worldwide and throughout time mainly because it is a valuable survival tool. Leaders recognize this and capitalize on it by appealing to the native religious system in order to create an “Other” that requires vanquishing. That Other, in every case, has something of value coveted by those in power.
Systems of power, of which Religion is undeniably one, are all eventually used by the unscrupulous in order to improve their position (greed). We see this repeated time and time again throughout history. Systems of power get bent to the will of those who control it. And saintly sheep do not gravitate to systems of power. Devilish Wolves do.
If you have made it this far, it should be clear that this essay was not proving that Islam is peaceful. It is, in fact, possibly the most violent religious ideology currently on the planet. But for Christians to notice that speck while ignoring the branch is to wear blinders to reality. While those blinders make us feel good and righteous, they limit knowledge and hamper progress towards peace. Most importantly, those blinders make us as a herd of simpletons easy to control in the service of ends we would not otherwise support.