Monday, 16 February 2015

Religious Violence

A group of Muslim extremists operating in Libya kidnap and summarily execute almost two dozen Coptic Christians, supposedly in revenge for the alleged defection of several Muslim women five years ago.  In the Central African Republic, the resignation of the Muslim leader last March prompted the majority Christian population to begin a campaign of violence against the resident Muslims, resulting in destruction of villages and forcing tens of thousands to flee.

I could go on but the picture is clear enough.  Each side demonizes the other, defines them as sub-human and not worthy of existence, and goes on to kill them while justifying their actions as "God's will" using out-of-context passages from their holy texts.  For example:

"Muster against them all the men and cavalry at your disposal so that you can strike terror into the enemies of Allah and of the believers and others beside them who may be unknown to you, though Allah knows them. And remember whatever you spend for the cause of Allah shall be repaid to you. You shall not be wronged." - Qu'ran 8:60


"Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord only shall be utterly destroyed." - Exodus 22:20
"You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you." - Leviticus 26:7

With a highly bigoted atheist father, a mother who was excommunicated from her church because she divorced her abusive first husband, and having been brought up in a secular fashion, I've tried to understand the reasons behind the violence.  I've read the texts.  I've been to church services of many denominations, from Anglican to Unitarian.  I have spoken to people who are Catholic, Jewish, Pagan, Muslim, even atheist, and they all have their respective viewpoints.

It has become clear where all the hatred comes from.  Adherence to the letter of outdated texts, perpetuation of religious stereotypes, and general fear of the unknown.  Humans fear what they don't understand and lash out in a misguided effort to protect themselves.  A quote from one of my favourite TV shows sums it up well: "Wars have burned in this world for thousands of years with no end in sight, because people rely so ardently on their so-called beliefs."

People are entitled to believe what they wish.  However people no longer have the right to harm others for the sake of a book that was written many hundreds of years ago by scribes who were unreliable at best.  Perhaps we need to find some new beliefs.


  1. Well said. If only it was so simple. Usually those outbreaks of insanity are fueled by more mundane concerns, such as declining resources and population overshoot. In defence of Christianity it must be mentioned that the New Testament is nonviolent.

  2. Great post. I shared on Twitter and Pinterest.

  3. Such a well written post! I completely agree. I believe in freedom of speech and religion; however, that does not give us the right to exact violence upon others for their choices.