Religious violence is a term that covers phenomena where religion is either the subject or object of violent behavior. Religious violence is, specifically, violence that is motivated by or in reaction to religious precepts, texts, or doctrines. This includes violence against religious institutions, persons, objects, or when the violence is motivated to some degree by some religious aspect of the target or precept of the attacker. Religious violence does not refer exclusively to acts committed by religious groups, but also includes acts committed by secular groups against religious groups.
Religious violence, like all violence, is an inherently cultural process whose meanings are context-dependent. Religious violence often tends to place great emphasis on the symbolic aspect of the act. Religious violence is primarily the domain of the violent "actor", which may be distinguished between individual and collective forms of violence. Overall, religious violence is perpetrated for a wide variety of ideological reasons and is generally only one of the contributing social and political factors that leads to unrest.
- 1 Definition of violence
- 2 Relationships between religion and violence
- 3 Criticism of religion as being violent
- 4 Secularism as a response
- 5 Challenges to the concept
- 6 Secular violence
- 7 Abrahamic religions
- 8 Other religions
- 9 Conflicts and Wars
- 10 Ritual violence
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
- 14 External Links
Definition of violence
Ralph Tanner cites the definition of violence in the Oxford English Dictionary as going "far beyond (the infliction of) pain and the shedding of blood". He argues that, although violence clearly encompasses injury to persons or property, it also includes "the forcible interference with personal freedom, violent or passionate conduct or language (and) finally passion or fury". Similarly, Abhijit Nayak writes:
The word "violence" can be defined to extend far beyond pain and shedding blood. It carries the meaning of physical force, violent language, fury and, more importantly, forcible interference.
Terence Fretheim writes:
For many people, ... only physical violence truly qualifies as violence. But, certainly, violence is more than killing people, unless one includes all those words and actions that kill people slowly. The effect of limitation to a “killing fields” perspective is the widespread neglect of many other forms of violence. We must insist that violence also refers to that which is psychologically destructive, that which demeans, damages, or depersonalizes others. In view of these considerations, violence may be defined as follows: any action, verbal or nonverbal, oral or written, physical or psychical, active or passive, public or private, individual or institutional/societal, human or divine, in whatever degree of intensity, that abuses, violates, injures, or kills. Some of the most pervasive and most dangerous forms of violence are those that are often hidden from view (against women and children, especially); just beneath the surface in many of our homes, churches, and communities is abuse enough to freeze the blood. Moreover, many forms of systemic violence often slip past our attention because they are so much a part of the infrastructure of life (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism).
Relationships between religion and violence
Charles Selengut characterizes the phrase "religion and violence" as "jarring", asserting that "religion is thought to be opposed to violence and a force for peace and reconciliation. He acknowledges, however, that "the history and scriptures of the world's religions tell stories of violence and war even as they speak of peace and love."
Ralph Tanner similarly describes the combination of religion and violence as "uncomfortable", asserting that religious thinkers generally avoid the conjunction of the two and argue that religious violence is "only valid in certain circumstances which are invariably one-sided".
Criticism of religion as being violent
Tanner asserts that many who have no particular religious beliefs would even argue that violence is a highly likely if not inevitable consequence of the "irrationality" of religious precepts. Similarly, Hector Avalos argues that religions claim "scarce resources" for themselves over and against other groups. Consequently, this may lead to violence because conflicting claims to superiority are based on unverifiable appeals to the supernatural which cannot be adjudicated objectively.
Some general critics of religion and polemics such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins go farther and argue that religions do tremendous harm to society in three ways:[page needed][page needed]
- Religions sometimes use war, violence, and terrorism to promote their religious goals,
- Religious leaders contribute to secular wars and terrorism by endorsing or supporting the violence, and
- Religious fervor is exploited by secular leaders to support war and terrorism.
"Although the wars [in Iraq and Afghanistan] were ostensibly initiated to counter terrorism, religious differences are stressed just as often by American politicians and pundits as the reasons to continue the violence."
Secularism as a response
Byron Bland asserts that one of the most prominent reasons for the "rise of the secular in Western thought" was the reaction against the religious violence of the 16th and 17th centuries. He asserts that "(t)he secular was a way of living with the religious differences that had produced so much horror. Under secularity, political entities have a warrant to make decisions independent from the need to enforce particular versions of religious orthodoxy. Indeed, they may run counter to certain strongly held beliefs if made in the interest of common welfare. Thus, one of the important goals of the secular is to limit violence."
Challenges to the concept
Interpretation of Holy Texts
One idea that many fail to consider when reading holy texts is the concept of translation. The Bible itself has been translated from Hebrew and Greek and retranslated into hundreds of languages. Certain words have changed meaning and others do not directly translate so there is a lot of estimation. The original text may have been clear and easy to understand, but that original language will never be able to be actually heard. Plus, the Bible was written down after going through years of oral tradition, so there could be a substantial amount of story lost or gained along the way. The Quran is a newer text and is generally read in Arabic. Those stories too were belayed from Allah to Mohammad to scribes, so it is entirely possible that there were mix-ups and different additions. Even with the translation discrepancies, it seems that all religions boil down to analysis. Interpretation of holy texts is highly important to consider when reading about religious violence. Depending on one’s point of view, aspects of any religion can appear to be violent or peaceful. For both the Bible and the Quran, there are accounts of peace and conflict. It is up to the person reading the passages to judge what they see. The world is a changing entity. To keep these texts relevant and away from the extremities, interpretation must flow along with society.
Arguments against mutual exclusivity of the religious and the secular
Others such as William Cavanaugh have argued that it is unreasonable to attempt to differentiate "religious violence" and "secular violence" as separate categories. Cavanaugh asserts that "the idea that religion has a tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of churches to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East." Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom, arguing that there is a "myth of religious violence", basing his argument on the assertion that "attempts to separate religious and secular violence are incoherent". Cavanaugh asserts:
- Religion is not a universal and transhistorical phenomenon. What counts as "religious" or "secular" in any context is a function of configurations of power both in the West and lands colonized by the West. The distinctions of "Religious/Secular" and "Religious/Political" are modern Western inventions.
- The invention of the concept of "religious violence" helps the West reinforce superiority of Western social orders to "nonsecular" social orders, namely Muslims at the time of publication.
- The concept of "religious violence" can be and is used to legitimate violence against non-Western "Others".
- Peace depends on a balanced view of violence and recognition that so-called secular ideologies and institutions can be just as prone to absolutism, divisiveness, and irrationality.
Anthropologist Jack David Eller asserts that religion is not inherently violent, arguing "religion and violence are clearly compatible, but they are not identical." He asserts that "violence is neither essential to nor exclusive to religion" and that " virtually every form of religious violence has its nonreligious corollary." Moreover, he argues that religion "may be more a marker of the [conflicting] groups than an actual point of contention between them". John Teehan takes a position that integrates the two opposing sides of this debate. He describes the traditional response in defense of religion as "draw(ing) a distinction between the religion and what is done in the name of that religion or its faithful." Teehan argues, "this approach to religious violence may be understandable but it is ultimately untenable and prevents us from gaining any useful insight into either religion or religious violence." He takes the position that "violence done in the name of religion is not a perversion of religious belief... but flows naturally from the moral logic inherent in many religious systems, particularly monotheistic religions...." However, Teehan acknowledges that "religions are also powerful sources of morality." He asserts, "religious morality and religious violence both spring from the same source, and this is the evolutionary psychology underlying religious ethics."
Religious-secular congruency and overlap
Tanner notes that secular regimes and leaders have used violence to promote their own agendas. Violence committed by secular governments and people, including the anti-religious, have been documented including violence or persecutions focused on religious believers and those who believe in the supernatural. For example, in the 20th century, over 25 million believers perished from the antireligious violence which occurred in many atheist states. Non-religious ideological fervour is commonly and regularly exploited to support war and other aggressive acts. People who wish to wage war and terror will find diverse ways to gather support. Secular ideologies have and will likely continue to use violence, oppression, and manipulation to further their own objectives, with or without the availability of religion as a tool. Wars that are secular in nature need no specifically religious endorsement and regularly operate with and without the support of non-religious ideologies. In addition, there exist few examples of wars waged for specifically religious reasons. Examples of violence and conflict that have been secular include World War I, World War II, many civil wars (American, El Salvador, Russia, Sri Lanka, China etc.), revolutionary wars (American, French, Russian, etc.), Vietnam War, Korean War, War on Terrorism, and common conflicts such as gang and drug wars (e.g. Mexican Drug War). In the 'Encyclopedia of Wars', there were 1763 wars overall, of which 123 (7%) have been classified to involve a religious conflict. Talal Asad, an anthropologist, notes that equating institutional religion with violence and fanaticism is incorrect and that devastating cruelties and atrocities done by non-religious institutions in the 20th century should not be overlooked. He also notes that nationalism has been argued as being a secularized religion.
Historians such as Jonathan Kirsch have made links between the European inquisitions, for example, and Stalin's persecutions in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, McCarthy blacklists, and other secular events as being the same type of phenomenon as the inquisitions.
Others, such as Robert Pape, a political scientist who specializes in suicide terrorism, have made a case for secular motivations and reasons as being foundations of most suicide attacks that are oftentimes labeled as "religious". Pape compiled the first complete database of every documented suicide bombing during 1980–2003. He argues that the news reports about suicide attacks are profoundly misleading — "There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions". After studying 315 suicide attacks carried out over the last two decades, he concludes that suicide bombers' actions stem fundamentally from political conflict, not religion.
Some critics of religion such as Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer argue that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent. For example, Nelson-Pallmeyer writes that "Judaism, Christianity and Islam will continue to contribute to the destruction of the world until and unless each challenges violence in "sacred texts" and until each affirms nonviolent power of God."
Hector Avalos argues that, because religions claim divine favor for themselves, over and against other groups, this sense of righteousness leads to violence because conflicting claims to superiority, based on unverifiable appeals to God, cannot be adjudicated objectively.
Similarly, Eric Hickey writes, "(t)he history of religious violence in the West is as long as the historical record of its three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with their involved mutual antagonisms and struggles to adapt and survive the secular forces that threaten their continued existence."
Regina Schwartz argues that all monotheistic religions, including Christianity, are inherently violent because of an exclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders. Lawrence Wechsler asserts that Schwartz isn't just arguing that Abrahamic religions have a violent legacy, but that the legacy is actually genocidal in nature.
Bruce Feiler writes that "Jews and Christians 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".
However Tom O'Golo declares that religious fundamentalists that use violence to further their cause contravene the root truth of all faiths:
A genuine fundamentalist is also a radical, someone who tries to get the root of the matter. A major weakness with many or perhaps most radicals is not that they don't dig, but that they don't dig deep enough. Consequently many fundamentalists end up defending or acting upon beliefs which are not really at the heart of their doctrine. For example any religious fundamentalist who harms others in the pursuit of his or her radicalism is strictly out of order as no true religion ever encounters anything but love, tolerance and understanding. 'Thou shalt not kill' is at the heart of all genuine faiths, certainly the three based upon Abraham and God. That trio comprehensively condemns intentional harm to others (and to the self as well) for what ever reason. Dying to protect one's faith is acceptable; killing to promote it isn't. Arguably, it is blasphemous to say that God needs an earthly army to fight Its battles, or perform Its revenge. God is quite capable of fighting Its own battles.
The relationship between Christianity and violence is the subject of controversy because one view is that Christianity advocates peace, love and compassion while it is also viewed as a violent religion. Peace, compassion and forgiveness of wrongs done by others are key elements of Christian teaching. However, Christians have struggled since the days of the Church fathers with the question of when the use of force is justified (e.g. the Just war theory of Saint Augustine). Such debates have led to concepts such as just war theory. Throughout history, certain teachings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian theology have been used to justify the use of force against heretics, sinners and external enemies. Heitman and Hagan identify the Inquisitions, Crusades, wars of religion, and antisemitism as being "among the most notorious examples of Christian violence". To this list J. Denny Weaver adds "warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men".[improper synthesis?] Weaver employs a broader definition of violence that extends the meaning of the word to cover "harm or damage", not just physical violence per se. Thus, under his definition, Christian violence includes "forms of systemic violence such as poverty, racism, and sexism".
Another Christian thought is of opposition to the use of force and violence. Sects that have emphasized pacificism as a central tenet of faith have resulted from the latter thought. However, Christians have also engaged in violence against those that they classify as heretics and non-believers specifically to enforce orthodoxy of their faith.
Christian theologians point to a strong doctrinal and historical imperative within Christianity against violence, particularly Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which taught nonviolence and "love of enemies". For example, Weaver asserts that Jesus' pacifism was "preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism".
Many authors highlight the ironical contradiction between Christianity's claims to be centered on "love and peace" while, at the same time, harboring a "violent side". For example, Mark Juergensmeyer argues: "that despite its central tenets of love and peace, Christianity—like most traditions—has always had a violent side. The bloody history of the tradition has provided images as disturbing as those provided by Islam or Sikhism, and violent conflict is vividly portrayed in the Bible. This history and these biblical images have provided the raw material for theologically justifying the violence of contemporary Christian groups. For example, attacks on abortion clinics have been viewed not only as assaults on a practice that Christians regard as immoral, but also as skirmishes in a grand confrontation between forces of evil and good that has social and political implications.":19–20, sometimes referred to as Spiritual warfare. The statement attributed to Jesus "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" has been interpreted by some as a call to arms to Christians.
Maurice Bloch also argues that Christian faith fosters violence because Christian faith is a religion, and religions are by their very nature violent; moreover, he argues that religion and politics are two sides of the same coin—power. Others have argued that religion and the exercise of force are deeply intertwined, but that religion may pacify, as well as channel and heighten violent impulses 
In response to criticism that Christianity and violence are intertwined, Christian apologists such as Miroslav Volf and J. Denny Weaver reject charges that Christianity is a violent religion, arguing that certain aspects of Christianity might be misused to support violence but that a genuine interpretation of its core elements would not sanction human violence but would instead resist it. Among the examples that are commonly used to argue that Christianity is a violent religion, J. Denny Weaver lists "(the) crusades, the multiple blessings of wars, warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men". Weaver characterizes the counter-argument as focusing on "Jesus, the beginning point of Christian faith,... whose Sermon on the Mount taught nonviolence and love of enemies,; who faced his accusers nonviolent death;whose nonviolent teaching inspired the first centuries of pacifist Christian history and was subsequently preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism."
Miroslav Volf acknowledges that "many contemporaries see religion as a pernicious social ill that needs aggressive treatment rather than a medicine from which cure is expected." However, Volf contests this claim that "(the) Christian faith, as one of the major world religions, predominantly fosters violence." Instead of this negative assessment, Volf argues that Christianity "should be seen as a contributor to more peaceful social environments". Volf examines the question of whether Christianity fosters violence, and has identified four main arguments that it does: that religion by its nature is violent, which occurs when people try to act as "soldiers of God"; that monotheism entails violence, because a claim of universal truth divides people into "us versus them"; that creation, as in the Book of Genesis, is an act of violence; and that the intervention of a "new creation", as in the Second Coming, generates violence. Writing about the latter, Volf says: "Beginning at least with Constantine's conversion, the followers of the Crucified have perpetrated gruesome acts of violence under the sign of the cross. Over the centuries, the seasons of Lent and Holy Week were, for the Jews, times of fear and trepidation; Christians have perpetrated some of the worst pogroms as they remembered the crucifixion of Christ, for which they blamed the Jews. Muslims also associate the cross with violence; crusaders' rampages were undertaken under the sign of the cross." In each case, Volf concluded that the Christian faith was misused in justifying violence. Volf argues that "thin" readings of Christianity might be used mischievously to support the use of violence. He counters, however, by asserting that "thick" readings of Christianity's core elements will not sanction human violence and would, in fact, resist it.
Volf asserts that Christian churches suffer from a "confusion of loyalties". He asserts that "rather than the character of the Christian faith itself, a better explanation of why Christian churches are either impotent in the face of violent conflicts or actively participate in them derives from the proclivities of its adherents which are at odds with the character of the Christian faith." Volf observes that "(although) explicitly giving ultimate allegiance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many Christians in fact seem to have an overriding commitment to their respective cultures and ethnic groups."
Peace in Christianity
The Hebrew Bible contains passages of peace in addition to the violence that is focused upon. In the book of Isaiah, God is praised as the God of Peace, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). God in this context is the peacekeeper. If one were to isolate this verse, God would seem inherently good. God does not want people to go to war, contrary to what he says in Samuel and Deuteronomy. The New Testament is teeming with affection to almost reverse the attitude of God put forth in the Hebrew Bible. The New Testament reads: “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Instead of messages about waging war and fighting for faith, Jesus preaches friendship, turning the other cheek and love. God doesn’t want war for his children in this scripture, but it causes confusion among followers. God’s wishes contradict themselves, especially between the two books of the Bible. Certain sects of Christianity focus solely on the New Testament, while others believe the Hebrew Bible is the truest account of God. Regardless of what is being read, it all comes down to interpretation. In Christianity, people see what they want to see, just as it is in all forms of faith.
Mormonism had an early history of violence. This began with religious persecution by well respected citizens, law enforcement, and government officials. Ultimately such persecution lead to several historically well-known acts of violence. These range from attacks on early Mormons, such as the Haun's Mill massacre following the Mormon Extermination Order to one of the most controversial and well-known cases of retaliation violence, the Mountain Meadows massacre. This was the result of an unprovoked response to religious persecution whereby an innocent party traveling through Mormon occupied territory was attacked on September 11, 1857. Since this turbulent beginning, most conflicts in relation to Mormonism have been isolated and have little or no historical significance.
Islam has been associated with violence in a variety of contexts, including Jihads (holy wars), violent acts by Muslims against perceived enemies of Islam, violence against women ostensibly supported by Islam's tenets, references to violence in the Qur'an, and acts of terrorism motivated and/or justified by Islam. Muslims, including clerics and leaders have used Islamic ideas, concepts, texts, and themes to justify violence, especially against non-Muslims.
Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates into English as "struggle". Jihad appears in the Qur'an and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of Allah (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is mujahideen. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the ten Practices of the Religion. Islamic extremists have used jihad to condone acts of terror, claiming the support of their religion’s followers and Allah himself. Jihad has also been used by non-Muslims to explain the so-called “insanity” of the Islamic faith. Specific verses in the Quran call for bloodshed, such as: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress…And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing…But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers”(2:190-191). Some interpret this section in the Al-Baqarah as justification for irrational violence, but fail to understand the most important word. To “transgress” is to go beyond the socially accepted limits, and the Quran specifically says to not transgress. If this passage is interpreted with the intention of finding reasons to fight, it can easily be found. If one looks deeper into the scripture, we see that Allah doesn’t hope that people will go to the extremes.
Muslims use the word in a religious context to refer to three types of struggles: an internal struggle to maintain faith, the struggle to improve the Muslim society, or the struggle in a holy war. The prominent British orientalist Bernard Lewis argues that in the Qur'an and the ahadith jihad implies warfare in the large majority of cases. In a commentary of the hadith Sahih Muslim, entitled al-Minhaj, the medieval Islamic scholar Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi stated that "one of the collective duties of the community as a whole (fard kifaya) is to lodge a valid protest, to solve problems of religion, to have knowledge of Divine Law, to command what is right and forbid wrong conduct".
Terrorism and Islam
In western societies the term jihad is often translated as "holy war". Scholars of Islamic studies often stress that these words are not synonymous. Muslim authors, in particular, tend to reject such an approach, stressing non-militant connotations of the word.
Terrorism refers to terrorism by Muslim or individuals and motivated by either politics, religion or both. Terrorist acts have included airline hijacking, kidnapping, assassination, suicide bombing, and mass murder. As an ideology in the 20th century, only Communism, with its murder and mass killings, is responsible for more deaths and violence than is Islam. In terms of Islamic violence, both ancient and modern history are replete with Islamic intolerance and ensuing violence against every other ideology, such as modern violence against Western institutions, as well as historical violence against Hindus, and perpetual violence against Christians. are a few examples.
The tension reached a climax on September 11th, 2001 when Islamic terrorists flew hijacked commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City. The “War on Terror” has caused anti-Muslim sentiments throughout Christianity and the rest of the world. Al-Qaeda is one of the most well known Islamic extremist groups, created by Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden. The goal of al-Qaeda was to spread the “purest” form of Islam and Islamic law. For bin Laden, in order to do “good” by the Quran, he had to inflict terror upon millions. Following the terror attacks on September 11th, bin Laden praised the suicide bombers in his statement: “the great action you did which was first and foremost by the grace of Allah. This is the guidance of Allah and the blessed fruit of jihad”. What was sacrifice to Osama bin Laden and his followers is terror to the American people and the rest of the world, furthering the fear of Islam that many people possess. Despite the few severe sects, Islam is not a fundamentally violent religion. Certain groups hold that the Quran should be interpreted literally, while others believe that with the changing course of history, interpretation should change too.
There are controversies surrounding the subject include whether the terrorist act is self-defense or aggression, national self-determination or Islamic supremacy; whether Islam can ever condone the targeting of non-combatants; whether some attacks described as Islamic terrorism are merely terrorist acts committed by Muslims or motivated by nationalism; whether Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict is the root of Islamic terrorism, or simply one cause; how much support there is in the Muslim world for Islamic terrorism and whether support for terror is a temporary phenomenon, a "bubble", now fading away.
Islam and Peace
Muslims have been given a bad reputation due to recent terror attacks and extremist groups, but the Quran preaches peace and unity among all religions. In the early days of religion, Muslims referred to the Christians and Jews as “people of the book”, their relationship amicable. People believed that they all shared a common genesis, and therefore had no reason to harm their brothers. The Quran says “Humankind, be aware of your duties to your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women” (4:1). This exemplifies the peace between all faiths that the Quran highlights. In fact, conflict did not arise between Christians and Muslims until the Crusades. The Quran offers an extensive “gray area” because it comes down to how one deciphers certain words. Words like “duties” and “good” create confusion, as reward is promised to those who do “good”, yet it unclear what “good” specifically is. In fact, “We reward those who do good” is repeated throughout the Quran over thirty times. The Five Pillars of Islam are requirements of Muslims to be “good” practitioners of faith, but jihad is also a part of the religion. In order to be “good” and achieve reward, one must interpret how far to take the Islamic practices.
Burggraeve and Vervenne describe the Old Testament as full of violence and as evidence of both a violent society and a violent god. They write that, "(i)n numerous Old Testament texts the power and glory of Israel's God is described in the language of violence." They assert that more than one thousand passages refer to YHWH as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and that more than one hundred passages involve divine commands to kill humans.
On the basis of these passages in the Old Testament, some Christian churches and theologians argue that Judaism is a violent religion and that the god of Israel is a violent god. Reuven Firestone asserts that these assertions are usually made in the context of claims that Christianity is a religion of peace and that the god of Christianity is one that expresses only love.
Some scholars such as Deborah Weissman readily acknowledge that "normative Judaism is not pacifist" and that "violence is condoned in the service of self-defense." J. Patout Burns asserts that, although Judaism condones the use of violence in certain cases, Jewish tradition clearly posits the principle of minimization of violence. This principle can be stated as "(wherever) Jewish law allows violence to keep an evil from occurring, it mandates that the minimal amount of violence be used to accomplish one's goal."
The Hebrew Bible contains instances of religiously mandated wars which often contain explicit instructions from God to the Israelites to exterminate other tribes, as in Deut 7:1–2 orDeut 20:16-18. Examples include the story of Amalekites (Deut 25:17–19, 1 Sam 15:1-6), the story of the Midianites (Numbers 31:1–18), and the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6:1–27).
These wars of extermination have been characterized as "genocide" by several authorities, because the Torah states that the Israelites annihilated entire ethnic groups or tribes: the Israelites killed all Amalekites, including men, women, and children (1 Samuel 15:1–20 ); the Israelites killed all men, women, and children in the battle of Jericho(Joshua 6:15–21), and the Israelites killed all men, women and children of several Canaanite tribes ( Joshua 10:28–42). However, some scholars believe that these accounts in the Torah are exaggerated or metaphorical.
Zionist leaders sometimes used religious references as justification for the violent treatment of Arabs in Palestine. Palestinians have been several times associated with a Biblical antagonists, Amalekites. For example, rabbi Israel Hess has recommended to kill Palestinians, basing on biblical verses such as 1 Samuel 15. Shulamit Aloni, a member of the Israeli Knesset indicated in 2003 that Jewish children in Israel were being taught in religious schools that Palestinians were Amalek, and therefore an act of total genocide was a religious obligation.
Conflicts and Wars
It has been noted that "religious" conflicts are not based on religious beliefs exclusively and instead should be seen as clashes of communities, identities, and interests that are secular-religious or at least very much secular.
Some have asserted that attacks are carried out by those with very strong religious convictions such as terrorists in the context of global religious war. Robert Pape, a political scientist who specializes in suicide terroism argues that much of the modern Muslim suicide terrorism is secular based. Although the causes of terrorism are complex, it may be that terrorists are partially reassured by their religious views that God is on their side and will reward them in heaven for punishing unbelievers.
These conflicts are among the most difficult to resolve, particularly where both sides believe that God is on their side and has endorsed the moral righteousness of their claims. One of the most infamous quotes associated with religious fanaticism was made in 1209 during the siege of Béziers, a Crusader asked the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric how to tell Catholics from Cathars when the city was taken, to which Amalric replied: "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius," or "Kill them all; God will recognize his."
According to hunting hypothesis, created by Walter Burkert in Homo Necans, carnivorous behavior is considered a form of violence. Burkett suggests that the anthropological phenomenon of religion itself grew out of rituals connected with hunting and the feelings of guilt associated with the violence involved.
- List of countries by discrimination and violence against minorities
- Hundred Years' War
- Religion and peacebuilding
- Religious fanaticism
- Pacifism and religion
- Religions for Peace
- Peace in Islamic philosophy
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- Hitchens, Christopher (2007). God is not Great. Twelve. ISBN 0-446-57980-7.
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Bantam Books. ISBN 1-4303-1230-0.
- Sen, Amartya (21 November 2001). "A World Not Neatly Divided". New York Times. p. 23.
- Sen, Amartya (10 June 2002). "Civilisational Imprisonments". New Republic. pp. 28–33.
- Bland, Byron (May 2003). "Evil Enemies: The Convergence of Religion and Politics". p. 4.
- Cavanaugh, William (2009). The Myth of Religious Violence. Oxford University Press US,. p. 4.
- Eller, Jack David (2010). Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-61614-218-6.
As we have insisted previously, religion is not inherently and irredeemably violent; it certainly is not the essence and source of all violence.
- Eller, Jack David (2010). Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence: Religious Violence Across Culture and History. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-61614-218-6.
Religion and violence are clearly compatible, but they are not identical. Violence is one phenomenon in human (and natural existence), religion is another, and it is inevitable that the two would become intertwined. Religion is complex and modular, and violence is one of the modules—not universal, but recurring. As a conceptual and behavioral module, violence is by no means exclusive to religion. There are plenty of other groups, institutions, interests, and ideologies to promote violence. Violence is, therefore, neither essential to nor exclusive to religion. Nor is religious violence all alike... And virtually every form of religious violence has its nonreligious corollary.
- Eller, Jack David (2007). Introducing Anthropology of Religion. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-40896-7.
When a pure or hybrid religious group and/or its interests are threatened, or merely blocked from achieving its interests by another group, conflict and violence may ensue. In such cases, although religion is part of the issue and religious groups form the competitors, or combatants, it would be simplistic or wrong to assume the religion is the "cause" of the trouble or that the parties are "fighting about religion". Religion in the circumstances may be more a marker of the groups than an actual point of contention between them.
- Teehan, John (2010). In the Name of God: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Ethics and Violence. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 145–147.
- "The Harmful Secular Ideologies". Ames Tribune. 2011.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- Rummel, Rudolph J. (1994). Death By Government. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56000-927-6.
- Rummel, Rudolph J. (1997). Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900. Lit Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8258-4010-5.
- Froese, Paul (2008). The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-25529-6.
- Gabel, Paul (2005). And God Created Lenin: Marxism Vs. Religion in Russia, 1917–1929. Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-59102-306-7.
- Kiernan, Ben (2008). The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-14434-5.
- Peris, Daniel (1998). Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-3485-3.
- Day, Vox (2008). The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, And Hitchens. BenBella Books. ISBN 978-1-933771-36-6.
- Bantjes, Adrian (1997). "Idolatry and Iconoclasm in Revolutionary Mexico: The De-Christianization. Campaigns, 1929–1940". Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos 13 (1): 87–121.
- Meisner, Maurice (1999). Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic. Free Press. ISBN 978-0-684-85635-3.
- Nelson, James M. (2009-02-27). Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality. Springer. p. 427. ISBN 9780387875729. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
- Charles Phillips, Alan Axelrod (2005). The Encyclopaedia of War.
- Asad, Talal (2003). Formations of the Secular : Christianity, Islam, Modernity (10. printing. ed.). Stanford University Press. pp. 100, 187–190. ISBN 0804747687.
- Kirsch, Jonathan (2009). The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God. HarperOne. ISBN 978-0-06-173276-8.
- Pape, Robert (2006). Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Random House. ISBN 978-0-8129-7338-9.
- Pape 2005.
- Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack (2005). Is religion killing us?: violence in the Bible and the Quran. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 136. ISBN 9780826417794.
- Avalos, Hector (2005). Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
- Hickey, Eric W. (2003). Encyclopedia of murder and violent crime. SAGE. p. 217. ISBN 978-0-7619-2437-1.
- Regina M. Schwartz (1998). The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism. University of Chicago Press.
- Wechsler, Lawrence. "Mayhem and Monotheism".
- Feiler, Bruce S. (2005). Where God was born: a journey by land to the roots of religion. HarperCollins. p. 4. ISBN 9780060574871.
- Tom O'Golo (2011). Christ? No! Jesus? Yes!: A radical reappraisal of a very important life. p. 105.
- Volf, Miroslav (2008). "Christianity and Violence". In Hess, Richard S.; Martens, E.A. War in the Bible and terrorism in the twenty-first century. Eisenbrauns. pp. 1–17. ISBN 978-1-57506-803-9. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
- International encyclopedia of violence research, Volume 2. Springer. 2003. ISBN 9781402014666.
- J. Denny Weaver (2001). "Violence in Christian Theology". Cross Currents. Retrieved 2010-10-27.
I am using broad definitions of the terms "violence" and "nonviolence". "Violence" means harm or damage, which obviously includes the direct violence of killing -- in war, capital punishment, murder --but also covers the range of forms of systemic violence such as poverty, racism, and sexism. "Nonviolence" also covers a spectrum of attitudes and actions, from the classic Mennonite idea of passive nonresistance through active nonviolence and nonviolent resistance that would include various kinds of social action, confrontations and posing of alternatives that do not do bodily harm or injury.
- Mark Juergensmeyer (2004). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24011-1.
- Bloch, Maurice (1992). Prey into Hunter. The Politics of Religious Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Andrew McKinnon. 'Religion and the Civilizing Process: The Pax Dei Movement and the Christianization of Violence in the Process of Feudalization'. in A McKinnon & M Trzebiatowska (eds), Sociological Theory and the Question of Religion. Ashgate, 2014 .
- Volf, Miroslav (2002). "Christianity and Violence". Retrieved 2010-10-27.
- Volf 2008, p. 13
- Volf, Miroslav. "The Social Meaning of Reconciliation". Retrieved 2010-11-17.
- Wendy Doniger, ed. (1999). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. ISBN 0-87779-044-2.,Jihad, p. 571
- Josef W. Meri, ed. (2005). Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-96690-6., Jihad, p. 419
- John Esposito(2005), Islam: The Straight Path, p. 93
- "Jihad". BBC. 2009-08-03.
- Lewis, Bernard (1988). The Political Language of Islam. University of Chicago Press. p. 72. ISBN 0226476928. Cf. Watt, William M. (1976). "Islamic Conceptions of the Holy War". In Murphy, Thomas P. The Holy War. Ohio State University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0814202456.
- Shaykh Hisham Kabbani; Shaykh Seraj Hendricks; Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks. "Jihad—A Misunderstood Concept from Islam". The Muslim Magazine. Retrieved 16 August 2006.
- cf. e.g. BBC news article "Libya's Gaddafi urges 'holy war' against Switzerland". BBC News. 26 February 2010. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Peters, Rudolph (1977). Jihad in Medieval and Modern Islam. Brill Academic Pub. p. 3. ISBN 978-9004048546.
- Crone, Patricia (2005). Medieval Islamic Political Thought. Edinburgh University. p. 363. ISBN 978-0748621941.
- Jihad and the Islamic Law of War. Jordan: The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought. 2009.
- Peters, Rudolph (1979). Islam and colonialism: the doctrine of Jihad in modern history. Mouton Publishers. p. 118. ISBN 9027933472.
- "Captured Iraqi Terrorist Ramzi Hashem Abed: Zarqawi Participated in the Plot to Assassinate Baqer Al-Hakim. We Bombed Jalal Talabani's Headquarters, the Turkish Embassy, and the Red Cross, Took Drugs, Raped University Students Who "Collaborated with the Americans"". The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).(login required)
- "Abductions of and Assaults on Women". The Massacre in Mazar-I Sharif. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved September 30, 2012.
- Youssef M. Ibrahim (14 April 1988). "Algeria to Permit Abortions for Rape Victims". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- "Time to Air Muslim Violence Against Christians", Real Clear Politics, March 23, 2012 http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2012/03/23/time_to_air_muslim_violence_against_christians_113595.html
- "37 Muslim nations persecuting Christians", WND Faith, Published: 01/11/2014, http://www.wnd.com/2014/01/37-muslim-nations-persecuting-christians/
- "The Existential Elephant in the ‘Christian Persecution’ Room", By Raymond Ibrahim on January 17, 2014 in Muslim Persecution of Christians, http://www.raymondibrahim.com/muslim-persecution-of-christians/the-existential-elephant-in-the-christian-persecution-room/
- Tony Blair, "Speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council", http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/Page9948.asp
- Thomas L. Friedman (April 20, 2003). "The Third Bubble". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 September 2012.
- Burggraeve, Roger; Vervenne, Marc (1991). Swords into plowshares: theological reflections on peace. Peeters Publishers. pp. 82,109. ISBN 9789068313727.
- Heft, James, ed. (2004). Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Fordham University Press. ISBN 9780823223350.
- "The Co-existence of Violence and Non-Violence in Judaism". Retrieved 2010-12-09.
- Burns, J. Patout (1996). War and its discontents: pacifism and quietism in the Abrahamic traditions. Georgetown University Press. p. 18.
- Fighting the War and the Peace: Battlefield Ethics, Peace Talks, Treaties, and Pacifism in the Jewish Tradition. Michael J. Broyde, 1998, p. 1
- *Reuven Firestone (2004), "Judaism on Violence and Reconciliation: An examination of key sources" in Beyond violence: religious sources of social transformation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Fordham University Press, 2004, pp. 77, 81.
- Salaita, Steven George (2006). The Holy Land in transit: colonialism and the quest for Canaan. Syracuse University Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-8156-3109-X.
- Lustick, Ian (1988). For the land and the Lord: Jewish fundamentalism in Israel. Council on Foreign Relations. pp. 131–132. ISBN 0-87609-036-6.
- Armstrong, Karen (2007). The Bible: a biography. Atlantic Monthly Press. pp. 211–216. ISBN 0-87113-969-3.
- A. G. Hunter "Denominating Amalek: Racist stereotyping in the Bible and the Justification of Discrimination", in Sanctified aggression: legacies of biblical and post biblical vocabularies of violence, Jonneke Bekkenkamp, Yvonne Sherwood (Eds.). 2003, Continuum Internatio Publishing Group, pp. 92–108
- Dawkins, Richard (2006). The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 245. ISBN 0-618-68000-4.
- Carl. S. Ehrlich (1999) "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide", in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Judit Targarona Borrás, Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (Eds). 1999, Brill. p. 117–124.
- Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion', pp. 289–296
- Hitchens, Christopher, God is Not Great p. 117
- Selengut, Charles, Sacred fury: understanding religious violence, p. 20
- Cowles, C. S., Show them no mercy: 4 views on God and Canaanite genocide, p. 79
- Kravitz, Leonard, "What is Crime?", in Crime and punishment in Jewish law: essays and responsa, Editors Walter Jacob, Moshe Zemer Berghahn Books, 1999, p. 31
- Cohn, Robert L, "Before Israel: The Canaanites as Other in Biblical Tradition", in The Other in Jewish thought and history: constructions of Jewish culture and identity, Laurence Jay Silberstein, (Ed.), NYU Press, 1994, pp. 76-77
- Violence, Scripture, and Textual Practice in Early Judaism and Christianity By Ra'anan S. Boustan, pp. 3-5
- The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies, Donald Bloxham, A. Dirk Moses, p. 242
- Saleh Abdel Jawad (2007) "Zionist Massacres: the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in the 1948 War" in Israel and the Palestinian refugees, Eyal Benvenistî, Chaim Gans, Sari Hanafi (Eds.), Springer, p. 78:
- ".. the Zionist movement, which claims to be secular, found it necessary to embrace the idea of 'the promised land' of Old Testament prophecy, to justify the confiscation of land and the expulsion of the Palestinians. For example, the speeches and letter of Chaim Weizman, the secular Zionist leader, are filled with references to the biblical origins of the Jewish claim to Palestine, which he often mixes liberally with more pragmatic and nationalistic claims. By the use of this premise, embraced in 1937, Zionists alleged that the Palestinians were usurpers in the Promised Land, and therefore their expulsion and death was justified. The Jewish-American writer Dan Kurzman, in his book Genesis 1948 ... describes the view of one of the Deir Yassin's killers: 'The Sternists followed the instructions of the Bible more rigidly than others. They honored the passage (Exodus 22:2): 'If a thief be found ...' This meant, of course, that killing a thief was not really murder. And were not the enemies of Zionism thieves, who wanted to steal from the Jews what God had granted them?'
- Carl. S. Ehrlich (1999) "Joshua, Judaism, and Genocide", in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Judit Targarona Borrás, Ángel Sáenz-Badillos (Eds). 1999, Brill. pp. 117–124.
- Masalha, Nur, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: the politics of expansion, Pluto Press, 2000, pp. 129–131.
- "Frequently Jewish fundamentalists refer to the Palestinians as the 'Amalekites' ... of today.... According to the Old Testament, the Amalek ... were regarded as the Israelites' inveterate foe, whose 'annihilation' became a sacred duty and against whom war should be waged until their 'memory be blotted out' forever (Ex 17:16; Deut 25:17–19).... Some of the [modern] political messianics insist on giving the biblical commandment to 'blot out the memory of the Amalek' an actual contemporary relevance in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. In February 1980, Rabbi Israel Hess ... published an article [titled] 'The Genocide Commandment in the Torah' ... which ends with the following: 'The day is not far when we shall all be called to this holy war, this commandment of the annihilation of the Amalek'. Hess quotes the biblical commandment ... 'Do not spare him, but kill man and woman, baby and suckling, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey'.... In his book On the Lord's Side Danny Rubinstein has shown that this notion permeates the Gush Emunim movement's bulletins [one of which] carried an article ... which reads 'In every generation there is an Amalek.... The Amalekism of our generation finds expression in the deep Arab hatred towards our national revival ...'... Professor Uriel Tal ... conducted his study in the early 1980s ... and pointed out that the totalitarian political messianic stream refers to the Palestinian Arabs in three stages or degrees: ... [stage] (3) the implementation of the commandment of Amalek, as expressed in Rabbi Hess's article 'The Commandment of Genocide in the Torah', in other words 'annihilating' the Palesinian Arabs'".
- See also Hunter, p. 103
- Also describing Palestinians as targets of violence due to association with Amalek is: Geaves, Ron, Islam and the West post 9/11, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004, p. 30
- Murder Under the Cover of Righteousness - CounterPunch
- Full text: bin Laden's 'letter to America' accessed may 24, 2007
- Juergensmeyer, Mark (2001-09-21). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Updated edition. University of California Press.
- Christian Jihad: The Crusades and Killing in the Name of Christ
- "Kill Them All; For The Lord Knoweth Them That Are His Steve Locks (Reply) (9-00)". Retrieved 2007-08-18.
- Burkert, Walter. 1983. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkley: University of California press.
- Appleby, R. Scott (2000) The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence, and Reconciliation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
- Avalos, Hector (2005) Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. New York: Prometheus.
- Burkert, Walter. (1983). Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkley: University of California press
- Crocket, Clayton (ed.) (2006) Religion and Violence in a Secular World: Toward a New Political Theology. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.
- Flood, Derek (2012) The way of peace and grace. Sojourners Magazine. Jan 2012.
- Girard, René. (1977) Violence et le Sacré (eng. Violence and the Sacred). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Hamerton-Kelly, Robert G. (ed.) (1987) Violent Origins: Walter Burkert, René Girard and Jonathan Z. Smith on Ritual Killing and Cultural Formation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- Juergensmeyer, Mark. (2000) Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkley: University of California Press.
- McKinnon, A. (2014). 'Religion and the Civilizing Process: The Pax Dei Movement and the Christianization of Violence in the Process of Feudalization'. in A McKinnon & M Trzebiatowska (eds), Sociological Theory and the Question of Religion. Ashgate .
- Pedahzur, Ami and Weinberg, Leonard (eds.) (2004) Religious Fundamentalism and Political Extremism. New York: Routledge.
- Regina M. Schwartz (1998). The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism. University of Chicago Press.
- Selengut, C. (2003) Sacred Fury: Understanding Religious Violence. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira
- Steffen, Lloyd. (2007) Holy War, Just War: Exploring the Moral Meaning of Religious Violence. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
- Takim, Liyakat (2011) Peace and war in the qur'an and juridical literature: A comparative perspective. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 38 (2) (06): 137-57.
- Venkatraman, Amritha( 2007) Religious basis for islamic terrorism: The quran and its interpretations. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 30 (3) (03): 229-48.
- Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary. Elmhurst, NY: Published by Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, 2001. Print.
- Coogan, Michael David., Marc Zvi. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The New Oxford Annotated Bible: With the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. New York: Oxford UP, 2001. Print.
- Nelson-Pallmeyer, Jack (2003) Is Religion Killing Us? Harrisburg:Trinity Press International ISBN 1-56338-408-6
- Stern, Jessica. (2004) Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. New York: Harper Perennial.
- Perry, Simon (2011). All Who Came Before. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf and Stock. ISBN 978-1-60899-659-9.
- William T. Cavanaugh Resources from Jesus Radicals
- Myth of Religious conflict in Africa
- Interview with William Cavanaugh