The question of violence in/and religion is an uppermost question these days. There are any number of people, most of them really quite ignorant of history, especially religious history and its nuances, who love to pile up accusation after accusation of violence against specific religions or religion in general. Most of these people have never bothered to consider or study seriously all the positive contributions religions often have made to their various societies. They dislike religion and are not ready to listen to any defence. Religion is equated with violence throughout history. Punkt. There is no religion without violence.
Of course, I realize that there are also genuine scholars who make the same accusation. They can hardly be accused of ignorance. But it usually does not take a lot of pumping to discover that if they are not driven by ignorance, they are driven by what is called their worldview. That is to say, they, like every one else including yours truly, have committed themselves to a specific set of paradigms through which they regard the entire world and on basis of which they judge and analyze everything. This is, I realize, a huge statement that needs more than simple affirmation, but that will have to wait for a later post. For now I just affirm it and use it as an interpretive tool of what people, including scholars, do with and because of their worldview.
Then there are those who equate violence with a specific religion. In the Western world, many consider Islam the source and perpetrator of violence. Many citizens of the Two-Thirds World, from here on referred to as “2/3W,” in turn accuse the West of violence, usually implicating the West’s traditional religion, Christianity. Muslims, countering the Western charge, often air this accusation.
It would be foolish to deny that religious people have frequently engaged in violence. This is true of Christianity, of Islam, of Sikhs, of Hindus as well as of people who regard themselves as non-religious, the secularists, including Humanists and Marxists. As a Christian, I am shamefully aware of how much violence Christians have inflicted upon each other and on the rest of the world.
Without explaining this terrible reality away, in the next post or two I hope to shed some light on this history. There are some responsible Christian and Muslim perspectives that can help us understand. I hope to have you curious enough to return to the next post.
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