Do all religions have the same potential for violence?

All religions equally violent?

Some people claim that the sacred books of all religions can be interpreted in many different ways. They say that if you are a peaceful Muslim you will find your beliefs mirrored back at you in the peaceful passages in the Koran. And if you are violent by nature, then you will find justification for your violence in that same book. Christians do the same with their bible. People find in their holy books what they wish to find. On this view all religious texts can be infinitely interpreted and all are equally dangerous or innocuous.

I don’t believe this. Books are not infinitely interpretable. There is no way that Mein Kampf can be made to read like a love letter to the Jews. I certainly believe that most Muslims, like most Christians, ignore the violent passages in the Koran and thank goodness they do. However, the idea that all religions are equally dangerous is just a manifestation of the modern obsession that all things must be equal.

The religions of Jainism or Quakerism simply can’t be made to justify violence, no matter how you distort their sacred texts. Even Christianity, which has had a pretty bloody history, would surely have been a whole lot bloodier if Jesus had been more of a warrior and less of a milksop.

On the other hand the founder of Islam, Mohammed, was a warrior who bragged of his victories in battle and of beheading 800 Jews who refused to convert to his new religion. He married a girl of five and consummated the marriage when she was nine. He ordered the stoning of an adulteress. These are not the kind of things that Jesus would have done, and the difference between the personalities of the two men shows in the holy books they inspired. And he advised his supporters to follow his example.

I therefore find it strange that some people believe that two distinct religions, the one founded by a pacifist and the other founded by a warrior, would end up being equally liable to lead to violence. That any two belief systems, be they religious or not, should give rise to precisely equally violent behavior seems highly unlikely to me. Such a belief is almost certainly due to our modern-day obsession with equality than with reality.

In reading through the New Testament, I believe you would have to try quite hard to interpret Jesus’s message as a command to subdue the world, by force if necessary, until it submits to the dictates of Christianity. With Islam and the Koran, on the other hand, it seems to me that you really don’t have to try very hard at all. The supremacist, conquering nature of Mohammed’s personality is right there in the book he inspired.


8 thoughts on “Do all religions have the same potential for violence?”

  1. I think it is important to research all ” actual, factual ” events pertaining to Religious Extremism. No one religion has clean hands. It is important to study the actual history, and not just the constructed history.

    The early Christian society carried out a war in the Middle East known as the Crusades.

    Jews have been Murdering and killing in the name Of their religion for thousands of years.

    Muslims have certainly demonstrated their willingness to kill for ages also.

    Nation Statism, which is a form of religion” Has killed 260 Million in the last 100 years alone.

    All in the name of their respective gods.

  2. What were the Crusades? They were a push-back against Muslim invasion of previously Christian lands.

    “Jews have been Murdering and killing in the name Of their religion for thousands of years”. Sorry, I disagree. We must get our ‘actual, factual’ information from different places. Certainly Jewish people have killed non-Jewish people, in the same way that every race and culture under the sun has killed others. Quite why you single out the Jews is a mystery to me. Why I single out the Muslims is no mystery to anyone. Surely the interesting thing to know are what numbers of people were killed? Is the killing still on-going? Who attacked who?

    I know from your online name and your website that you hate Jews but I just don’t subscribe to your ideas and your version of the truth. I simply don’t recognise it in the world I live in. This is not to say that Jews are always and forever innocent. It just means that they are no worse and a damn sight better than most ethnic groups you care to name.

    As for Nation Statism (I think it is just called Nationalism), if you are going to call that a religion, then so is my support for UKIP, my liking for the music of Elvis Costello and the fact that I tend to go shopping on a Tuesday evening. Once you label ‘nationalism’ a religion then you have gutted the word of all meaning and it becomes useless. You may want to call it a ‘dogma’ but that is something different from a religion.

  3. I actually cover all religious extremism, Not Just Judaism. I don’t hate Jews, nor do I seek to view them as a collective. I have Jewish family members.

    Religion is distorted” When viewed through the eyes and mind of a fundamentalist, or a Radical Cleric.

    From my perspective” All Religious Extremism is dangerous.

    I wasn’t aware that Jews are part of an Ethnic Group. That Statement speaks of Racial Supremacy, Which as you know” Is a major point of conflict.

    I agree that Judaism is no worse or no better, In all fairness however” They are over represented in the world today.

    I feel strongly that Muslim Radicals are particularly harsh towards their women, and seek to create a Greater Islam.

    Finally” The fact that the U.S. and other Governments are involved in these conflicts in the Middle East, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, is astonishing to me.

    1. ‘Religion is distorted” When viewed through the eyes and mind of a fundamentalist, or a Radical Cleric.’

      I disagree. I think that people like Osama Bin Laden have interpreted the Koran correctly. He and people like him are not distorting Islam. It is the so-called moderates and progressives who are distorting their religion – in a nice way.

      ‘I wasn’t aware that Jews are part of an Ethnic Group. That Statement speaks of Racial Supremacy, Which as you know” Is a major point of conflict.’

      i think the first part of your statement is disingenuous and the second part simply wrong. Okay, to be Jewish you either have to be an ethnic Jew or follow Judaism. Do you think Hitler exterminated 6 million followers of Judaism or 6 million ethnic Jews? I think pretending that we don’t know what we are talking about when we say that Jews are an ethnicity is being willfully obscurantist. Was Einstein a Jew? Was Kafka a Jew? Neither of them followed Judaism so by your lights neither man could possibly be Jewish. I find that silly.

      Secondly does talking about ethnic Chinese or ethnic Aborigine speak of Racial Supremacy? If so, why? If not, why not? Do you think ideas of race are always about supremacy? Most experts agree that there is such a thing as race. Are scientists therefore supremacists?

      So you think that followers of Judaism (since you are not allowing the idea of ethnic Jews) are over-represented in the world? In the world of what? Basketball? Knitting? Teaching? And what for you would be a reasonable representation? If followers of Buddhism had 7 famous movie directors in Hollywood, Islam 12, Judaism 2 and Animism 1? Same for politics and Literature? How would you police such numbers? Once a quota had been reached then no more followers of Judaism could become nobel-winning scientists because they have already won enough? It’s time to give people from the Congo a chance, right?

      How do you even know that Jews are over-represented in any field? Since you don’t believe in their ethnicity, this means you must have checked which ones follow Judaism. So if Richard Feynman wins a nobel prize for Physics, he doesn’t count as Jewish because there is no such things as an ethnic Jew, right?

      Perhaps what you mean is that Jews are good at what they do and have therefore been successful. If you think we should handicap the people who succeed by their own merit you should just come right out and say so.

      I think you should think some of your positions through more carefully. And I think you should also learn to use quotation marks.

      1. You asked the question; ” Do all religions have the same potential for violence?

        Clearly, the answer to your question is a resounding, Yes!

        You argument that the Crusades were a reaction to a push into Europe by Muslims is part of a particular viewpoint. Muslim Scholars have a very different view of that era.

        Speaking of history;

        I wonder how the Christian community felt, when an Islamic Radical beheaded a husband and Father in Wool rich England.

        I wonder how the Muslim world views Christianity when drones strike and kill innocent civilians.

        I wonder how the Jewish population feels about the never ending conflict in the Middle East. I have had conversations with my Jewish family members, and they wish at times, that they had chosen Uganda, instead of Israel.

        Historically, all religions have demonstrated the potential for violence. To ignore that fact, is potentially dangerous to humanity.

        To ignore factual history, and replace it with constructed history, Is a disservice to the Biological Unit known as a human being.

        To ask a question, and then attempt to destroy the merits of other peoples opinions, seems more like you are attempting to evade a serious discussion about the very Question itself, and pull the Hog into the mire.

        Was Jesus a Prophet, or was he the Savior?

        Islam believes that he was simply a Prophet.

        Why did the Jews exhort the Romans to crucify Jesus?

        Why did the Jews view Christ as a Heretic?

        Why is one religion better than the other?

        Why have religions sought to create Ethnic Boundary, If the God of your choice is all knowing , all loving, all powerful?

        I understand that these are painful questions, Just like your question, and these are no less worthy of answer.

        I stand firmly behind my belief that all forms of Religious Extremism, are dangerous indeed.

        All Religion has the capability, To lift man to their highest levels, and an equal capacity to utterly destroy humanity, and leave it in a smoldering pile of ashes.

  4. “You asked the question; ” Do all religions have the same potential for violence?

    Clearly, the answer to your question is a resounding, Yes!”

    Please show me how Mormonism has been as violent as Islam, if this is so clear to you. And while you’re at it, show me how Jainism has been as violent as Christianity.

    This is not my argument. I don’t think that there are any Muslim scholars who would claim that Muslims did not invade christian lands. This would be like Nazi scholars claiming that Poland invaded Germany in 1939. They can claim such things if they want but that doesn’t make it true. The fact is that Islam was invented in the 7th century and quickly spread to previously Christian or Jewish lands. Mohammed himself tells his folowers to spread his new religion by the sword. What part of this are you disputing?

    Please, it is ‘Woolwich’, England might be wool rich but that is neither here nor there.

    I also think that all religious extremism is dangerous. However, this is not the same as thinking that all religions are equally dangerous. You seem to think that history proves you right. So, please show me how Quaker violence has been equal to that of Islamic violence. If you can manage that I will give you a coconut. If you can’t do it I would like to to admit as much, and not simply ignore the challenge.

    Incidentally, I am an atheist and dislike all religions. But this doesn’t mean that I think they are all equally dangerous, which was the whole point of my post. All your questions about who Jesus really was mean nothing to me since the evidence that Jesus even existing is slim. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But trying to decide if he was a prophet or a saviour is like trying to decide how many reindeer Santa has. It’s a pointless game of make-believe..

  5. In regards to Mormonism, The Mountain Meadow Massacre is one example of religious extremism. It was an act of violence carried out by Mormons who were acting in collusion with Native Americans, Then the Mormons attempted to blame the Natives. Only small children were spared.

    I do not disagree with the fact that Muslims are arguably the most radicalized religious group, and In my personal opinion the most openly Anti-Christian, and Anti-Judaism group.

    in regards to other religions” There are so many, that I know nothing about. I am also an Atheist. So in all honesty, my views are based on the Right Wing Christians, Islam, and Zionism.

    I believe that a lack of tolerance that exists in these major factions that are mentioned above, is at the very heart of the violence we see today.

    As you mentioned in your reply, there are many who are absolutely non-violent. Perhaps the real question is ” Are all people capable of violence? Secondly, how does their religious doctrine affect their potential for violence.

    Thank you for your input, this subject matter is valuable to me, as I seek truth and greater awareness.

    ” It’s a pointless game of make-believe.” Is a truth that only Atheist understand.

    Best regards

  6. This is not just a case of being radicalised or not. As Sam Harris has pointed out, the more radical and extreme Jains become the more peaceful they become. The really extreme followers wear gauze masks so they don’t inadvertently inhale an insect and kill it. They also tip-toe around in case they tread on an insect. So it is not simply a case of ‘extreme’ equals ‘dangerous’ and therefore being a moderate Muslim is fine. Moderate Islam is still supremacist in a way that moderate Christianity isn’t.

    Your example of the Mormon Meadow Massacre (which I admit I hadn’t heard of) reminded me of my post of one of my posts:

    Collies attack one person every ten years while pitbulls attack at a rate 1,000 times greater. Strangely, some people conclude from this that all dogs are equally dangerous. One isolated incident doesn’t make a breed of dog dangerous, and the same is true of religions. As Samuel Huntingdon pointed out, ‘Islam has bloody borders’. Wherever Muslims rub up against non-Muslims there is trouble. There is even trouble when there are only Muslims around.

    It really might be the case that violent people are attracted to certain religions, rather than certain religions being inherently violent. I actually think that both are at work. I think Islam is inherently violent and it therefore attracts converts, especially men in prison who are just looking for an excuse to do violence “in a good cause”.

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