03 October 2011

At least read the bloody book

We in Christendom have a history of "Christians" using religion to justify violence of all kinds, from war to burning people at the stake. Indeed, exploiting one of history's gentlest prophets to justify violence is one of the more intriguing themes of the Christian story.

The prophet's Testament describes as non-violent a man as one could imagine. In Luke 6:29, he advises, "And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other," and in Mathew 5:43-4, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

Of course, this is New Testament stuff. Old Testament stuff, on the other hand, can get pretty nasty—an eye for an eye and so on—but that after all is not the Testament of Christ, so it should have nothing to do with Christian behaviour. Unfortunately, many who insist on calling themselves Christians seem to prefer it, even when it's not so much Christ as Antichrist.

We should not be surprised therefore when the more devout among the Muslim faith also use religion to justify waging war and persecuting those who do not share their beliefs. A recent article about Pakistan in the September issue of the New Internationalist relates how religious fundamentalists in that country have brought in a number of blasphemy laws including one that specifies "death or imprisonment for life" for defiling the "sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad."

The joker in this pack is that the law would seem to violate the Koran, which says in verse 2.256, "There is no compulsion in religion," and in verse 73.10, "And bear patiently what they say and avoid them with a becoming avoidance."

But of course the disciples of violence will pick and choose from their good books, whether it be the Bible or the Koran, seeking words to justify imposing their brutish, self-righteous dogma. Asking them to read a little more carefully to find something that might at least modify their barbarous tendencies is, I suspect, asking too much.

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