Donkey Punch

August 21, 2007

Why are the Abrahamic religions so violent?

Filed under: Abraham, Religious Violence — t4toby @ 3:33 pm


As I was coming to work this morning, I had a thought (this never turns out well). Why are three of the world’s dominant religions all from such a violent place? Has it always been that violent? From the little I remember from the Bible, it has. So how come I’ve never heard it asked, “Why are the Abrahamic religions so violent?”

From Religious

There are striking parallels between the white supremacists and the religiously motivated Islamic Shi’a fanatics in the Middle East. Both groups transform abstract political ideologies and objectives into a religious imperative. Violence is not only sanctioned, it is divinely decreed. Hence, the killing of persons described as ‘infidels’ by the Shi’a or as ‘children of Satan’ by white supremacists becomes a sacramental act.

From Spiegel Online, Violence in the Name of God:

Throughout history, the Abrahamic religions’ claim of absolute authority has exerted an irresistible appeal on fanatics, encouraging them to impose their own faith on nonbelievers and dissidents alike – if need be by using fire and the sword. To this day, nearly all religions supply the kindling that fuels wars and acts of persecution, sparks torture and murder, and inflames ethnic hatred. Examples abound: the bloody wars between Hindus and Muslims in India, or the enmity between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia.

Author Bruce Feiler, from PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly:

But the point is that it’s about a father attempting to kill a son — it’s a violent act. Abraham is not only the legacy of peace and blessing, but also for violence. That you can fight wars over God, that you can run crusades, that you can fly planes into buildings, that you can kill yourself in the service of killing other people — everything that is going on the front page of the paper today, violence in the service of faith begins with Abraham.

And from Future Islam, a review of The Just War And Jihad: Violence in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

…monotheistic religions because of their uncompromising statement of faith have led to a legacy of intolerance towards those who do not adhere to these faiths.


…we tend to adapt certain parts of the text, out of the whole, without regard for the whole, and this is violence to the text itself. Any interpretation of the text that is not holistic, is violence to the text itself.

So do I have an answer? No. But I sure think the question is worth asking…