[ExI] Religions and violence

Fred C. Moulton moulton at moulton.com
Thu Aug 12 09:22:22 UTC 2010

On Thu, 2010-08-12 at 00:49 +0200, Mirco Romanato wrote:
> I politely disagree: Christians, like Buddhists and others tend to
> become killers against the tenets of their faiths, where the Muslims
> tend to become killer when they start to take their faith too seriously.

The statement above is example of the failure to understand and
appreciate that within most religions there is a diversity of opinion
about matters of doctrine and what it means to take a faith seriously. 

Thus Christianity has had periods where most elements were virtually
pacifist and periods where many elements were violent and many were
slaughtered.  The question is at this point not what is "correct
Christian doctrine" according to the members of this list but what are
the different doctrines and who holds them.  Using this approach allows
us to differentiate between the Christian Reconstructionist movement and
the pastor of some old Anglican church in the English countryside.  And
for the person who says about some doctrinal dispute "but it is in the
Bible" we can reply "well certain words may be there but different
persons who claim to follow the religion interpret them differently and
so we can continue to make the distinctions".

Thus with Islam we can differentiate between the various branches and
movements ranging from the Wahhabi movement to Ahmadiyya Muslim
Community movement.  Each of these (and many other divisions) have a
view about what is the correct doctrine of Islam and they can be equally

Since many religious texts have conflicting and contradictory passages
it is possible to give textual based reasons for a variety of doctrines
which do not agree.  Giving teh 

So instead of saying the Christian doctrine about some issue is X it is
more useful to say that the Christian Reconstruction doctrine is X and
the Anglican doctrine is Y and so on.  Similarly one can differentiate
between various Muslim movements and thus rather than say that all
Muslims believe in a certain doctrine about Jihad; one can make a more
nuanced differentiation.  This avoids the obvious error of making some
grand statement about what Jihad means for all Muslims and then having a
Muslim stand up and say "Well I am Muslim and I have a different
interpretation of Jihad".

Now consider proclaiming the (mistaken in my opinion) approach that
Islam justifies and requires the killing of non-believers and enemies of
Islam.  Making that proclamation might agree with the Wahhabi and
taliban and similar elements but this is not the view one wants to
reinforce.  Why reinforce a view which is both inaccurate and
counterproductive?  Is it not much better to give a descriptive analysis
which describes the view of Islam on a subject for each movement in

How does this play out?  First stating views which are not
intellectually rigorous put us in a poor position to criticize any
religion.  If someone wants to criticize Islam or Christianity one needs
to be aware of the various movements and to avoid over simplification.
This has the benefit of avoiding reinforcing the most extreme elements
of a religion because you are not validating their view as the correct

Second is that by continually making these key distinctions we can
hopefully continue to facilitate discussion within a religion because
they are reminded of issues within their own religion.

On a related note it is important to remember that according to the
reports I have encountered that many of the recruits for terrorist
actions have been recruited using what some call "The Narrative".  This
Narrative goes something like this:
- There are various forces out to destroy Islam
- Chief among these forces is the government of the USA and its agents
- The people of the USA hate Islam and want to destroy it

For a devout Muslim that is a very powerful narrative.  Now consider the
Cordoba House project and two possible outcomes:
1. The Cordoba House project is built because the USA has a legal
doctrine of freedom of religion.  Muslims are allowed the same legal
protection as any other group.
2. The Cordoba House project is not built due to protests of its
proximity to Ground Zero.

Now consider which of the above reinforces "The Narrative" and which
does not.  Blocking the Cordoba House project reinforces the very story
that is told to potential terrorist recruits; I do not think any of us
want that.  One the other hand allowing the Cordoba House project to go
forward is one more example that can be used to blunt the force of "The


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