Culture and Religion

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Is There an Evil Religion?

In recent years a number of American Christian evangelists have emphasized that Islam is an evil religion. They also emphasize that because Islam has different beliefs than Christianity, this religious conflict is now a war between God and the Devil. This preaching of hate and intolerance is worsening the international hostilities.

A video clip and transcript of the March 16, 2006 Nightline appearance of Franklin Graham is available.

This web page chronicles a number of these pronouncements by American evangelists up to 2003.

The consequences of the 2003 rants by Franklin Graham were described in this web page.

I have no doubt that the life and times of the prophet Mohammed were difficult. The Quran would reflect those times and culture. However very few of the over 1 billion believers in the different varieties of Islam still live the nomadic life style of Mohammed. The many believers around the world have had to adapt their beliefs to their own cultures and life styles. An American believer in Islam can still profess to follow the religious teachings of Mohammed without having to believe that their day to day struggles in life are just like the same violent tribal struggles that Mohammed fought and survived in the 7th Century. The six basic beliefs of Islam are not violent though one might think otherwise when listening to Franklin Graham.

One problem that Christianity has with Islam seems to mirror the problem that Islam has with Christianity. Neither religion likes to have its adherents convert to the other religion. It is a serious crime in an Islamic community to convert to Christianity. Both religions can fall into the Biblical trap of 'us vs them'. These Christian evangelists appear to feel threatened by the fact that Christian missionaries typically have great difficulty getting conversions from Islam. Often many believers of a religion find comfort in numbers. If someone could have doubts about their religion, the religious leaders will want to make sure that those possible doubters are kept in the dark, prevented from learning more about different religions since with that knowledge they might willing decide that their current religion is based on myths or fabrications and denied the opportunity that they might cease believing in that religion when they find another that better conforms to their uniquely personal world view. This possible frustration with one's own religion is possible both in Christianity and Islam since both religions are based on the same Old Testament books and so both share some of the same myths.

The book by Paul Siegel, The Meek and the Militant, mentions that the Bible includes concepts that most would consider barbarous. I found quite a few of his observations quite enlightening. I took the following quotes from the King James Version of the Bible.

God in the early books of the Bible is a tyrant. Not only did the Israelites fear the wrath of God, He also commanded them to destroy others.

'And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.'
(Deuteronomy 20:13-16)

Moses was apparently preaching God's vindictiveness when Moses raged at the mercy shown to the women and girls after the war on the Midianites.

'And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.'
(Numbers 31:15-18)

In addition to being unconcerned with the 'thou shalt not kill' commandment, God's commanded conduct of the invaders and the captive women is not considered ethical today. Women were somewhat treated as property by the men in those ancient times.

'So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.'
(Deuteronomy 21:9-14)

Saul incurs God's wrath when he does not kill everyone and destroy everything when Saul conquered the Amalekites. (The Nuremberg Trials are a good example of our expectations of governments today. Justice Robert H Jackson's closing arguments are clear on why everyone at the top must be held responsible and accountable for the reprehensible actions of Hitler's regime. Humanity must act to prevent such horrific actions and punish those that are responsible.)

'Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.'
(1 Samuel 15:2-3)
'And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword.
But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night.'
(1 Samuel 15:8-11)

God even admits to a human frailty: jealousy. That is a dangerous fault when one's actions while provoked to anger can cause merciless destruction.

'Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:
But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.'
(Exodus 34:12-14)
'For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.'
(Deuteronomy 4:24)

The God of the Old Testament ruled by terror. When someone touches the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen shook it, he is immediately killed (though one cannot but wonder if the Bible is not taken so literally perhaps this person was somehow stricken by something more believable, like with something toxic or poisonous, rather than by hand of God).

'And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.
And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.'
(2 Samuel 6:6-7)

Rather than quoting it here at length, Leviticus 26:14-46 describes God's Covenant with the children of Israel. God talks at length about his vengeance should the covenant be broken. The simple summary is: either follow my rules or be subject to my wrath.

The various quotes above from the Bible do not imply that the Bible is the justification for an evil religion. The Bible is just a collection of ancient writings and Christianity is the set of beliefs assembled by a group of men (i.e., the Church) that is supposedly based on those writings. There is certainly danger in interpreting some of these passages as actual commands from God but hopefully the reader recognizes that such passages were written long ago in a very different cultural context. Most Christians do not follow such inhumane directions documented in the Bible and so Christianity is not considered an evil religion by its adherents.

The point being made is that some Christian fundamentalists want to follow the Bible as the literal word of God and anyone attempting to do that faithfully is confronted with a God of tyranny and intolerance. Christianity and Islam are based on some of the same myths and so they both have a similar tyrannical God. That a Christian would describe another religion as evil based on the other religion's writings is simply ludicrous.

There is no religion that is always evil because the believers of every religion must be mentally equipped to socialize with nonbelievers. (There are other pages in this site that question the validity of various religious beliefs. Even if the adherents are both gullible and naive to believe these foolish ideas that meek obedience does not make the religion itself inherently evil.) The basic rules of human conduct are that the lives, property and well-being of other people must be honored. These rules are common to most religions in most cultures.

However the leadership of a religion certainly can be evil. When a religious leader says God has told him to direct a violent act that is a lie (or is he just hearing voices in his head?). The religion is not the cause of the irresponsible leader's behavior. The religion is not evil because a leader interprets its ancient writings in a malicious manner. Those practicing that religion should hold their leadership accountable for such inhumane pronouncements. Can a distinction be made between the religion and its evil leadership?

When a political leader says that God has told him that he is leading his people or country in a holy crusade and that he is following God's wishes this situation is a lie. The religion or country is not the cause of the irresponsible leader's behavior (even when elected). Those subject to this irrational crusade must hold their leaders accountable because such crusades only bring death, destruction and misery to all involved, both those attacking and those being attacked. Most will agree that a distinction can be made between a country's people and its evil leadership.

When a Christian evangelist claims that Islam is an evil religion then there is an ulterior motive behind such a lie. That the leader will make such a claim to further those unstated goals is dishonest. That such persons are not immediately censured and/or disbarred indicates there is a lack of accountability in that religion.

The potential for evil leadership in a religion is increased when that religion takes literally the passage of Leviticus 26. If the leadership emphasizes the divisiveness of that religion, that theirs is the one and only true religion, theirs is the one that God himself is backing when 'ye shall chase your enemies', that all others are wrong and there is justification for the destruction of those wrong believers, then there is a clearly evil religious leader. Unfortunately it sounds as though a number of the American Christian evangelists are making these claims. Where is this evil religion?

Of course if more people knew more about their religions then more people would be much less susceptible to such preposterous directions supposedly based on God. That is one of the main goals of this web  site, to suggest the reader reconsider their religion in light of their human nature.

created - April 2006
last change - 04/23/2006
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