Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why has religion been the source of so much violence and pain? Or: Why the gun-owning, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic Christian fanatics known as the Amish make for such lovely neighbors.

Roger Owen asked on his blog an unanswerable question: why has religion been the source of so much violence and pain?  I'm excited about this question because I've thought about it a lot.

These guys disagree with just about everything you do.  They're just really pleasant about it.

I don't think it's religion per se.  I think the real problem is trying to win any kind of argument with violence.

Tomorrow is Easter.  Many people will be celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus.  Others will just have fun with things like the Easter Bunny.  Others don't have a holiday tomorrow, and for some people Easter is actually next week.

But for those who at least think Jesus was a historical figure, the story goes something like this:

"Jesus said a lot of things that annoyed people.  They disagreed with Jesus.  Somebody - maybe the Pharisees, maybe the Romans, maybe both - conspired to get rid of this very annoying person."

It's a great example of how arguments - even purely religious ones - can result in violence.  To many Christians, it was violence that had to happen, but at its base the earthly "why" was that people disagreed with what Jesus was saying.

Somebody trying to win an argument against Jesus.
Torquemada, the famous inquisitor, also tortured and killed people to try and win an argument.  In his case, the argument he was trying to win was "Jesus was right."

Another famous person who was killed because people disagreed with him was Socrates.  In his case it was a combination of religion and science that finally got him killed.  Socrates started teaching that the moon and sun were not gods, but that "the sun is stone, and the moon earth" [Plato's Apology].

Somebody trying to win an argument against Socrates.
So far it looks like religious arguments are to blame.

But then consider political arguments.  Many people throughout history have tried to win political arguments by violence.  Two examples are Stalin and Mao Zedong.

This guy tried to win a political argument with violence.  Weirdly, the argument was "The best political system would be everyone getting along and sharing."  Stuff like this is why I think people are confusing.
But now consider the Amish.

The Amish disagree with you.  How do I know?  You're reading this on a computer, aren't you?

They are also pretty sexist, homophobic and fanatical.  They own guns.

But almost no one has any problem with the Amish even though they disagree with them.  The Amish think that a big problem is violence - they're pacifists.  Thus, they don't try to win arguments with violence.

They're a great example of how it isn't a particular belief that gets you in trouble or how seriously you take that belief.  What gets people into trouble is trying to win an argument with violence.


  1. I tend to agree. In some circles, I'm just not a very good Christian because I don't believe that others have to believe the way I do, lest they go to hell.

  2. :-) I like Joan of Arc's answer to her inquisitors. Asked if she knew she was in God's grace, she answered: "If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me."

    I don't know who or who is not in God's grace because, like it says in Isaiah 40:13: "Who can fathom the Spirit, Mind ans Will of God, or instruct the LORD as his counselor?"