The Problem With Monotheism

Why the world's two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam, have a tendency to 'turn evil.'

Continued from page 1

The problem is when people become convinced they know the route to the peaceable kingdom and they are God's agents to make it happen. And here is where you get groups of extremist Jews whose messianic mission leads them to

tunnel under the Dome of the Rock and try to blow it up

in order to facilitate the building of the Third Temple. Or Christian fundamentalist groups who

long for Armageddon

to the point that they will support violent extremists trying to destroy the Dome of the Rock. Now, pious Orthodox Jews pray for the coming of the Messiah and the Third Temple, which they believe God will bring down from heaven. But that's a very different thing from saying, "I'm going to give God a helping hand and blow up some buildings in the process."

And this behavior is dangerous in a place like Israel and Palestine. You have millions of Christians fixated on Armageddon theology. They spend a great deal of time watching TV preachers, picking apart Bible verses, looking at headlines in the news, patching together pieces of information to create a sort of image that "Jesus is coming on Tuesday." But when I read the New Testament it's pretty clear Jesus says nothing like, "On Judgment Day how much of your puzzle did you piece together?" He says, "When I was hungry, did you give me something to eat, and when I was thirsty did you give me something to drink?" The mandate of following Christ involves reaching out to people in need, and peacemaking. Whether Jesus comes next Tuesday or in a thousand years is really God's business.

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Even worse, there are many well-intentioned Christians who actively oppose any kind of reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians because it's theologically counterintuitive to them. They say, "Why would you work for peace when we know Armageddon is about to occur?" In their theology Israel is part of God's plan. This is one of the most dangerous things because you put that over against 50 million copies of the

Left Behind

series, which makes good reading, but a lot of people gobble this up as though it's God's truth.

So you're saying that even though these kinds of Christians aren't literally acting out violence, they are as scary as, say, Islamic jihadists?

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