The Problem With Monotheism

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

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Well, not

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scary, but potentially a very destructive force. I saw a female evangelist interviewed a few weeks ago on this very topic, and she was claiming, "I love the Jewish people. These are God's people." And someone said, "Yes, but in your theology all but a remnant of them are going to be wiped out. If things unfold the way you believe, most of the Jews are going to be killed." She smiled into the camera and said, "Well this isn't me talking--this is God talking." Now, from where I sit this is not the kind of friends the Jewish people need. She's perfectly willing to watch the slaughter of Jews because it's part of "God's plan." That's only a half-step removed from people who are putting dynamite under the Dome of the Rock.

You sometimes hear that the histories of Islam and Christianity aren't in sync, because Christianity came first and went through its worst violence earlier. And maybe, the theory goes, Islam is going through the same kind of violent spasm that Christianity went through during, say, the Crusades.

Well, there are Christians shooting doctors at abortion clinics.



But it's not the same kind of numbers as militant Islamists.

I don't want to be in the business of saying you're worse than me, or this isn't as bad as that. I call September 11 Exhibit A of religion becoming evil. This is a classic example of people preparing to meet God and feeling justified and righteous in doing a horrific thing, not only for the people in those buildings or on those planes, but the enormous consequences for people all over the world. Who knows how many tens of thousands of people died because of economic dislocations that happened in the aftermath?

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So I don't want to in any way say a TV preacher is just as bad as someone flying an airplane into a building. But we can see some of the ways well-intentioned people lose sight of the central focus of their religion and justify evil behavior.

For example, Charles Stanley at

InTouch Ministries

is preaching that governments are in power because God has them in power. Then he quotes the Hebrew Bible and says that if you don't go to war when God wants you to go to war, God will punish you. I'm no fan of Saddam Hussein-in the 1980s when I was working the Middle East I gave Congressional testimony railing against the U.S. Government because we were supporting Saddam Hussein. He is one of the worst thugs on the planet. Yet I've also seen the tremendous suffering of the Iraqi people. When I hear Christians in this country essentially glorify massive bombing attacks and say this is what God wants us to do, I think we're moving on a continuum that is hard to square with the Gospel message.

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