Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Stopping Religion-Inspired Violence Must Be a Religious Priority

posted by Brad Hirschfield

As the New Year dawned, there was a surge of religious violence around the world – largely Muslim on Christian. Blood was spilled in Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan. Being Jewish however, doesn’t keep me from losing sleep about these terrible events. The real question is what, if anything can be done to turn the tide against religious violence.
There is no question that the “wall of separation” between church/synagogue/mosque/temple and our own American government, plays a pivotal role assuring both freedom of religion, and freedom from religion for all people living within our borders. It is not however the only model which can do so and is certainly not a viable option for vast segments of the human community which still assume an integral linkage between religious identity and political power.
That being the case, and assuming that one remains troubled by the use of religion to fuel violence and oppression, what are we to do? Simply telling the world that they ought to be more like us is not going to work. To be more like us, to uphold that separation, betrays the teachings of their faith for most of the world’s believers.
When it comes to religious conflicts and religion-inspired violence, most people need religious solutions. Rather than forcing a choice between genuine faith, as they understand it, and liberal democracy, people need to see some version of the latter as a manifestation of the former. And this must be accomplished largely from within each effected religious community.


Members of any religious community which practices religion-based oppression and violence must take on the members of their own community, and they must do so on religious terms. Ironically, the wall of separation, which works so well here in America, must be breached, at least if we hope to see greater religious freedom around the world, any time soon. Only when people believe that religious freedom for all is itself a mandate from within whatever particular tradition they hold dear, will this condition improve.
Sadly, those who appreciate how toxic a role religion plays in global conflicts are often the most resistant to embracing the constructive capacity of those very same traditions in addressing the conflicts. Simultaneously, those who devoutly embrace a given tradition too often become apologists who refuse to acknowledge and address the damage done by significant numbers of those who share their faith.
Religion will be part of the solution when those who call themselves religious embrace a vision of the world which accords full dignity and equality to all people, regardless of the faith they follow, including no faith at all. They can keep on believing such people are fools, if they must, but they must imagine that suffering such “fools” with full equality is itself a mandate of their faith.
This will not be accomplished by after-the-fact expressions of regret, no matter how eloquent. This has to be addressed proactively by religious leaders who move this issue to the very top of their agendas. For example, when the faithful are taught that protecting those who don’t worship as they do, is as sacred (dare I say more so?) as going to worship, we will have a shot at turning the tide. Anything less and we are looking at a bleak future in which tens of thousands, if not millions, more will die.
Religious leaders, who can make this turn, hold the keys to a better future. And those who fail to do so are almost as guilty as those who do the actual violence and practice religious oppression. The only difference is that one sins by commission and the other by omission.



  • Grumpy Old Person

    Rabbi Brad, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the “Kill the Gays” Bill currently being considered in Uganda. There’s much ado about the involvement of American evangelical church ‘leaders’.

  • romanscapegoat

    the Jewish messiah that the Jews killed, already answered this question but NO ONE FOLLOWS WHAT JESUS TAUGHT…i will say it once again…god never stopped walking with man…religion lies…there is no need for religion…have nothing to do with the world…god has given the world to Lucifer…love eachother and god…if your enemy wants to kill you ,turn the other cheek…to conquer death you only have to die…love your enemy …if you do not do these things you will stay in your own personal hell…

  • nnmns

    A very idealistic idea. You are asking clerics to preach against their economic interests; they’ve been taught throughout their training that getting people into those seats (or on those mats) is a prime objective. And a lot of them believe worshiping wrong is like not worshiping.
    But also a very important idea!

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  • Bill Goff

    I am a Christian. Recently I approached two local rabbis and an imam just to talk about whatever is important to us. I was politely shunned by all three people.

  • romanscapegoat

    bill…Christians do the same thing…the christian religion was created by Lucifer…god doesn’t need a religion to explain himself…jesus was the messiah and son of god and jesus never said make a religion out of me…jesus said only do two things, love eachother and god…the Torah was also written by Lucifer…

  • MH

    In Pakistan the Punjab governor was killed by his bodyguard merely for saying the blasphemy law should be repealed. Five other people were wounded as other security personnel responded to the attack.
    If that isn’t insane enough, the bodyguard is being praised by some Pakistani religious leaders. Their reported logic is that defending a blasphemer is itself blasphemy. This reminds me of the Anwar El Sadat assassination after a fatw? approving his assassination was obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman.
    So the religious leader are stoking religious violence, not calming it. Events like these bring forward the voice of my inner Christopher Hitchens that religion is toxic.

  • Gwyddion9

    I think a major contributing factor is for many, their “religion” is a fact…not something they believe and have faith in. The monotheistic religions really drive this thought as to why “they” are the only one that “god” listens to.

  • European

    I happend to agree (surprise) with the Rabbi’s lay out. Read it a few times and let it soak in. (those who realy care)

  • Mr. Incredibnle, in the Name of Jesus

    I thought Hitler is dead; but, skimming ever so little over goat’s posts, I can see plainly that Hitler’s spirit is very much alive here.
    So, goat, where, in Argentina, are you hiding with your copy of Mein Kampf?

  • Mr. Incredible, in Jesus’ Name

    We guess that Grumpy Old person wants evangelicals to stay outta Uganda’s bidness the same way he wants everybody outside Arizona to stay outta Arizona’s SB1070 bidness and outta California’s Prop 8 bidness, eh?
    You can always gittem on inconsistency.

  • Grumpy Old Person

    Wrong again, ck. I want American evangelicals to stop promulgating hatred and pushing the ‘kill the gays’ bill. Not because it’s ANYbody’s “bidness”, but because it is hateful AND harmful AND anti-Christian AND anti-human AND part of “religion-inspired violence” (the topic, remember?).
    Not sure what “Arizona’s SB1070″ is or what relevance it has to the topic, but California’s Prop 8 is also part of “religion-inspired violence”. That makes it part of everybody’s “bidness”.
    DO BETTER!

  • Grumpy Old Person

    Pardon me for mistaking one not credible poster for another.

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    I’m not credible to YOU. But so what?
    You people want evangelicals to stop getting into the bidness of Uganda. You also want everybody with whom you disagree to stop getting involved in Prop 8 in California.
    If you think that everybody should stay outta everybody else’s bidness, you should also tell your people to stay outta Arizona’s bidness RE: SB1070. [If you don't know what that is, lookit up. It's only one-a the biggest stories of '10.]

  • Your Name

    It’s an immigration bill. How that’s relevant to rampant religious violence escapes me.
    You aren’t credible at all. Apt name.

  • http://ThusSayethMe.com Dr. Paul K. Fauteck

    A most thoughtful piece, rabbi. Even when I don’t see things from quite the same angle as you, I always learn from reading your thoughts on a challenging subject such as this one.
    But tell me, isn’t there a way to block comments by those who never stay on topic and use this space only to repeat the same harrangues ad nauseum? I’m sure they discourage some of your more serious readers.

  • romanscapegoat

    i agree jesus freak and gil should be blocked…thus sayeth me

  • FilmAlicia

    Hi, Rabbi Brad. The murder of the Punjab Governor in Pakistan has depressed and angered me more than any recent event. We should hold the late Salman Taseer up as a moderate martyr. The fact that his vile murder is currently being celebrated by (apparently) the majority of religious leaders in Pakistan is a sign of the sickness of fundamentalism. I agree with the poster who said it brings up his inner Christopher Hitchens.
    The conundrum is how do moderates stand up to fanatics? Moderates don’t generally kill for their beliefs. I’d like to believe that it is a sign of weakness to be willing to kill for one’s religion. But, really, it seems to give these folks, who are willing to go to such extremes, an advantage over the rest of us. In an ideal world, I’d like to see the nihilism that is behind this fanaticism exposed for what it is.
    A few months back, Andrew Sullivan linked to an interview between a Pakistani journalist and a member of the Taliban. The journalist, who was a devout Muslim but also a moderate, essentially got the Taliban to admit that there were no limits to who he considered his “legimate targets” not children, not the innocent, not the entire human population of the world. If his Taliban leaders told him to destroy the world, he would do it gladly, and consign the rest of us to Hell. Pure, unadulterated nihilism.

  • Your Name

    With yesterday’s assassination attempt, maybe America could also focus on ‘political-inspired’ violence too.

  • http://stats.my-addr.com/ tottriettyLig

    Da, probabil, de aceea este

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment greygandalf

    A mammoth task. Where a ‘religion’ virtually commands their believers to kill non-believers. And are told ‘This is the word of God’. Their belief is essentially a weapon of war. And it will kill millions, and cause untold misery to people of other faiths.

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