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Austin Cline

Christianity & Violence: Filling Heaven, Not Earth (Book Notes: The Crusades)

By December 26, 2005

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The aim of Christianity is not to fill the earth, but to fill heaven. Why should one worry if the number of Christians is lessened in the world by deaths endured for God? By this kind of death people make their way to heaven who perhaps would never reach it by another road.
The Crusades: A History; Second Edition

In The Crusades: A History; Second Edition, Jonathan Riley-Smith quotes the above from a report written by Humbert of Romans in the 1270s. Replace “Christianity” and “Christians” with “Islam” and “Muslims,” and this statement sounds remarkably like something that could be said by extremists today.

Go ahead and post the altered quote on a discussion forum of Christians complaining about Islam and Islamo-fascists — I’ll bet you’ll receive all kinds of positive replies in response. Then, when you tell them where the quote really comes from, I’ll bet your account gets banned so that you can’t continue posting things that make people uncomfortable and which challenge their assumptions.

The fact of the matter is, there are far more similarities between Christianity and Islam than most Christians are willing to admit. The big difference is that all the bad things in Islam which Christians complain about were generally dropped from Christianity in the past — sometimes under pressure from the surrounding secular culture. Of course, Christianity got started some 600 years earlier than Islam, so it’s hardly a shock that it might have progressed in some respects a bit ahead of Islam.

One thing that Christians complain about is how Muslims force women to cover up and bear the responsibility for men’s experience of temptation. Less than a hundred years ago, though, similar attitudes were common among conservative and fundamentalist Christians in America. They didn’t force burqas on women, but the basic premises about women’s roles and responsibilities were pretty close.

Another point of complaint is the willingness to engage in violence, even against the innocent, in the pursuit of religious goals. But how can Christians claim moral superiority on this point? Christian history is filled with wars and violence conducted by Christians on behalf of what they believed to be Christian goals. The above quote from Humbert of Romans is simply a very stark expression of what was a relatively common attitude: dying on behalf of one’s religion is a great virtue that will be rewarded in the afterlife.

 

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Comments
Agondie(1)

That quotation by Humbert of Romans doesn’t mention the way in which a Christian should give up his/her life for God. It simply seems to be condoning martyrdom per se. There seems to be a very big difference between martyrdom which entails harming others and martyrdom which entails only enduring harm and death oneself. For the writer to imply, based on this quotation, that Christianity, like Islam, condones martyrdom which harms others (e.g. suicide bombings) is a straw man fallacy. While it may be true that both Christianity and Islam condone martyrdom, this alone does not touch the issue. The real question is whether both Christianity and Islam condone martyrdom which harms others (besides the martyr). As for this question, the quotation has no answer.

May 26, 2006 at 3:53 am

“For the writer to imply, based on this quotation, that Christianity, like Islam, condones martyrdom which harms others (e.g. suicide bombings) is a straw man fallacy.”

No such implication is made, so the straw man is solely yours.

“The real question is whether both Christianity and Islam condone martyrdom which harms others (besides the martyr).”

That is a question, but it is not “the real” question or “the only” question which needs to be asked. You’re right that this quotation has no answer to that question, which is why that question isn’t raised here. Instead, other questions are raised – questions which, contrary to what you think, are relevant and important.

May 26, 2006 at 6:22 am
Timothy Pettis(3)

“For the writer to imply, based on this quotation, that Christianity, like Islam, condones martyrdom which harms others (e.g. suicide bombings) is a straw man fallacy.”

Islam is a religion of peace, it does NOT condone “suicide bombings.” Of course they do happen, but like Christians, the Muslim population is NOT violent in general. These are attacks from extremist organizations or groups, the likes of which also exist in Christian nations. Christian “white-power” organizations are certainly not a secret, and there are NUMEROUS cases of Christians killing in the name of God.

January 15, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Islam is a religion of peace,

No more so than others, and quite a bit less than some.

it does NOT condone “suicide bombings.” Of course they do happen,

And they don’t happen with local Christian or Jewish populations living under the same conditions. What does this tell us about Islam?

but like Christians, the Muslim population is NOT violent in general.

Really? According to 2002 study done by Pew, 82% of people in Lebanon agreed that suicide bombings in defense of Islam could be justified at least some times; 73% if you exclude those who only answered “rarely.” In Jordan, the numbers were 65/43. The best figures come from Turkey, were a whopping 64% said that suicide bombings were never justifiable. If the rest of the Muslim world were as peaceful as Turkey, there would still be over 200 million Muslims thinking that suicide bombings are justified on at least some occasions.

Do you think that similar figures would be true of Christians? I don’t know because this question wasn’t asked of Christians. Why is that… oh, because Christians don’t do this?

These are attacks from extremist organizations or groups, the likes of which also exist in Christian nations.

You are right that there are extremists among Christians. What makes some belief “extremist”? Is it the number of people who support it? In the best cases, suicide bombings are supported by 20% of the population — that isn’t the “fringes,” is it?

and there are NUMEROUS cases of Christians killing in the name of God.

True.

As numerous as Muslims, though?

January 15, 2009 at 3:54 pm

All religions moralize about peace.

January 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm
Mark Barratt(6)

All religions moralize about peace.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

No religion moralizes about anything. Moralizing implies some sort of thought, some sort of argument. Religions don’t moralize. Religions make bald assertions and back them up with ridiculous bribes of eternal bliss and ridiculous threats of eternal torment. If I tell you to be nice or I’ll f*** you up, am I moralizing? No I’m not.

Show me a religion that backs up its dogmas with actual moral philosophical argumentation. Christianity isn’t one, neither is Islam, neither is Judaism. Then you can talk about what religions “moralize” about.

January 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm
Drew(7)

“The real question is whether both Christianity and Islam condone martyrdom which harms others (besides the martyr). As for this question, the quotation has no answer.”

Um, I’ve heard enough fatwas, imams, mullahs, popes, etc to know that both Christianity and Islam are pretty keen on condoning any manner of violence deception, or evil, so long as it promotes the religion and the god.

Timothy Pettis, during the Cold War the Soviets called western peace activists “useful fools”. I think that, if you aren’t a Muslim, you would certainly qualify as a useful fool to Islam. There are numerous cases of Christians killing for their god. But that can’t compete with the thousands killed every year in the name of the Muslim god, can it? Christian white power groups, while reprehensible, pale (a-hem) in numbers beside just one average-size violent rally in one city in one Muslim nation.

January 16, 2009 at 7:30 pm
Tom Edgar(8)

#6 Mark Barratt.

Society of Friends. (Quakers). Possibly the Mennonites and Amish.

January 16, 2009 at 8:12 pm
Tom Edgar(9)

#6 Mark

I forgot, Add Parsee as another candidate.

January 16, 2009 at 8:13 pm
Mark Barratt(10)

#s 8 and 9, tom Edgar

Well, I’d sort of agree about Quakers, but the actual content of their rather loosly-organised religion is pretty much a sort of pantheistic reverence for “god” as everything.

Take away the rather half-hearted “god” references and you’d have secular humanism.

This suggests that it’s only possible do do any moralising in a religion if you first water down all your theistic claims to ultimate knowledge, and it actually supports my point about religious moralising. You can’t have proper theistic claims in a religion and still be able to moralise in any way.

A religion with proper truth claims about ultimate reality and eternal whatever just becomes about threats and rewards, emotional blackmail, hating the unbeliever because unbelief is the only real crime.

Quakerianism a minority religion, anyway, as are your other examples. The big, important religions fit my description.

I’d be tempted to say, as per Dawkins, that it looks likely that if all religious people were Quakers that there’d be no problems. However, religious groups, no matter how peaceful they are when they’re in a minority, do tend to become something rather uglier when they have numbers and power on their side. So I wouldn’t go that far.

Parsis are even more diffuse than Quakers. It could be a religion, a philosophy or an ethnicity. It’s all a bit up in the air. Again, you can only moralise in a “religion” if the “religion” is so watered down that its even questionable to use the term to describe it.

I strongly disagree about the Amish. They hide from reality, living in a timewarp and denying their children anything more than a basic education. I’ve never seen a convincing secular justification for their stance, it’s all about the emotional blackmail after you die.

Any more tiny, tiny minority religions you can think of?

January 28, 2009 at 3:19 am
Timmy(11)

Umm…
Christians do kill more often than those so called “Muslims”…
Im thinking that most Latino gangs that do beheadings, etc, white power gangs that shank most people in prison, coloured people out of prison, etc, and African-american gangs with their drive byes – well that also covers the Latino gang members – are “Christians”.
How much killing do they do in the name of God & in the name of their gang?
Not to mention, European gangs who commit a hell of a lot of murders?
Aren’t they not Christian?
And the other Timothy is right, it is only the minorities, because if the general population of Muslims believed in suicide bombings, then I’d be dead right now.
Sadly, where I live, muslims are more like modern day christians, sleeping around & getting drunk & high, etc.
Didn’t you ever stop to think that because the world is mostly influenced by so called “christians” they just wanted to make Muslims look bad? Heck, tones of Muslims get killed everyday by christian militants…but does any give a damn?
So all in all, aren’t gangs & terrorists the same?
They both kill; one kills everyone, the others just kill each other.

May 22, 2011 at 7:55 pm
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