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Christianity and Violence

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It's rather ironic that a religion which so publicly proclaims Absolute Love as its basis should, over the course of history, spawn so much unmitigated hatred and violence. Is it simply that Christianity is a failure in inspiring better conduct from otherwise hopelessly evil human beings, or is there some aspect of Christianity which in fact encourages or promotes some of the baser aspects of human behavior? Perhaps it is a bit of both.

Concern about rampant violence has become ever more central in public discussions in America recently, especially where it involves the nation's youth. Recent incidents of brutal and deadly attacks by children against children have prompted an intense debate as to the cause and solutions for what is perceived as degenerating culture. It is rather ironic that the increase in attention happens at a time when actual incidents of violence are decreasing. Not only are the general statistics of violence showing a dramatic decrease with increasing rates of decrease, but even violence against children is decreasing.

But it is a truism that exceptional cases make for bad law and bad legal precedents. Following along in parallel, the exceptional cases of youth violence are being used by opportunistic politicians and religious leaders to create genuinely bad laws. Simple people are searching for simple causes and simple solutions.

The simplest among them immediately claim that the cause for youth violence must be the lack of government supported religion in children's lives, so their natural conclusion is that our government should increase its involvement with religion. And not just any religion - Christianity is the first and usually only choice. Practical policy suggestions include daily prayers, bible readings, and the ever popular posting of the Ten Commandments.

It would perhaps be unacceptable in some circles to point out the fact that in many European countries, religion plays an even smaller role in people's lives than it does in America - yet levels of violence are lower than here. Were a lack of religion any sort of cause of violence, then we would find higher amounts of violence in countries like Germany rather than Ireland, where both religion and violence have been prominent in daily life.

Facts like this must lead any rational person to treat claim of religion as a solution to our ills - real or perceived - with real skepticism. Religion has in fact done even more to promote base inhumanity when it has become wedded to ruling political powers. It has been a common pattern throughout human history that wherever religious dogmas have gained worldly power, violence was abetted rather than stopped. Even if a person were to successfully argue that none of the violence was caused by religion, the fact would remain that religion not only failed to stop it, but has actually served as a useful tool for those perpetuating it.

Is Christianity only a religion of Peace and Love? I do not think that anyone can honestly and objectively examine American or European history and answer "yes" to that question. Christianity can encourage Peace and Love - but it certainly need not, and it quite often has done just the opposite. Although the people responsible for violence might have found a way to express their hatred without Christianity, it cannot be ignored that Christianity offers a convenient divine mandate for hatred and violent acts against a wide range of people.

As a reference for those who find that it is sometimes necessary to education others about the history of violence associated with Christianity, below is a list of links to various eras and incidents. In each case, religion has served as a principle catalyst for the violence or has, at the very least, assisted in justifying and perpetuating that violence.


Early Christianity
Violent inclinations in Christianity are apparent right from the beginning. Although it is often argued that violence during Christian history is simply an aberration which results from people who twisted the original Christian message, that may not be entirely true. Violent inclinations in Christianity are apparent right from the beginning.

Highlights:
•  Early History
•  Crusades
•  Inquisition


Modern Christianity
Although one might imagine that the violence of Christianity would be relegated to the distant past, that hasn't been the case. The course of modernity has been one strewn with blood, bones, and bodies - much of which can be attributed to Christianity.

Highlights:
•  Reformation
•  Witches
•  Holocaust


Modern America
America in the 20th century has suffered from many violent incidents which can be traced back to Christianity. Some have been organized, others not so organized, but all the result of specifically violent or dangerous doctrines promoted in Christian churches.

Highlights:
•  Christianity & Homosexuality
•  Christianity & Abortion
•  Christianity & Wiccans

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